Charleston Navy Yard:
"Somebody has to do the work in the lower ratings, so why not you. Try to make it said of the bluejacket in this day what was current in the palmy days of ancient Roe, 'When to be a Roman soldier was greater than to be a King."
-- Commander Mark St. Clair Ellis, Naval Training Camp instructions to recruits on assuming command, 1918.
Transferred from Parris Island in 1901, the Navy Yard was about 10 miles up the Cooper River from the city's harbor. Once war was declared, the facility became a bustling ship-building and repair facility for the U.S. Navy. It built 13 medium sized war ships and repaired 200 others, both American and Allied vessels. To do this, the work force grew from a few hundred civilian workers in early 1917 to over 5,000 by war's end, adding a huge economic infusion to the area.
But shipbuilding and repair were only two facets of the Yard's important contribution to the war effort. An extensive training area for new sailors was erected inland from the shipbuilding facilities, providing 25,000 trained men to serve on U.S. Navy ships. In addition, the lone garment manufacturer for the Navy was located here. It made uniforms, producing 90,000 garments in 1914. The all-female work force, which grew to 1,000 by the last year of the war, stitched 2.7 million uniforms. Through the lobbying efforts of Charleston's black leadership, a reluctant management hired 300 African Americans.
A Famous "Ordinary' Sailor:
"Your job's morale. You'll do more good that way than swabbing decks or stoking boilers." -- Navy Yard commander to Norman Rockwell, August 1918.
Among the naval personnel stationed at the base to aid in the training of new sailors (335 officers and 7,000 enlisted me) was the renowned artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell, transferred from New York in 1918. When superiors at the Charleston base discovered his presence, he was quickly assigned to draw cartoons for the Yard's newsletter and in his "spare time," he painted portraits of officers and men.