Book Review-‘Liberty Factory: The untold story of Henry Kaiser’s Oregon shipyards’ by P. J. Marsh,

By Evan Mawdsley, published November 2021


Portland, Oregon, has been in the news in 2020–21 as a centre of the protests which followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This lavishly illustrated book, however, looks at an earlier period of the city’s remarkable history, when the region and its outskirts developed at an astounding pace as a centre of the American shipbuilding industry; by the end of 1943 it employed 150,000 people, a third of them women. This achievement was the work of an industrialist without experience in shipbuilding, and in an urban area 100 miles inland, which had no previous involvement in the construction of large ships.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is about the beginning of the industrialist Henry Kaiser’s activities in the Portland area, and describes the general development of his ‘big three’ yards there. The Oregon Shipbuilding Corp. (OSC) was the ‘Liberty Factory’ proper, building Liberty and Victory ships. The Kaiser Swan Island tanker yard was nearby, also on the Willamette River. Finally, there was the escort carrier yard at nearby Kaiser Vancouver, on the north bank of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington…

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Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design

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