California during the Second World War
Shipbuilding in Stockton
by Justin Ruhge
Eight companies operated ten shipyards that employed 10,000 at the peak of the war. Stockton companies received government contracts because they met the War Department's requirement that manufacturing of strategic military materiel be produced 60 miles or more from the sea in order to be outside the range of naval gunfire. Most companies were located along a channel that once was the waterway for paddlewheel steamers.
The largest of the companies was Pollock's Construction Company, which leased 50 acres on the north side of the Stockton Channel near Louis Park for the initial construction of floating dry docks. These floating "dock yards," which enabled the Navy to repair ships at sea without having to send them to shipyards, were 300 yards long and five stories high. Later Pollock's built rescue boats, invasion barges, supply boats, salvage boats, cargo barges, seaplane and net tenders.
Pollock's reached a peak employment of 8,000 in 1944. The shipyard closed down in February 1946.
The first local shipbuilding operations were assigned in 1940 to Colberg Boat Works and Stephens Brothers, a joint contract for construction of six-yard mine sweepers.
Colberg soon became one of the largest shipbuilding operations constructing some 45 vessels at a cost of more than $20 million. The Colberg output included mine sweepers costing $322,000 each, sub chasers costing $332,000 each as well as salvage, patrol, refueling and lifeboats. Toward the end of the war the boat works repaired and salvaged battle-damaged ships at a cost of more than $1 million. Colberg also built salvage, rescue and refrigerator boats for the British Navy. By 1945 there were 1,205 workers on the payroll and 2,000 officers and enlisted men were stationed at the shipyards.
Stephens Brothers constructed mine sweepers and rescue boats for the Navy, salvage boats, tugs and rescue craft for the Army, and picket boats for the Coast Guard. They had 460 employees.
Hickinbotham Brothers, who started in 1866 as a wagon and carriage shop, changed to hardware and steel jobbing and entered a shipbuilding project with Guntert and Zimmerman to build scores of small boats for the Navy under contracts totaling more than $1 million.
Other shipbuilding for small craft projects was conducted by Kyle and Company, Clyde Wood, Moore Company, Nicholson's and Stockton Steel Fabrications Company.
References: Stockton During World War II; a Newsman's Reminiscences by Mel Bennett in the July 1984 issue of Stockton Legionnaire.



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Updated 8 February 2016