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Gateway Ga teway a to the sea

On January 28, 1886, the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Company to “build and repair steamships, ships, vessels and boats of all dimensions, and to contract with the federal government for anchorage, outfitting, construction, docking or repairs to vessels, or other specified purposes, in times of peace, or for search, absolute command, or control in time of war…” This issue of Yardlines s commemorates the 130th anniversary of the shipyard’s incorporation as the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Company. As we look back over the shipyard’s 130 years, what seems strikingly obvious is the company’s resiliency and staying power. Newport News Shipbuilding has weathered shipbuilding peaks and valleys more than once. And as time has proven, through innovation, quality, visionary leaders, and the dedication of the highly skilled and talented people who work here, NNS continues to thrive and build “Always Good Ships.” During 2016, we will continue to recognize this important anniversary in Yardlines, and through social media and our 130th Anniversary website. To see more of our ongoing celebration, visit

It was my original intention to start a shipyard plant in the

best location in the world, and I succeeded in my purpose. It is right at the gateway to the sea. – Collis P. Huntington, 1899 Founder

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A company does not last 130 years without being innovative. At Newport News Shipbuilding, the tradition started with its first vessel, a tugboat named Dorothy. y It was the first tug built with a quadruple expansion engine, which expanded steam in four stages. In the years to follow, the small shipyard grew as it continued to innovate, earning its reputation as one of the greatest shipyards in the world.

The Great White Fleet After cutting its teeth on ship repair and construction of smaller vessels, Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company won its first contract to build two large battleships in 1900. Kearsarge e (BB 5) and Kentucky (BB 6) were said to be the first battleships wholly designed in the U.S. and constructed of American materials. NNS

went on to build seven of the 16 battleships that comprised Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, stepping onto the world stage as a premier shipbuilder while America demonstrated its naval power. It set the stage for NNS to bid on the Navy’s next size up – the aircraft carrier. (Continued next page)

Riveting to Welding

The World’s Fastest Ocean Liner

Before welding was riveting. NNS employed thousands In 1949, the U.S. Navy and United States Lines of riveters to keep up with the millions of rivets awarded NNS the contract to build a new ocean liner needed to build a large vessel. In the 1930s, NNS designed to break the transatlantic record and be easily began transitioning to welding, launching the first converted to a troop transport ship. Designed by renowned two large welded U.S. Navy ships – Yorktown naval architect William Francis Gibbs, SS United States (CV 5) and Enterprise e (CV 6). While building required an innovative shipyard for her innovative design. the ocean liner SS United States, NNS The ship’s hull consisted of 183,000 pre fabricated sections, shipbuilders used more than 1.2 million foreshadowing modular shipbuilding. With over 2,000 tons of aluminum rivets while also laying down aluminum and the world’s largest smokestacks, the ship was hailed more than 1,500 miles of weld metal, as “a miracle in steel and aluminum” and an “engineering marvel.” setting a new world record for The ingenuity of the shipbuilders contributed greatly to her setting welding in shipbuilding. the transatlantic record on her maiden voyage.

The Dawn of Nuclear Propulsion As shipbuilders were busy building SS United States, the shipyard created its Atomic Power Division, helping the Navy design and build the Large Ship Reactor in Idaho. In 1957, the Navy awarded NNS the contract for the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – USS Enterprise e (CVN 65). The following year, the shipyard laid the keel for the submarine Robert E. Lee e (SSBN 601), which would be completed before Enterprise. At the time, CVN 65 was the largest warship ever built, requiring Dry Dock 11 to be enlarged before her keel was laid. By the 1980s, nuclear-powered ship construction was the shipyard’s primary business.

Computers and Modular Construction

Going Digital

NNS began using computer-aided design (CAD) tools while Five years ago, an effort began to designing the Seawolff class of submarines in the early 1980s. It create a common integrated work was a major step after a century of drafting by hand. The shipyard package for shipbuilders to follow. The even developed its own CAD software system called VIVID. project, known as CiWP, quickly evolved During the same period, the shipyard made a big push toward into a much larger effort to integrate digital modular construction techniques, building ships in large data into manufacturing and construction. sections before fitting them together. By the early 2000s, By 2020, the shipyard plans to have much of NNS was designing the Navy’s next-generation aircraft its workforce using digital devices, augmented carrier – the first to be completely designed in a 3-D reality, and real-time reporting for a more product model – and starting to build Virginia-class connected, more efficient shipyard. submarines with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

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Ceremonies A MASTER OF

From keel-laying ceremonies to christenings, shipyard events are surrounded by pomp, circumstance and tradition. Ship construction milestone celebrations bring thousands of people to witness them. While each is special, some stand out as truly unusual. On March 24, 1898, to christen battleship USS Kentucky y (BB 6), Ship’s Sponsor Christine Bradley, daughter of then-Governor William O’Connell Bradley, decided to vary the tradition of breaking a bottle of sparkling wine because she didn’t drink alcohol. Instead, she christened Kentucky y with a glass bottle of spring water. As the ship slid down the ways, the unhappy crowd threw small bottles of Kentucky bourbon at it to give it a proper sendoff. For one of the shipyard’s largest events, the Virginia General Assembly declared a state holiday to launch the battleship Virginia a on April 5, 1904. Governor Andrew Jackson Montague traveled with a crowd of an estimated 30,000 by train to witness the battleship’s christening by his 12-year-old daughter, Gay Montague. While women have traditionally sponsored naval ships, a young man christened USS Edgar F. Luckenbach on March 29, 1916. The merchant steamer and cargo ship was christened by the namesake’s son, 15-year-old Lewis Luckenbach. While it seemed an oddity for the shipyard, more than 4,000 years of ship-christening history reveals that more males have christened ships than females. More than 30,000 people gathered at the shipyard March 20, 1926, to witness what was titled, “The Most Unique Multiple-Launching in the Noteworthy History of American Shipbuilding.” The shipyard launched nine ships in three hours. That same day it held three keel-layings, one dry dock flooding, and one ship delivery, rounding the number of events to 14. On January 21, 1943, the quick thinking of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt prevented the second Yorktown n (CV 10) from launching

Kearsarge-class battleship Kentuckyy (BB 6) circa 1901. NNS Photo Archives

into the river without a proper christening. When the carrier started down the shipways prematurely, Mrs. Roosevelt jumped up, interrupting the speaker, to smash the bottle of sparkling wine against the bow of the ship before it got out of reach. SS United States, the fastest and most famous passenger liner ever built at Newport News Shipbuilding, was christened by Mrs. Tom Connally on June 23, 1951. According to historian William A. Fox, legend has it that shipyard workers smuggled Carolina corn whiskey into the yard and held a secret christening the night before the event. While ships no longer slide down wooden shipways to launch into the river, NNS special events still draw crowds and are equally as exciting. More than 20,000 shipbuilders and their friends and families attended the Gerald R. Ford d (CVN 78) christening in 2013. The 2014 evening christening of the Virginia-class fast attack submarine John Warnerr concluded with a spectacular laser and fireworks show. And this year, excitement is building as planners prepare for two events. NNS shipbuilders and their guests will witness the christening of the Virginia-class submarine Washington (SSN 787) on March 5. In April, they will also watch the keel for the submarine Delaware e (SSN 791) be “fairly and truly laid.” I By Jeremy Bustin

Top: The Newport News Shipbuildingbuilt freighter Edgar F. Luckenbachh as completed in 1916. NNS Photo Archives Middle: Launching of the battleship Virginiaa (BB 13) at Newport News Shipbuilding April 5, 1904. NNS Photo Archives Bottom: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt christening Yorktownn (CV 10) Jan. 21, 1943. NNS Photo Archives

Top: SS United Statess launching at NNS June 23, 1951. NNS Photo Archives Left: Susan Ford Bales christens USS Gerald R. Fordd (CVN 78) Nov. 9, 2013. Photo by Chris Oxley Opposite Page: A laser light show and ďŹ reworks dazzle crowds at the christening of the USS John Warner (SSN 785) Sept. 6, 2014. Photo by Chris Oxley

Diversification Keeps the Yard Afloat

Question: What do a traffic light, railroad cars, a wind tunnel, a fastattack submarine and automobile tires have in common? Answer: They were all built by Newport News Shipbuilding. NNS has turned to some pretty innovative projects to weather ups and downs. Diverse ventures have kept the shipyard in operation and employees in their jobs until their skills were needed again for shipbuilding. The company’s biggest push to diversify came in the early 1920s. The Recession of 1921, coupled with oversupply of merchant vessels built for World War I and curtailment of naval shipbuilding by the Washington Disarmament Conference, made the company seek products to make best use of the yard’s facilities without interfering with shipbuilding operations. Production of railroad cars and locomotive rebuilding from 1922-1925 brought work to more than 1,000 employees. In 1923, the Sheet Metal Shop tried its hand at manufacturing Millikin traffic lights. The early ornate stop-and-go three-way signals were mounted on a pedestal in the center of the street. It also produced a Luce Cane Harvester – a complicated sugar-cane harvester that crawled on caterpillar tracks. Other clever products made during the Recession included the “Hall Flexsilient Wheel,” a disc-type automobile tire. (Continued next page)

Newport News Shipbuilding constructed a wind tunnel for NASA Langley in 1922. NNS Photo Archives

One of the most successful nonshipbuilding ventures was the manufacturing of hydroelectric turbines and related products for public utilities and the government. Projects included hydraulic turbines for the Hoover Dam and manufacturing of 18 turbines for the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, the largest hydroelectric power project in the U.S. In 1949, the shipyard built a 16-foot wind tunnel for NASA. In 1965, NNS subsidiary, the Nuclear Engineering and Construction Company, was formed to design and construct commercial nuclear power plants. International expansion became part of NNS’ strategy in 1995 when it entered into a partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish a shipyard in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company would specialize in refitting and major repairs to UAE naval forces and coast guard vessels. The shipyard would also perform commercial ship repairs for the oil industry and marine dredging customers. In the last two years, the merger of Stoller and Newport News Energy to form SN3, along with acquisition of Undersea Solutions Group, are examples of how NNS continues to leverage core competencies and look beyond shipbuilding for business growth. I By Gina Chew-Holman

Top: Railroad car production was one of the shipyard’s more successful diversification ventures. Right: Machinist W.H. Harris is shown completing the drilling of coupling bolt holes in the 18th turbine runner for the Grand Coulee Dam in 1950. Opposite Page: A view of Grand Coulee Dam in 1946, still the largest electric-power-producing facility in the United States. All 18 of the original hyrdraulic turbines for this dam were built at Newport News Shipubuilding.

Creating a



Throughout Newport News Shipbuilding’s 130 years of operation, safety has played a large role in the way ships are built, maintained and deactivated. Records show that NNS handed out employee manuals stressing the importance of safety as early as 1903. Many of the sights and sounds that make the shipyard so distinctive have their roots in safety measures. Bells, horns and sirens warn individuals of moving machinery. Signs and colors of pipes, valves and ropes make up a universal code of caution in the industrial environment. Steel-toed shoes, hard hats, safety glasses and ear protection have become an NNS shipbuilder’s uniform of safety.

Most importantly, NNS employees have developed a sixth sense – a safety sense – for working in the complex world of shipbuilding. Last year was no different. In 2015, NNS celebrated its 20th consecutive year of “star” status in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The company also continued its downward trend of reducing accidents by 18 percent – making 2015 one of the safest years on record. NNS attributes the success to continued commitment to health and safety programs, as well as production employees’ 100 percent participation in the company’s “Shipbuilder Strong” program, a daily exercise regimen to increase strength and flexibility and to prevent soft-tissue injuries. While NNS continues to put safe practices in place and replace older tools with new ergonomic equipment, the most important thing shipbuilders can do is to watch out for each other. I By Lauren Shuck

1929 – The shipyard officially develops Safety Rules and Regulations and a full-time Safety Department with a safety engineer and inspector. 1951 – The shipyard promotes use of safety helmets by making hard hats available to employees. They are not yet mandatory. NNS storekeepers begin selling steel-toed shoes, and NNS teaches trade safety to trainee groups. 1954 – Hard hats become mandatory equipment for NNS employees. 1958 – The yard improves audible warning signals for bridge gantry and tower whirler cranes. 1966 – Use of eye protective equipment becomes mandatory. 1971 – The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) governing safety regulations in the workplace become law, making official many of the safety measures already in effect at the shipyard. 1976 – The Safety Sense program, a company-wide emphasis on safety, begins. 1980 – Safety Awareness for Foreman (SAFF) begins , a comprehensive safety training program for waterfront supervisors. The shipyard introduces the Industrial Management Class, a safety-oriented class for Apprentice students. 1982 – Shutdown for Safety begins when NNS designates the second Thursday of each month to hold department and division safety meetings throughout the shipyard. 1993 – The first four Safety Task Teams are created. Today, NNS has 59 Safety Task Teams. 1995 – OSHA recognizes NNS with VPP STAR Status. 2003 – Company leaders are required to hold a daily five-minute safety briefing with employees, which is dubbed, “Take 5.” 2011 – Designated walkways are painted on the grounds throughout the shipyard. Most walkways have non-skid paint to protect employees from potential trip hazards. 2013 – NNS holds its first Safety Exposition to demonstrate best safety practices in the industry. The event is open to all employees. 2015 – Injuries are down 18 percent from 2014, continuing a 3-year decline in accidents.

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In the shipyard’s early days, if your surname was Holmes, Bartlett or Cook, you were probably kin to Powhatan Holmes, a driller who was born in Lunenburg, Virginia, in 1887. No one knows exactly when the Holmes clan moved east, but by the early 1900s, they had established themselves as hardworking, trusted and loyal employees of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. So much so that the company provided the Holmeses a house in 1910, and the extended family lived nearby, also in company housing. Powhatan’s brothers Curtis Holmes and Waverly Anderson Holmes worked alongside him. Powhatan’s in-laws Joseph Bartlett worked in the boiler shop, and Henry Cook served as a driver to Collis P. Huntington and other shipyard executives when they came to town. When Powhatan Holmes died in 1921, his widow continued to receive a pension of $25 a month and a cord of wood each year until her death. Succeeding generations of the Holmes family lived in her house until 1981. It still stands today in fairly good condition. Powhatan’s eldest son, Christopher Holmes, began representing the second generation to work at the shipyard when he became a rigger in 1926. Powhatan’s younger son, whom he named also Powhatan Holmes, followed in 1940 as a shipwright. Christopher and Powhatan (II) had a sister, Arzelia Holmes, who joined the shipyard clinic as a medical assistant in 1943. She became a fixture there in her 32-year career. Powhatan (II) went on to name his own son Powhatan. Although third on the family tree to have the name, his son was registered as “Jr.” in birth records. After his father and grandfather before him, Powhatan Holmes Jr. always expected to become the third generation of shipbuilder. He said, “Growing up in my house, the shipyard was all that you talked about.” Under his father’s watchful eye, Powhatan Jr. started training as a machinist in 1963, recalling, “I made $2.01 an hour. In the ‘60s, that was a lot of money.” By the time his aunt Arzelia retired, Powhatan Jr. had worked at the shipyard for 11 years, along with his cousin Woodrow Waverly Holmes. Powhatan Jr.’s tenure overlapped his family’s fourth generation in shipbuilding when his son, Reggie Holmes, began his career as a rigger in 1983. Today Reggie is a construction supervisor in the Carrier Subcontractor Management department. He said, “There was no pressure to join NNS even though my last name was Holmes. But I had a choice between the coal yard and the shipyard, and I wanted a good career, so it was an easy decision.”

grandfather’s footsteps because it’s a good work environment.” Even though it’s been 15 years since his grandfather Powhatan Jr. worked here, Jamell says he still gets asked by the “old-timers” if he’s related. “Everyone has a story about Powhatan Holmes Jr.” he said. Paint Foreman Tony Holmes is Reggie’s first cousin and started at the yard in 1991. He recalled, “My mom, Mary Holmes Eley, was a painter here for 28 years. When I was growing up, my uncle Powhatan Jr. and my grandfather Powhatan (II) both worked here. I saw them have good lives and provide for their families because of the shipyard. I wanted the same thing.” Tony feels fortunate that he had the opportunity to work around his mom before she retired. Tony and Reggie’s first cousin, Fred Wilson, is an inspector who works third shift. “I’m very proud of my family’s shipyard history, and I hope it will continue for many more generations,” he said. Wilson’s mother, the late Bertha Holmes Wilson McClain, was Powhatan Jr.’s sister. The Holmes family has played an important role in the history of Newport News Shipbuilding, and the shipyard may continue to shape their legacy for generations to come. Powhatan Holmes Jr. summed up the relationship simply: “The shipyard was a decent and fair place to work for me and my family. It was good to us and, in turn, we chose to be good to it.”

I By Gina Chew-Holman and Roslyn Long Reggie’s son, Jamell Holmes, now the fifth generation, is a welder in the Sheet Metal Shop. Jamell explained, “I wanted to follow in my father’s and

Building and Caring for the

Community When 16-year-old Collis P. Huntington first visited Newport News in 1837, there was nothing there, but he saw potential for commerce. In 1880, Huntington began purchasing land on the Virginia Peninsula and eventually decided to build a shipyard at the mouth of the James River, and, as his enterprises grew, so did the community around it. A decade after the shipyard began operations, Newport News was incorporated as a city. Huntington invested millions of dollars to underwrite the community’s progress by establishing a light and water company, developing employee housing and a free school system for shipbuilders’ children.

On Nov. 15, 1897, Huntington sent a check for $974.40 to pay Newport News taxes and $750 for school expenses and repairs. In 1917, due to a severe housing shortage, the company developed housing plans and obtained an option on roughly 200 acres of land two miles north of the yard. In 1918, NNS president Homer L. Ferguson presented the housing plans to the U.S. Shipping Board, which led to the construction of Hilton Village. A new YMCA encouraged employees to be more conscientious about their health and physical fitness. To support the American Red Cross, employees donated

blood and purchased an ambulance to transport returning wounded war veterans to hospitals. Later, the vehicle was returned to NNS for employees and their families to use. Through the years, the company has encouraged employees to participate in community activities. NNS continues to build homes through Habitat for Humanity, and sponsors the Hampton Roads Heart Walk, NNS 5K, Relay for Life and the One City Marathon. These events, and others, not only benefit the community, but also promote the health and well-being of employees and their family members. Since its inception, Newport News Shipbuilding has contributed to the community’s civic, educational and

cultural development. The shipyard has donated time and resources to The Mariners’ Museum, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Peninsula Food Bank, Riverside Hospital and the United Way, to name a few. Giving back is not just an effort by the company alone, but by many employees who volunteer their time, talents and resources. This shared heritage has proven their dedication to the community and its people, reinforcing the belief Collis Huntington later rote in his reflections: “There is no better place in the country for a city.” I By Amy McDonald

Hilton Village under construction in 1918. NNS Photo Archives

““Today, Today, w we e aare re w writing riting oour ur oown wn cchapter hapter ooff tthe he Newport N ewport News News S Shipbuilding hipbuilding story. story. TThe he hhard ard work will w ork sshipbuilders hipbuilders aare re ddoing oing ttoday oday w ill sset et tthe he path path for for tthe he sshipbuilders hipbuilders ooff ttomorrow.” omorrow.” –M Matt att at tt M Mu Mulherin ulh lher her e in n President, Pr reessiden id deennt,t, N Newport ew ewpo wport po ort r N News ewss Sh ew S Shipbuilding hip pbu buiilldi dingg January 2016 JJa annuuar ary 28, ary 28, 20 28 0166

Shipbuilders use a torque wrench to tighten a stud on the shaft for the propeller hub on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Fordd (CVN 78). The Fordd is the first in a new class of aircraft carriers being built by Newport News Shipbuilding for the U. S. Navy. Photo by Chris Oxley

THE FRONT COVER The front cover is inspired by a publication, “At the Gateway to the Sea:” The Story of A Great Shipbuilding Plant at Hampton Roads. The book, which was published by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in 1921, features a photo of the USS Enterprise e (CV 6) launch Oct. 3, 1936 1936.. THE BACK COVER Employees working on the United States and Lake Champlain are shown leaving the yard at the 50th Street gate in 1951. NNS Photo Archives

Yardlines s is published quarterly for the employees of Newport News Shipbuilding. This issue of Yardlines s was written and produced by: Jeremy Bustin, Roslyn Long, Amy McDonald, Eugene Phillips, Ben Scott, Lauren Shuck, LaMar Smith, Peter Stern, Karen Wormald and Kimberly Zayakosky. Editor: Gina Chew-Holman A special thanks to Ann W. Barber and members of the HRIS team for assisting with the Holmes family research. Send change of address, comments, questions and story ideas to or call 757-380-2627. To stop receiving Yardlines, go to to unsubscribe.


Newport News Shipbuilding 2 016 01 6

Profile for Newport News Shipbuilding

Yardlines 130th Anniversary Special Edition  

Yardlines 130th Anniversary Special Edition