During World War II, the city of Richmond quadrupled in size when about 70,000 workers flocked to work at the shipyards that dotted the bay’s shoreline. At the height of the war, women made up more than a quarter of the Richmond shipyard workforce. For the first time, women were allowed to work in high-paying trades, previously only done by men.
Betty Reid Soskin was four years old when she moved to the East Bay – she grew up there in a Creole and Cajun community from New Orleans. Soskin says the Bay Area quickly became a hub of wartime shipbuilding.
After World War Two, Suisun Bay was a west coast port for the navy’s largest ships. The first grey goliaths arrived in the bay in 1946, and continued coming in over the following decades. They were meant to be a reserve fleet – so in theory, if the Navy ever needed extra ships, this is where they would get them. But for the most part, they never have needed them. And over time, the fleet has become a graveyard – a graveyard that needs a lot of upkeep.