STATEMENT OF JOHN REYNOLDS, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, PACIFIC WEST REGION, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS, COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES, REGARDING H.R. 4063, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE ROSIE THE RIVETER-WORLD WAR II HOME FRONT NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK IN CALIFORNIA.

 

MAY 16, 2000


Thank you for the opportunity to present the position of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 4063, a bill to establish the Rosie the Riveter-World War II Home Front National Historical Park in California.

The Department of the Interior supports this bill with the amendments discussed in this testimony. The administration usually does not take a final position concerning designation of new National Park System units before the National Park Service has completed a special resource study and submitted a recommendation. In this case, however, the new area study process is nearly complete and the draft study finds that the area in Richmond, California, covered by this bill is worthy of inclusion into the National Park System. We are working to complete the final report as soon as possible. This study was authorized under Public Law 105-355. The study looked closely at the social and community context of Rosie the Riveter and the World War II home front issues and achievements, as well as the historic fabric of the Richmond, California, shipyards. The draft study has found that the collection of historic structures and sites meets the NPS standards for national significance and are suitable and feasible to be designated a unit of the National Park System.

During the war years photos and posters displaying the likeness of Rosie the Riveter were everywhere. Many showed a woman hard at work riveting nuts and bolts to machinery needed for the war effort. Yet, Rosie was not a real person, although her image was based on real people. The image of Rosie the Riveter was invented by industry, and embraced by the public, as a symbol for the idea that everyone had an important role in the war effort.

Over 100,000 men and women, many of whom sharing the patriotism and work ethic of the fictional Rosie the Riveter, worked at the site that would be protected by H.R. 4063, helping to build the arsenal of democracy that defeated the axis powers in World War II. They served as the engine for the nation’s largest shipbuilding program, which produced 747 Liberty and Victory ships. They also manufactured over 60,000 tanks at the site's Ford Assembly Building. The infrastructure that supported these operations—one of the country's largest public housing programs, and one of the first 24-hour day care programs in the U.S, became models for similar development throughout the country. Kaiser Permanente, the world’s largest health care provider today, was created to serve the shipyard workers in Richmond. Indeed, the Kaiser Permanente Field Hospital, and the First Aid Station at Shipyard #3, remain intact today. Many innovative industrial processes and employee services were initiated in Richmond during the war years through public-private partnerships.

The World War II home front engaged Americans in a manner that has been unequaled since. The changes to society and industry had sweeping and lasting impacts on the nation. The changes wrought by the home front in rapid industrialization and migration and resettlement were most significant for pacific coast states, especially in California. The unprecedented integration of the industrial workforce included women first and subsequently African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, thus adding momentum to the later women's and civil rights movements.

The World War II home front is not yet adequately represented and interpreted in the National Park system. Richmond represents a significant place to tell this story and also offers an opportunity to link together World War II home front sites across the country including places such as Willow Run in Michigan, Boeing Field in Seattle, and Bell Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia.

Richmond’s home front experience is nationally recognized and is well-documented. Nationally recognized World War II home front historians and academicians have submitted letters to us supporting the designation of a World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond. In addition, the City of Richmond fully supports national designation and unanimously passed a resolution in support of H.R. 4063.

Richmond has a critical mass of intact historic structures, including Shipyard #3, the Ford Assembly Building, the Atchinson Village worker housing, structures used for day care, the Kaiser Permanente Field Hospital, a fire station, and other important period structures. Also intact are the S.S. Red Oak Victory, a victory ship built at shipyard #1, and "Whirley Cranes", which were used to move material between various points on the shipyard. The majority of these structures are easily accessed and in public ownership.

H.R. 4063 would authorize the establishment of the Rosie the Riveter-World War II Home Front National Historical Park as a unit of the National Park System. The bill would authorize the National Park Service to enter into cooperative agreements, which would provide for the acquisition and curation of historic artifacts and materials related to the park, and which would provide for the interpretation of the story of the World War II home front and the preservation of properties associated with the story. H.R. 4063 also would authorize the Secretary to acquire a leasehold interest in the Ford Assembly Building that would be used as a World War II Home Front education center. Funds for these activities in the new unit would be subject to the availability of appropriations and NPS priorities.

As presently drafted, H.R. 4063 is a good start to accomplishing the important objectives of protecting the resources on this site, and allowing the historically important home front story to be told. We do believe, however, that some amendments to the bill are needed to more effectively preserve the resources in the park and to better tell this important story. To this end, we would like placed in the bill language that would require structures to be maintained to a level that would suit their National Park status, and language that would include within the park's boundary significant historic structures that are in close proximity to the shipyard and are important to the story of the World War II home front. We would also recommend language that would clarify the relationship that would exist between the National Park Service and its partners. We would be willing to work with committee staff to develop this language.

The preservation of this site merits a sense of urgency for two reasons. First, the survivors who worked on the home front are in their seventies and eighties. Our nation benefited from their service in the war years and will be enriched by their experiences and recollections in oral histories. Their contribution and sacrifice should be recognized in their lifetimes. Second, the strong Bay Area economy is accelerating pressures to redevelop this site, placing at risk the surviving structures and artifacts.

We look forward to working with the committee to refine the language of the bill so that the committee can expeditiously move it forward. This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.