The "greatest generation," as some historians have named it, will soon begin dying out, so it is important to recall its contributions -- individually and collectively -- to winning World War II. Luckily, there is a collection of National Park sites that constitute the World War II Home Front grouping. Of those sites, one of the most important is the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park, across the bay from San Francisco in Richmond, California.
Rosie the Riveter (not a real person) was a public relations invention intended to inculcate pride in the home front effort, especially among the newly-discovered potential for women workers who were necessary in the absence of young males sent into the armed forces.
Richmond was a boomtown in wartime, home to the Kaiser Shipyards and a Ford assembly plant for Army tanks. Several facilities there have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, including the Kaiser Permanente Field Hospital, the Maritime Child Development Center, and the Pullman Child Development Center.
The Rosie the Riveter Park is basically a memorial in Marina Bay Park in Richmond, in San Francisco's East Bay. The site began as a public art project in the 1990s. During the creation of the memorial, the National Park Service was invited to participate, and this linking led to the founding of the National Park in Richmond. The park has the nation's largest concentration of intact World War II historic structures and sites, they say. It is the NPS's collection center and coordinator for World War II Home Front oral histories and objects, now in the developmental stage of becoming publicly accessible on-site as well as on the Internet.
In keeping with the desire to preserve the memories of those who fought on the Home Front, the website for the Rosie park includes instructions and forms through which anyone can submit a story about himself or herself or about someone else involved with the war effort. The story will be preserved for posterity (or at least as long as the keepers of the National Park Service website allow it to remain online).
The best way to see the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and the other sites associated with it is by a self-guided auto tour, instructions for which you can download in a pdf file on the official site of the park (www.nps.gov/rori).
In addition to the memorial, you can tour the last remaining Victory Ship made in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards (www.ssredoakvictory.com). Launched in November 1944, it is considered to be the only ship operated by both military and civilian personnel during her career. This Victory Ship saw service in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The ship is now administered by the Richmond Museum of History.
Prior to 1940, Henry J. Kaiser's company had never built ships. But he partnered with the Todd Shipyards, and by 1945, they had built seven shipyards. About 1,490 ships were built, nearly all of them so-called Liberty ships that were used mainly for hauling freight and war material.
Hours and Fees
The park is open year round, from dawn to dusk. The Red Oak Victory ship is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and some Sundays.
Admission is free to the Rosie Memorial, the Visitor Center, and all City of Richmond public parks.
Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park (tel. 510/232-5050; www.nps.gov/rori)
You can see an online exhibit about Rosie and the park at the website noted above.