The United States Navy In Orange, Texas
The United States Navy has long been
associated with Orange, TX. In 1940, the Navy initiated what was to become
a massive WWII shipbuilding program. This required the construction of a
number of new shipyards. One of the locations selected for the new
facilities was Orange, Texas. At the time, the Consolidated Western Steel
Corp. was operating a small steel fabricating plant at the east end of
Front Avenue. The Navy and Consolidated entered into a contract under
which the Bureau of Ships would construct a shipyard adjacent to the
existing CWS plant with Consolidated as the operator. It formed a
subsidiary titled Consolidated Western Steel Corp., Shipbuilding Division,
for that purpose. A combine known as Bechtel-McCone-Parsons was given a
contract to build the facilities and construction began that year. The
first unit of the yard was completed in 1941and Consolidated immediately
began work on the first ships.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7,
1941 and the declaration of War by the United States upon Japan, Germany,
and Italy greatly accelerated the pace of the Navy shipbuilding program.
The yards at Orange were enlarged and employment there began climbing
toward a peak of 20,000 workers. The first ship, USS Aulick, a Destroyer,
was delivered in 1942. In all, the shipyards at Orange built 39
Destroyers, 93 Destroyer Escorts, and 106 landing craft, prior to the
termination of the shipbuilding program in 1946.
With the war almost over, the Navy chose Orange as the
location of a major post-war fleet berthing operation. This required the
construction of a number of piers on the Sabine River, just north of the
shipyards. This activity was known first as the Texas Group, Atlantic
Reserve Fleet. In 1960, the name was changed to Naval Inactive Ship
Maintenance Facility. At the peak, about 250 mothballed vessels were
stationed here. Forty of the ships were reactiviated during the Korean
conflict. During the 1950's part of the original shipyard facilities were
sold to U.S. Steel Corporation, American Bridge Division, now known as
In 1974, the Navy began phasing out the fleet berthing
operation. By the latter part of that decade, all the ships were gone.
Some were sold to foreign countries, some scraped, and the remainder are
berthed at the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Beaumont, TX. Of the
remaining facilities, some were acquired by U.S. Steel, others turned over
to Lamar University at Orange, and the remaining piers and adjacent land
were sold to the Orange County Navigation and Port District. The 16.5
acres that remain in the Navy's hands are the site of the present Orange
Naval Reserve Center.