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Guide to the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection ARC.003

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Amy Lau, Mary Mann, Aliki Caloyeras, and Margaret Fraser

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on  , September 3, 2020
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Oral History Interview with James Smith, June 27, 2008

Biographical / Historical

James H. Smith (1927- ) grew up in Canarsie, New York, where his mother worked at a bakery and his father worked at a gas station. Smith was unable to serve in WWII because of his 4-F status, but instead began working at the Navy Yard at 16 or 17 as an outside machinist. He left when his family moved to Long Island, New York, where he worked at his father's gas station. Smith ended up working at Grumman Aerospace doing flight testing and remained for 39 years until he retired.

Scope and Contents

During his interview, James H. Smith (1927- ) discusses his work at the Navy Yard as an outside machinist. He describes his job as a "gofer," running to get tools and coffee for others, and lending a hand where needed with mechanical work. Smith talks about security at the Navy Yard, seeing the progress the ships made when he left every day, and similarities between working at Grumman Aerospace and the Navy Yard. He also describes damaged ships returning from war, getting tools from the tool crib, social interactions during his lunch hour and being in awe of the size of the ships. Smith was upset with his 4-F status and explains how disappointed he was to leave the Navy Yard, where he felt he was contributing to the war effort. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Subject Organizations

  • New York Naval Shipyard

Subject Topics

  • Aircraft industry
  • Engineering
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Machine shops
  • Security systems
  • Shipbuilding -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Shipfitting
  • Transportation
  • Work environment -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • World War, 1939-1945