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Capturing a Moment in Time: The Workers of Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards During World War II

Explore a poignant snapshot of American history through Arthur Siegel's photograph of workers at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards during WWII.
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The photograph taken by Arthur Siegel in May 1943 captures a moment in time at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore, Maryland. The image depicts workers on their lunch break or rest period, giving us a glimpse into the daily lives of those who contributed to the war effort by building cargo transports.

May 1943. “Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Portraits of the workers who turn out ‘Liberty’ ship cargo transports, during lunch hour or on rest period.” 4×5 inch acetate negative by Arthur Siegel for the Office of War Information.

The shipyards played a crucial role in producing ships for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The Liberty ship, in particular, was a cargo ship that was mass-produced to meet the urgent demand for shipping supplies and equipment to the front lines. These ships were essential for transporting troops and supplies across the ocean, making the work of the shipyard workers all the more vital to the war effort.

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The workers in the photograph are captured in a moment of repose, taking a break from their grueling work to rest and recharge. Their expressions are varied, some appear tired while others seem to be lost in thought, perhaps reflecting on the impact of their work on the war effort. The photograph reminds us that war is not only fought on the battlefield, but on the assembly lines and in the factories where goods and equipment are produced.

The image also provides insight into the social and cultural dynamics of the time. The workers are a diverse group of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. The shipyard was a melting pot of sorts, where people from all walks of life came together to work towards a common goal.

And a follow up picture we dug up showing the same crew.


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