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World War II brings shipbuilders (1942)

After World War I, Vancouver slowly gained in size, gradually spreading away from the waterfront. With the start of World War II, the city started to grow rapidly.

The Kaiser Shipyards arrive

Although Vancouver had been the site of a modest World War I shipyard, 1942 and World War II brought unprecedented development as nearly 40,000 laborers moved here to work at the Kaiser Shipyards.

Power from the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams fueled production. At the peak of production, work was around the clock. By the time the effort stopped in 1946, Kaiser Shipyards had built 10 liberty ships, 30 tank-landing ships, 50 escort aircraft carriers, 31 attack transports, 12 C-4 troop ships, eight C-4 cargo vessels and two 14,000-ton dry docks. That was 141 military ships in less than 44 months.

More people, more housing

The effort spawned the Vancouver Housing Authority and developments such as McLoughlin Heights, Fruit Valley and Fourth Plain Village. In 1941, Clark County's population was 18,000. By January 1944, it was more than 95,000 people as workers swarmed into the area in search of jobs.

Shipyard workers and their families thronged the streets, along with the troops. For many soldiers, downtown Vancouver offered a fling at civilian life before being shipped out to other parts of the world or a welcoming place when returning to United States.

Clark County's population increased to well over 100,000 people in support of the war effort, with a similar increase in home construction. Although the population dropped after the war, many workers stayed and the economy continued to do well.

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015

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