Marcus W. Robbins, Historian & Archivist
Copyright. All rights reserved.

The Norfolk Navy Yard into the 20th Century


Portsmouth & Norfolk, by Chamber of Commerce (excerpt)
Norfolk Navy Yard Handbook, 1974

Personal Employee Copy of Marcus W. Robbins.

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"Welcome Aboard." This is more than a greeting for new employees; it is a special invitation to share the rewards and opportunities of dedicated service to the Navy. Never in history have there existed so many opportunities for personal development, advancement, and reward. Your co-workers and- I invite you to take full advantage of these opportunities.

The Navy is a powerful force for the maintenance of peace and, in time of war, is indispensable in achieving victory and reestablishing peace. Our ships must be not only the best that can be produced, but also must be maintained in top condition. This shipyard is responsible for effective, efficient and economic maintenance of the Navy's ships.

Every employee, new or experienced, is vital to the shipyard's effort to provide the best in safe, economic, and productive service to the fleet. Alert and informed workers are essential to the achievement of these goals. This handbook has been prepared in an effort to inform you and to help you understand your organization and your responsibilities. I urge you to read it carefully.


History of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Your Career in the Shipyard
Your Supervisor
Your Pay
Hours of Work and Overtime
Your Obligations as a Shipyard Employee
Appeals, Grievances, and Complaints
Time Off
Health Insurance, Life Insurance, and Retirement
Equal Employment Opportunity Policy
Employee Services and Activities
Labor Organizations
Your Ideas, Suggestions, and Accomplishments
Security, Parking, and Traffic
Shipyard Organizations
The Flag
Sources of Information


[1] I

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard is older than the Navy itself. First used by the English about 1752 as a careening ground for their ships, the site was developed before the Revolutionary War as the "Gosport Marine Yard." This shipyard, named for an English seaport, was founded by Andrew Sprowle, a Scot, in 1767, near the colonial settlement of Portsmouth, Virginia, on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, 15 miles from the entrance to Hampton Roads. The town, named for Portsmouth, England, and laid out by Col. William Crawford, a justice of the Norfolk County Court, was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1752. From these beginnings, the town and the shipyard have grown together.

The flags of four different governments have flown over the Norfolk Naval Shipyard—those of Britain, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, the Colony of Virginia confiscated the Gosport Yard from Sprowle, who had been appointed the British Naval Agent and, remaining loyal to the Crown, had fled at the start of fighting against the British. In 1779 it was captured by the British, held by them less than a month, and then burned and abandoned. Virginia regained possession.

At the close of the Revolution, the yard lay idle until Congress in 1794 passed an "Act to Provide a Naval Armament," due to the depredations of Algerian pirates against merchant shipping. As a result the yard was loaned to the Federal Government for the purpose of building naval vessels. The 36-gun frigate, CHESAPEAKE, was constructed during this time under the direction of Mr. William Pennock, Navy Agent. Then on 15 June 1801 Governor James Monroe executed a deed granting title of Virginia's Gosport Yard to the United States Government for $12,000. The first military commandant of the yard was Commodore Samuel Barron, who assumed command on 7 July 1810. Previously, the yard had been under the management of naval agents, civilian and military.

Most notable of the facilities from pre-Civil War days, and still in use, is Drydock No. 1. Begun in 1827 and completed in 1834, it was the first drydock in America. Built of huge blocks of Massachusetts granite which were barged down to Portsmouth, this dock cost $974,365.65; a fabulous sum in those days. It is now registered as a national historic landmark.

At the outbreak of the War between the States, the Union forces evacuated and burned the yard to prevent its use by the Confederacy.

[2] U. S. Frigate CHESAPEAKE.
Keel Laid at Gosport Shipyard, 1798.
First vessel built by the Yard under Federal Management.

[3] The First Drydocking in America.
U.S.S. DELAWARE Entering No. 1 Dock, Gosport Navy Yard, 17 June 1833.

[4] Nonetheless, the Confederate forces refurbished the facilities for their use and the Confederate flag flew over the yard during 13 months of the Civil War. During the Confederate occupation, the famed ironclad, CSS VIRGINIA, was constructed in the yard. The MERRIMAC, a wooden vessel which had been scuttled in the yard by the Union, was raised, rebuilt, and armored by the Confederates; the work being done in Drydock No. 1 from designs by John L. Porter, a native of Portsmouth. Rechristened the CSS VIRGINIA, she was sent down the river to Hampton Roads, where she engaged the Union's MONITOR, built in the Washington Navy Yard, in the first battle of the ironclads on 9 March 1862. The shipyard was burned a third time when it was evacuated by Confederate forces in 1862.

Left: The "Monitor." Right: The "Merrimac."

A second drydock, the timber "Simpson Dock"—now Drydock 2—was completed in 1889. This enabled the yard to build several major ships for the fleet, among them the USS RALEIGH, a protected cruiser commissioned in 1894, and the USS TEXAS, a second-class battleship commissioned in 1895, the first ships of the modern Navy. Following the Spanish-American War, the shipyard added more shipbuilding facilities. By the time the famous "White Squadron" weighed anchor in Hampton Roads in 1907 for its world cruise, new areas had been added to the south and west and Drydock No. 3, begun in 1903, was nearing completion.

[5] The shipyard, which already served the Navy as its principal activity in Hampton Roads, was greatly expanded in World War I. Employment increased from 2,718 in 1914 to over 11,000 in 1919. New ship facilities and the construction of Drydocks 4, 6, and 7 enabled the yard to build and repair the largest vessels afloat.

World War II expansion dates from 1938. From that time until the United States entered the war, the shipyard experienced steady growth in facilities, personnel, and production as a part of the national defense program. From January 1940, until the Japanese surrender in September 1945, 6,850 naval vessels were repaired, altered, or converted, 101 new ships' and landing craft were built; and millions of dollars worth of manufactured products were turned out for the forces afloat and the naval establishment. Drydock 8, started in 1940, was completed in 1942. This drydock, 1,100 feet long, was capable of taking the largest ship afloat. New land was acquired; buildings constructed; and employment went over the 42,000 mark.

After World War II the activity and personnel levels rapidly declined. Since then there have been several fluctuations, and today's employment level is about 10,300. Progressively modernized, the shipyard has experienced tremendous technological change. In 1966, Drydock No. 2 was deepened and widened to permit complete nuclear submarine overhaul and the shipyard entered a new era. The yard has since had a significant role in maintaining the Navy's new nuclear capability. Its present facilities for the construction, overhaul, maintenance, and modification of conventional vessels and the refueling of nuclear reactor plants assure the yard and its employees a continuing opportunity for contributing to America's seapower.


[6] II


There are basically two types of appointments in the federal service: career and temporary. Temporary appointments end after a specific length of time; for example, 700 hours or one year. Initial career appointments are called career-conditional. After three years of continuous service the employee is converted to career status. An exception is the Veterans Readjustment Appointment (VRA) which requires two years' service before conversion to career-conditional status.


When you enter the federal service for the first time, you serve a 12-month probationary period. This period is the on-the-job and the final test of your suitability and competence for federal service. If you do not meet performance and behavior requirements during this period, you will be separated. After completing this probationary period, you gain rights relating to your employment status.


Your supervisor observes your work performance daily for merit, potential, and contributions to efficiency and economy. His judgment is recorded annually when your performance is rated as outstanding, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. You may appeal this annual rating.

The factors your supervisor considers are:
a. Quality of work—that is, accuracy and neatness, skill and ability displayed, and the soundness of your decisions.

b. Quantity of work—this includes the quantity produced, the dispatch with which your work is completed, and the industriousness and effort you display on the job.

c. Adaptability—this covers your job attendance, ability to work with and for others, initiative, and ability to conform with Shipyard policy and procedures.

A current performance rating of "outstanding" gives an employee the equivalent of four additional years' of service on retention registers. Employees who perform unsatisfactorily may be given a 90-day warning notice. This notice period is given to permit an employee to, bring his performance up to a satisfactory level.


You will be given a general indoctrination when you begin work and be oriented to the shop or office where you will work. Your supervisor has the primary responsibility for seeing that you are trained to do your job. He will help you learn what to do and the best way to do it. Follow instructions carefully, ask questions when you are not certain what to do or how [7] to do it, and then perform your duties Intelligently and with initiative. On-the-job training will increase your skills and abilities. Every time you learn a new task or meet and solve a new problem, you advance in knowledge and experience which will help prepare you for a better job. Also, you may receive other training depending on what you may be required to do on your job.


The shipyard provides formal apprenticeships in thirty-five different trades in the mechanical, electrical, metalworking, and woodworking occupations. Apprentices may receive up to four years of training in academic preparation, in theory of the trade, and on the job under the guidance of skilled craftsmen. Upon graduation, the new journeyman is awarded widely-recognized certificates of completion by the Departments of Navy and Labor.


Many professional, technical, and administrative employees are entered in career development programs. These programs provide a long-range, systematic approach to training and include college courses, government courses, on-the-job coaching, lectures, and rotational duty assignments.


Professional development includes formal courses and advanced technological programs conducted by Federal and non-Federal sources. Undergraduate and graduate level academic courses are available locally to update professional knowledge in areas related to job performance.


The technical skills needed by employees are updated through on-the-job coaching, classroom study, and courses offered by other Federal agencies and manufacturers. Upward mobility opportunities such as the helper-to-intermediate mechanic program offer employees the opportunity to change occupations or to further advance.


Management training helps to prepare leaders to guide the people under their charge in accomplishing the shipyard's mission. This includes Pre-supervisory Training; Basic Supervisory Development required for newly promoted first-line supervisor; Refresher Training to keep supervisors abreast of new developments; the Middle Manager Institute to expose midlevel managers to the functions of management, and Executive Development.

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When you wish to supplement the training and experience you get on the job with after-hours study in local schools and universities, either your supervisor or employee development specialists in the Industrial Relations Office (Code 180) will assist you.

The shipyard provides training opportunities, but you are responsible for your own self-improvement. The extent to which you take advantage of training opportunities, both on and off the job, will influence your advancement.


Positions are filled through selection from among the best qualified persons available without discrimination for any reason such as race, sex, color, religion, national origin, lawful political affiliation, age, physical handicap, or marital status. Recognition and credit shall be provided those employees who demonstrate progressive self-development and high levels of performance. Employees will be selected for advancement on the basis of demonstrated ability and merit.

Promotion opportunities are announced under the Shipyard's Merit Staffing Program. Interested employees who meet the requirements should apply and compete with other eligible employees.


From time to time the shipyard reassigns employees to place them where they are most needed and in occupations for which they are best qualified by experience or training. An employee desiring to be reassigned should submit a Standard Form 171 with a letter to the head of the department or office in which he wishes to work requesting reassignment and giving the reason.


Your relationship with your immediate supervisor is most important. It is essential that you understand how your supervisor's authority and responsibility can affect you. You should also know what you should do to help your supervisor.


Assigns you your specific job or tasks which may not be related to your normal duties.

[10] Instructs you before you start the job and gives assistance or additional instructions, if necessary, when he visits your job.

Tells you how to get the necessary tools, equipment, and materials which you will need.

Inspects your work for quality and quantity.

May initiate disciplinary action if you break rules or regulations.

Approves or disapproves your request for leave.

Insures that you are working under safe and satisfactory conditions.

Listens to and considers any complaints or suggestions you may have.

Informs you of rules and regulations.

Discusses your work performance with you and officially rates it.

You should:

Notify your supervisor (or shop or office clerk) when illness or an emergency prevents you from reporting for work.

Follow the instructions and orders of your supervisor in performing the job you are assigned.

Keep your supervisor informed of matters affecting your work performance or the job to which you are assigned.

See your supervisor as soon as possible if you experience difficulty or have any question about your work.

Go to higher authority only after talking to your immediate supervisor.

Your supervisor will attempt to help you with work-related problems and factors affecting your work. If he is unable to answer your questions or adjust your difficulty, he will refer you to someone who can.


The shipyard employs personnel in two categories: Classification Act (GS) or salaried employees occupying positions such as engineer, accountant, draftsman, fireman, clerk, typist, and stenographer; Wage board (WG) or hourly employees occupying positions such as machinist, electronics mechanic, plumber, shop planner, laborer, helper, electrician, shipfitter and

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[12] their supervisors. Employees are paid biweekly with paychecks given out on Thursdays. Salaries for Classification Act positions are determined by Congress. Hourly rates for wage board positions are set by the Department of Defense based upon industry pay rates existing within the geographic area. Data is gathered by local survey boards composed of union and management members.

There are five step pay rates for wage board employees which are earned upon satisfactory completion of specified periods of service. The waiting periods between the steps vary from 26 to 104 weeks.

Classification Act employees who demonstrate an acceptable level of competence may receive within-grade pay increases at intervals of one, two, or three years to one of 10 step rates. The increase may be withheld from a Classification Act employee, if, in his supervisor's judgment, he has not performed at an acceptable level during the required period. Conversely, "Quality Salary Increases" may be awarded Classification Act employees who display continuing high quality performance before completion of a service period.


An employee's normal workweek is 40 hours consisting of five 8-hour days. The shipyard works three shifts each day and has different workweeks; e.g., Monday thru Friday, Tuesday thru Saturday, or Wednesday thru Sunday. Employees may be assigned to different shifts and workweeks and are rotated or shifted as the workload demands. Most are assigned to the first shift and to a Monday thru Friday workweek. Occasionally you may be required to work longer hours or additional days. In this event your supervisor will schedule you for such overtime work as is necessary. Employees assigned to work the second shift or third shift. or those whose regular workweek includes Sunday may receive additional pay for such assignments. Depending on the employee's pay category, he may receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 8 hours a day, or in excess of 40 hours a week, or he may receive compensatory time.


This section brings to your attention your obligations as a shipyard employee and the general regulations you must observe. You should know and comply with them accordingly; the fact that a particular rule or regulation is not called to your attention will not excuse a violation.

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Your conduct must meet standards and requirements established to protect the interests of the public, to promote the efficiency of the service, and to maintain discipline and morale.

Disciplinary action ranging from letters of caution to removal may be taken by managers to correct employees who fail to comply with established regulations and customs governing personal conduct, work procedures and safety practices. Such actions are based on the facts in each situation.


You are required to keep your personnel record up-to-date. They contain information regarding your work experience and qualifications, your home address, telephone number, and names and addresses of immediate relatives.

If you change your name, acquire dependents, complete unofficial training, or change your address, report the information to your supervisor so that necessary personnel records can be changed.


You are expected to pay each just financial obligation in a proper and timely manner, including one imposed by law such as federal, state, or local taxes. A "just financial obligation" is one acknowledged by you or reduced to judgment by a court. Nonpayment of debts may be the basis for removal.


You must obey lawful directions given by personnel responsible for enforcement of rules and regulations. Any person within the shipyard may be stopped, questioned, or held for investigation should personnel authorized to do so deem it necessary.


Anyone who receives orders which conflict with orders previously received from another authority shall inform the person giving the last order of the circumstances. If the second order is repeated, he shall then carry out that order. The person issuing an order of this character assumes full responsibility for his action.


A person ordered to take action which he considers unsafe has the right to protest the order. If there is reasonable objection by an employee regarding the safety of the job in question, guidance shall be obtained from the Safety Division before proceeding.


There shall be no discrimination against any applicant for employment or against any employee because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, lawful political affiliation, physical handicap, or age.


Employees are prohibited from engaging in a strike against the Government of the United States or advocating or being a member of an

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[17] organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.


Employees may not take an active part in the management of partisan political campaigns though they retain the right to vote and express their political views freely.


No person shall solicit contributions from other employees for a gift to superiors, and superiors shall not accept gifts from persons receiving less pay. No person shall solicit for the purpose of making a gift to a member of the immediate family of a superior. This does not prohibit voluntary gifts or donations of nominal value on special occasions such as marriage, illness, or retirement.


Soliciting and collecting funds by naval personnel, employees, or visitors while in the shipyard either during or outside working hours is permitted only upon approval by the shipyard commander.


Circulation of unofficial literature is generally prohibited. The use of bulletin boards for unofficial notices and the circulation of literature by employee groups and labor unions is permitted under certain conditions.


No employee shall take or receive, directly or indirectly, a gift or gratuity from any contractor or other person engaged in furnishing supplies or services to the shipyard, nor act as an agent or attorney for such person.


Gambling, unlawful betting, or promotion of the same within the confines of the shipyard is prohibited.


All official shipyard news items and photographs concerning any shipyard operations, events, or persons will be cleared through or released by appropriate authority.


Requests from nonshipyard activities for information from the official records of the shipyard shall be referred to the appropriate department/office heads.


All photographers must have a special permit issued by the Security Officer before carrying cameras or taking pictures in the shipyard.


All persons operating motor vehicles in the shipyard shall be legally licensed drivers and shall observe all traffic and parking regulations. No person shall operate any government^owned motor vehicle without qualifying in its use and obtaining a government license.


The Vehicle Equipment Request and Record Form shall be used as a pass when a government^owned vehicle is being driven off the shipyard. A property pass must be carried to cover the contents of the vehicle.


An employee within the shipyard suspected of being under the influence of intoxicants will be escorted to the dispensary immediately to undergo examination. If found to be unfit for duty by either a medical officer, the shipyard police or a line supervisor as the result of intoxication, the employee will be escorted to the gate of the shipyard by the shipyard police and turned over to a competent escort, or to the local civil police if such escort is not available. In such case, the employee will be placed on annual leave for the remainder of the day. Appropriate action will then be initiated. Possession or use of intoxicants in an unauthorized area of the shipyard is prohibited and will be a cause for disciplinary action.


Except as authorized for medicinal purposes, the introduction, possession or use of narcotic substances, habit-forming, depressant, or stimulant drugs within the shipyard is prohibited and when found will be seized by shipyard police. Appropriate action will then be initiated.


Any person observing a death or serious injury at the shipyard shall report it immediately to the dispensary and to the shipyard watch officer.


Inform the dispensary immediately of any suspected or actual case of contagious or communicable disease or known exposure to such disease.


All persons having unused food shall keep it in proper containers. Waste food and garbage shall be deposited in metal containers provided for that purpose.


Civilian employees of the shipyard shall not bring domestic animals into the shipyard.


a. Fires must not be left unattended at any time.

b. Use or possession of privately owned fireworks is prohibited.

c. No material or vehicle of any kind shall be allowed to remain within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant.

d. Welding and burning activities aboard ship shall be guarded by a fire watch equipped with fire-extinguishing equipment.

e. Smoking is prohibited in woodworking shops, garages, paint and gas shops, sail and rigging lofts; in buildings and storehouses where oil, gases,

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[20] explosives, or inflammables are stored or being handled, and where "No Smoking" signs are posted.

f. The use or carrying of matches other than safety matches is prohibited.

g. Material shall not be stored nor vehicles parked in any street, alley or pier so as to obstruct access by firefighting apparatus.


Shipyard fire branch personnel will respond to all fire alarms including those aboard ship. The commanding officer of the ship shall retain the responsibility of fighting the fire.


Only authorized personnel, via designated gates and dock facilities, are permitted access to the shipyard. Entry shall be denied a person who fails to properly identify himself. Shipyard authorities may require a person seeking entry to reveal the purpose of his visit and submit for examination any packages or material he may have.


Employees shall show identification badges when entering the shipyard. Visitors shall display their identification badge at all times. Employees and nonemployees shall attach identification to clothing or person when in the industrial security area.

Your badge is Government property; guard it. Lending your badge or pass to another, forging a badge or pass, or fraudulent use of identification are Federal offenses. If your badge or pass is lost, tell your supervisor immediately.


Applicants for visitors passes shall be referred to the shipyard pass office. Sponsors are responsible for the conduct of their guests in the shipyard.

Foreign nationals may not enter the shipyard without prior approval of Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command.


Employees, unless excepted, shall clock in at the start of their shift and clock out at its end. Failing to clock or attempting to clock for another person will be cause for disciplinary action.


Possession within the shipyard of hunting knives, firearms, straight razors, blackjacks, brass knuckles, high-explosive articles or compounds, or other articles usually accepted as weapons is prohibited.


No material may leave the shipyard without being covered by a property pass signed by proper authority except:

a. Lunch boxes, wearing and protective apparel and accessories considered usual personal equipment. (These are subject to inspection).

b. Safety helmets and safety spectacles worn by the employee.

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[22] c. Personal car tools.

d. Trade goods (outside purchases) covered by sales slips describing the goods.

e. Merchandise covered by Commissary Store, Navy and Marine Corps Exchanges, or Shipyard Cooperative Association sales slips.

f. Personal property which cannot reasonably be mistaken for government property.


Removal of material, without authority, from the shipyard or from the dump constitutes theft. Government articles, no matter what their condition or probable disposition, remain the property of the government until disposed of by process of law.


Each employee is responsible for government tools and equipment issued to him. Before an employee being separated can secure his final pay he must obtain a tool clearance.


Lost articles shall be reported, and found articles delivered to the shipyard police station.


Managers and supervisors are concerned with conditions, situations, and factors affecting an employee and his job and will try to explain, adjust, or correct promptly any condition or circumstance which results in unfair­ness or misunderstanding. Despite this, disagreements or misunderstandings may occur. Thus, procedures have been established for reviewing com­plaints, grievances, and appeals which assure you a fair opportunity to present your case free from restraint, coercion, discrimination, or interference, in attempting to resolve your complaint, grievance, or appeal. If you have a problem, you should tell your immediate supervisor about it at once. Your supervisor will attempt to help you or refer you to some­one who can.


An employee, or qualified applicant for employment who believes that he has been discriminated against because of age, race, color, sex, religion, or national origin, should contact a shipyard EEO counselor within 30 calendar days of the event or knowledge of the event that was considered to be discriminatory. The EEO counselor will attempt to informally resolve the matter or advise the employee of his right to submit a formal complaint and the time limits and procedures for doing so.


An employee in a unit where a labor union has negotiated an agreement containing a sole grievance procedure must submit his grievance under the procedures set forth in the agreement.

[23] Additional information concerning your grievances may be obtained from your supervisor.


Removals, suspensions of more than 30 days, or reductions in rank or compensation are considered adverse actions. Such actions may be appealed not later than 15 calendar days after the effective date of the action directly to the field Appeals Office of the U. S. Civil Service Commission, Federal Employee Appeals Authority. You will be further advised of appeal rights at the appropriate time.


Approved absence from work is "leave." There is leave without pay and several types of leave with pay. The two main types are annual leave, for vacation or necessary personal business, and sick leave, to cover illness or visits to a doctor.


Employees with less than three years' service earn 13 days annual leave per year; employees with three but less than 15 years' service earn 20 days per year; and employees with 15 or more years of service earn 26 days per year. Annual leave may be accumulated up to 30 days for carry­over from year to year. When you retire or resign, you may receive a lump sum payment for your accumulated annual leave.

Although you earn annual leave, your supervisor determines when you may use it. Supervisors will grant earned annual leave freely to an employee when he can be spared from his work. Employees should request annual leave in advance except in cases of unforeseen emergency. Re­member, with sufficient advance notice your supervisor is better able to approve your absence and to shift your workload temporarily.


When it is necessary for an employee to be absent from work and he has not accumulated sufficient annual leave to cover the period, supervisors can authorize leave without pay (LWOP). This type of leave is also available under certain conditions to cover extended absences such as attending school or maternity leave.


Nine paid holidays are granted annually: New Year's Day, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.


You earn four hours of sick leave each pay period, or 13 days per year. There is no limit to the amount of sick leave which you may accumulate.

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