A Liberty Ship Named Delgado

by: Bob Monie
In 1941, responding to requests from the British, and quoting Patrick Henry's famous words, “give me liberty or give me death,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed that the maritime industry in selected  locations throughout the United States begin the construction of an unprecedentedly massive  fleet of cargo ships to supply the allies with war materials. The name “liberty ship” quickly caught on, and though most of these were welded from prefabricated parts at the Henry J. Kaiser plant in Richmond, California, a New Orleans plant, The Delta Ship Yard on the West Bank between Gentilly Road and Florida Ave, also welded together and launched over 180 such ships in little more than 4 years. The forges of Vulcan were nothing to the fires of the countless acetylene torches kept burning day and night, year-long, even through the Christmas holidays, as the welders and other workers—13,000 strong, including more than 400 women--at Delta Ship Yard labored in three shifts daily to turn out liberty ships with such names as the S. S. Julian Poydras and the S. S, Judah Touro for World War II. 

(Fig. 1) The August 12, 1944 Launch of the Liberty Ship, the S.S, Isaac Delgado, from the Delta Ship Yard on the Industrial Canal, West Bank.
Naval historian Peter Elphick describes how the launchings of Liberty Ships from Delta Shipyard  were more exciting to watch then those at other  World War II liberty shipyards  because the narrow launch channel  of the Industrial Canal sent the ships out “sideways,” causing them to “strike the water with such force that the wave created rose to deck height before racing off to swamp the other side of the waterway.” The woman in Fig 2 is Mrs. H. Giles Martin, ship sponsor and wife of the first director of Delgado Trades School. To her left is the distinguished doctor and medical innovator, Rudolph Matas, longtime friend of Isaac Delgado.
(Fig. 2) Mrs. H. Giles Martin, sponsor of the liberty ship and Dr. Rudolph Matas, longtime friend of Isaac Delgado
(Fig. 3) The Crowd Attending the Event and the Reviewing Stand
(Fig. 4) Delta Shipyard Employee, F. Crumb, Pushing the Button to Launch the Isaac Delgado
Shipyard workers took turns serving as  “button pushers” to press the button that would release each new ship out of its dry dock so it could begin sliding into the water.  According to the October 9, 1944 issue of the shipyard's newsletter, The Delta Shipbuilder, a female clerk named F. Crumb had the honor of pushing the button to launch the S. S, Isaac Delgado (see Fig. 3). The ship descended into the water in distinctive New Orleans style, amid drum rolls, fanfares, and march music from The Delta Band, directed by Henry Raymond. The band, situated somewhere behind the reviewing stand in Fig. 4 but  out front for review in Fig. 5, included such stalwart crescent city natives as trombonist Jac Assunto, who would later found the Dukes of Dixieland band, clarinetist Lester Bouchon,  often later  heard performing at the Beachcomber Lounge just 4 blocks from Delgado Trades School, and Joe Grisaffi,  known in the  '50s and '60s as a music instrument repairman at Gruenwald's Music Store in downtown New Orleans. During their time at Delta, each musician doubled in some shipbuilding trade, such as machinist, welder, electrician, draftsperson, painter, or sheet metal worker. These men and women helped win the war.

(Fig. 5) The Delta Shipyard Band Giving a New Orleans Send-Off to the S. S. Isaac Delgado
The Delta Shipbuilder reports that some Delta workers, like Red Goss, a “burner leaderman on Birth 3” in the shipyard, somehow made time within their arduous shift schedules to attend evening courses in acetylene welding at Delgado Trades School in preparation “for the post-war period.”
Their ability to mass-produce liberty ships like the S.S. Isaac Delgado gave them courage that the allies would soon win the war, and their attendance at Delgado let them envision a hopeful future for themselves in the workplace after the war was over. 

Works Consulted

“Button Pushers Who Released Recently Launched Ships.”  The Delta Shipbuilder Oct. 19, 1944:

Elphick, Peter.  Liberty: The Ships That Won the War.  Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute,

Kelly, John.  “Women Welders at Delta Shipbuilding Co. Receive Award.”  The Times Picayune
        September 12, 2010. 
        Retrieved from <http://www.nola.com/living.index.ssf/2010/09/1943_women_welders_at
        delta sh.html>. 

Kelly, John.  “1944: Delta Shipbuilding Co. Built Liberty Ships during World War II.”  The Times
        Picayune March 17, 2010.
        Retrieved from <http://www.nola.com/living/index.ssf/2010/03/delta_shipbuilding_co_built_li.

“Red Goss, A Burner Leaderman on Berth 3”  The Delta Shipbuilder May 4, 1944: 16.

Williams, E.B.  “The Delta Shipyard.”  Marine Engine and Shipping Review April 1943: 192-201.


The 2000’s – the launch of the new millennium and the global village (Part II)

by: Carol Gniady
Just as U.S. Presidents come and go, so do college chancellors.  In 2004, Dr. J. Terence Kelly departed Delgado to become chancellor of Alamo Community College District in San Antonio, Texas.  His successor was Dr. Alex Johnson from Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio.  Chancellor Johnson worked quickly to establish relationships with community, business and government leaders.  He also focused on honing Delgado’s potential, identifying the “one college” concept as beneficial to bringing administrators, faculty and staff together to support common, student-centered goals.  Dr. Johnson also piloted the merger of the Louisiana Technical College Region 1 campuses in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes with Delgado, enhancing our technical skills training capabilities.  Within a year’s time all of this groundwork and direction would prove to be priceless preparation for a truly transformative event.

Dr. Alex Johnson on his cell phone outside of Delgado's temporary headquarters after Hurricane Katrina
In August 2005, Delgado was looking at record enrollment of over 17,000 students and classes had just resumed for the new academic year when Hurricane Katrina hit.  The storm’s floodwaters swept in, forcing us to improvise, improve, adapt and change.  With a city-wide evacuation in place no classes were held at any campuses that fall semester as New Orleans and Delgado struggled to recover from devastating conditions.  All students, faculty and staff were displaced, many of whom were far-flung and questioning return at all.  Regardless, Delgado mustered and marshaled on from a borrowed facility on Baton Rouge Community College’s campus and with help from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System offices right next door.  Dr. Johnson led a small group of assembled administrators, faculty and staff and reconnected communications, ensured uninterrupted payroll for Delgado employees, and steered facility recovery efforts.  

Ed McGee trained faculty members on how to use the Blackboard online classroom
Delgado’s Maintenance, Facilities and Planning, and Information Technology departments worked non-stop for months to bring operations back to all locations.  Meanwhile, a herculean effort on the part of faculty and curriculum development leadership produced an abbreviated, free, online semester in early October 2005, roughly six weeks after Katrina, for any students wishing to attempt continuing their coursework in the midst of recovery.   Roughly 2,500 students enrolled in a new slate of online course offerings -- the most Delgado had ever offered which were created quickly by displaced faculty looking to engage and re-connect with students.  Simultaneously, Delgado Charity School of Nursing advisors and administrators worked tirelessly to place students in host programs across the country, enabling them to continue working towards their nursing degrees without interruption. 

Volunteers helped with City Park's Moss Memorial Library remediation
Throughout the Katrina ordeal, Dr. Johnson directed College personnel to be empowered and to make independent decisions to get Delgado back on line as quickly as possible.  The mantra was “do the right thing, for the right reason” and to trust your gut.  This enabled personnel to move beyond comfort zones and take on new challenges, which ultimately led to Delgado’s return to operations with campuses up and running, accepting 10,001 students by January 2006.  We trumpeted the resilience and determination of our Nursing students with an item that ran in our “Delgado Digest” in August 2006:  ALMOST 300 NURSES AWARDED DEGREES SINCE HURRICANE KATRINA.  Delgado Community College’s Charity School of Nursing conducted two compressed semesters for the nursing program between January and July 2006 to assist students in "catching up" on the missed fall semester cancelled by Hurricane Katrina. The program had 160 students graduate in January, 9 in April and 128 in July. This last group finished in just six weeks after their scheduled date, enabling them to enter the workforce immediately, with many remaining in the city to assist in the community’s revitalization. Without these compressed semesters the 128 would have finished in December 2006.

Delgado’s recovery aided New Orleans’ return to normality as students pursued degrees and took steps to better lives, supporting our community through their work and residency.  Katrina left an indelible mark on all, but the College’s forward gaze helps focus on student success and continuing the rich heritage of service to community. 

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Jefferson LTC/Delgado Allied Health and Nursing Center of Excellence

In 2007, Dr. Johnson accepted the presidency of the Community College of Allegheny County system in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Dr. Ron Wright joined the College in 2008 and was chancellor in 2010 when Louisiana Technical College Region 1 became Delgado Community College’s Technical Division. This change is providing Delgado students with a seamless, full range of options from technical skills training to comprehensive liberal arts education.  Once again, Delgado is the leader in providing the most progressive technical training in the state, preparing students to take advantage of the numerous jobs in trades such as automotive technology repair and collision repair, barber styling, cosmetology, carpentry, A/C and refrigeration, machine tool technology and welding.  With Technical Division sites located in Metairie, Harvey and New Orleans East added to existing locations at City Park, West Bank, Northshore, Charity School of Nursing and the Maritime, Fire, Radar and Industrial Training facility, Delgado covers all the bases for the greater New Orleans region. 

As the decade came to a close, Delgado celebrated its increased capacity for service through expanded locations and abilities, and the largest enrollment in the College’s history: 18,767 in the fall of 2010.  Twenty-five percent of these students were taking online courses, whereas the College had just begun to offer courses over the Internet in 1996 to only 25 students.  Clearly, the 2000s compressed our world, quickened our pace and enabled greater reach through technological innovations to meet growing trends and student expectations.