As the USS Midway Museum’s first marketing partner, Kaiser Permanente begins its 20th year of partnership supporting onboard STEM education programs, experiences and exhibits.  

In 2024, Kaiser Permanente will be the naming rights sponsor of Midway University classroom #4, exclusive presenting sponsor of the museum’s Sick Bay and Battle Dressing Station exhibits, supporting sponsor of Midway’s patriot-themed public special events, Captain-level sponsor of the Midway American Patriot Award Gala, and as a presenting sponsor of the ship’s STEM education onboard field trip programs.

“The Midway Museum is an invaluable asset to San Diego, and has been instrumental in building a stronger, healthier community for us all,” said Rodger Dougherty, senior director of public affairs and communications for Kaiser Permanente San Diego. “Kaiser Permanente is honored to continue its long-standing partnership with the Midway, in support of the museum’s mission to preserve the historic ship, honor the legacy of those who serve, educate and inspire future generations, and entertain the many visitors the museum hosts each year.”

Kaiser Permanente’s passionate support for Midway isn’t at all that surprising when you consider its history.  In fact, from his blog post, Midway’s historian, Karl Zingheim, reported that Kaiser Permanente’s founder, Henry J. Kaiser, played a key role in producing cargo ships. This was in part to help replace losses inflicted by rampaging German submarines during World War II, but also to help build up the vast fleet of merchantmen necessary to sustain an expanded war effort.  

Kaiser took leases on, or purchased outright, waterfront land on the east shore of San Francisco Bay and on the Columbia River. The Kaiser Yard at Vancouver, Wash., directly across from its sister shipyard on the Oregon side north of Portland, produced cargo ships of the Liberty and Victory classes.  

Kaiser also standardized design and pre-fabricated components for ship building.  Instead of crafting and installing decks and bulkheads as needed when the ship progressed, entire portions were built to near completion ashore separately as subassemblies, and then transported and lifted into place in the appropriate sequence.  This approach shaved weeks and months off more traditional construction schedules, permitting ships to be delivered rapidly. In one instance, a ship was built in just five days.

His innovations and prefabrication approach meant unskilled labor could be hired to perform less technical jobs. The recent development of welding construction not only sped up fabrication and saved ship weight, but the process of working a welding torch was much less physically taxing than handling a traditional steel rivet gun.  This meant that unconventional, and largely untapped, labor sources could be usefully employed.

The prospect of higher wages working a shift on one of Kaiser’s shipyards, as opposed to other jobs, led to an influx of newcomers to the Pacific coast. Existing communities swelled and entirely new ones sprang up, each requiring expanded utilities, housing, food, and schools. Before very long, Kaiser established medical insurance and care for his burgeoning army of workers, which in turn became Kaiser Permanente. 

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