The War Years
(The United States Merchant Marine at War, Report to President Truman from the War Shipping Administration – January 1946)
Due to a chronic labor shortage, the annex was constructed in part by Prisoner of War (POW) labor. POWs from Germany and Italy lived and worked on the island beginning in the early spring of 1945. POWs were also housed at the Stockton Ordnance Depot, just across Burns Cutoff from Rough and Ready Island, and the San Joaquin Fairgrounds; many remained after the end of the war as they awaited repatriation. The POWs famously volunteered for the Barbwire Bowl, two American football games held in 1946 that received national attention.
Construction of warehouses, offices, and a wide variety of infrastructure was completed in June of 1945 – just two months before the end of the war. The new supply annex was one of the first to be purpose-built for moving cargo with pallets and forklifts. Palletized shipping dominated military and civilian cargo handling until the rise of containerized shipping in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The Naval Supply Annex Stockton is a National Historic District, significant for its association with innovations in military shipping during World War II.
- Rough and Ready Island Determination of Eligibility Report, by Terracon Consultants, 2018.
- Naval Supply Annex Stockton on Rough and Ready Island, May 1946. Source: Port of Stockton
German POW message in concrete
A drainage canal at the Naval Supply Annex Stockton lined in stone-in-concrete, built and signed by German prisoners of war. Source: Library of Congress, HABS CA-2682-AH.
Naval Supply Annex Stockton on Rough and Ready Island, May 1946.
Source: Port of Stockton
The Naval Supply Annex, Stockton was quiet after the war, though the Navy kept the annex open and continued to move cargo. There was a brief period of activity during the Korean War years between 1950 and 1953, As the Cold War ramped up, Rough and Ready Island’s secure inland location became valuable again as the US looked towards the nuclear threat from the Soviet Union. The Naval Communication Center, Stockton was constructed between 1956 and 1957. Naval Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerry A. Whitworth was a radioman at the communications center, and eventually, a traitor in chief warrant officer John Anthony Walker’s spy ring. Whitworth provided intelligence to the KGB via Walker from the Naval Communication Center, Stockton until the spy ring was discovered in 1985.
- “Whitworth Convicted of Spying”, Washington Post, July 25, 1986
- “Jerry Whitworth, Accused in Espionage Ring : No One Really Knew Fourth Spy Suspect”, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1985
Rough and Ready Biographies
German POW - Richard Statetzny
(Federal District Judge John P. Vukasin in the Los Angeles Times – August 29, 1986)
- “Thirty Years Ago: A Ring is Broken”, Hampton Roads Naval Museum Blog, May 21, 2015
- “The Spy Who Came to Stockton”, Stockton Record, July 2, 2017.