Eutsey recalls her days aboard the ‘Brown’

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Andrew Todd Georgia Eutsey relived her days as a young welder on the “John W. Brown” when she visited the ship at Governors Hall last week.

Submitted to Dorchester Banner/Andrew Todd
Georgia Eutsey relived her days as a young welder on the “John W. Brown” when she visited the ship at Governors Hall last week.

CAMBRIDGE — “Rosie the Riveter” was a fictional icon of women’s contributions to the United States’ industrial effort during the Second World War — but a local woman is the real thing.

Georgia Eutsey was a welder at Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, where she worked on the Liberty Ship “John W. Brown.” The cargo ship was launched on Sept. 7, 1942.

The “Brown” docked at Governors Hall last week, and welcomed more than 1,000 people a day on board for tours.

It was an emotional reunion for Ms. Eutsey, who was carried back to the days when she was 20 years old, doing her part to defend the country. “She cried when she saw the ship,” Jackie Vickers said. Ms. Vickers is director of Pleasant Day Medical Adult Day Care, where Ms. Eutsey now spends much of her time.

“I was a worker,” Ms. Eutsey said. “It was hard work.”

She must have been well prepared for it, as she grew up on a farm near Baltimore, where she cared for animals and milked cows. Then she married a soldier, who was sent overseas, and she decided to do something more.

“I wanted to help the soldiers,” she said.

That desire brought her to the shipyard, where Liberty Ships were being built at a record-breaking pace. The armed cargo ships are still the largest-ever class of commercial vessels, with 2,710 having been built in 17 shipyards across the country. Keeping the troops supplied with the guns, food and medicine they needed played a crucial role in the Allies’ victory.

Women like the fabled Rosie — and Dorchester’s own Ms. Eutsey — played a crucial role as well, in creating the fleet and social change. “I did a regular man’s job,” she said.

“I was on a scaffold,” Ms. Eutsey remembered, also recalling how she wore a protective hood and a welder’s mask to shield her face from sparks and the flames’ bright light. “It was hard work,” she said.

Sounds like hard times all around. Though she rode a bus part of the way to work, “I walked most of the way,” she said.

As she and thousands of other women around the nation made their way to shipyards and factories in 1942, the Battle of the Atlantic was still very much in doubt. American, Canadian and other allied countries’ ships were being sunk at a nearly irreplaceable rate by enemy submarines, leaving the United Kingdom in desperate need of supplies.

One of the factors that made the war effort successful was the industrial might of the U.S., which produced the reliable Liberty Ships faster than the submarines could sink them. “I felt good, helping the men over there in the war,” Ms. Eutsey said.

It’s a feeling of satisfaction that has stayed with her through the many years since.

“I was glad to do it,” she said. “I would do it again, too.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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