Cargill Ship Building

Cargill Inc. built 22 ships for the military during WWIIWhile Nisei soldiers were learning Japanese for intelligence purposes, hundreds of workers were building ships nearby for use in World War II.

Ship launched into the Minnesota River     
Cargill, Inc. built 22 ships for the U.S. military during WWII. Photo courtesy of Savage Public Library.

Cargill Inc. located in Savage in 1942 in order to build ships for the U.S. Navy. The Navy became interested in Cargill after seeing the company's success at building ships and barges used to haul grain. Savage was selected as a site for the shipyard in part because the employment pool was plentiful. Before the first ship could head toward the sea, however, 14 miles of the 3.5 feet deep Minnesota River had to be dredged to 9 feet at a cost of $250,000.

The first ship to be built in Savage, the USS Agawam, was launched on May 6, 1943. Cargill was originally contracted to build only six AOGs (auxiliary oil and gas carriers). The company ended up constructing 18 AOGs and four towboats in four years. AOGs were not engaged in actual warfare activity; rather they were used to carry fuel for other ships and vehicles engaged in WWII. During peak production times, the shipyard employed approximately 3,500 people at once.

After the war ended, Port Cargill in Savage became involved in the shipping of grain and other products. Today, hundreds of trucks visit the site on a daily basis, unloading the corn, wheat, and soybeans grown in Minnesota fields to be distributed throughout the world.