An extraordinary story of American can-do, an inside look at the building of the most dangerous aircraft carrier in the world, the John F. Kennedy.
Tip the Empire State Building onto its side and you’ll have a sense of the length of the United States Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the most powerful in the world: the USS John F. Kennedy. Weighing 100,000 tons, Kennedy features the most futuristic technology ever put to sea, making it the most agile and lethal global weapon of war.
Only one place possesses the brawn, brains and brass to transform naval warfare with such a creation – the Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia and its 30,000 employees and shipyard workers. This is their story, the riggers, fitters, welders, electricians, machinists and other steelworkers who built the next-generation aircraft carrier.
Heavy Metal puts us on the waterfront and into the lives of these men and women as they battle layoffs, the elements, impossible deadlines, extraordinary pressure, workplace dangers and a pandemic to complete a ship that will be essential to protect America’s way of life.
The city of Newport News owes its very existence to the company that bears its name. The shipyard dominates the town—physically, politically, financially, socially, and culturally. Thanks to the yard, the city grew from a backwater to be the home of the premier naval contractor in the United States.
Heavy Metal captures an indelible moment in the history of a shipyard, a city, and a country.
Journalist Fabey (Crashback) chronicles the construction of the USS John F. Kennedy at a Newport News, Va., shipyard in this richly detailed account. Noting that the ship, which was launched in 2019, is considered the world's most technologically advanced aircraft carrier, Fabey interweaves details of its design, financing, and construction with geopolitical analysis. For example, he highlights the ship's symbolic and practical importance both as a counter to China's buildup of naval power and as a sign of the U.S. government's commitment to domestic manufacturing and to preserving the historical shipbuilding center of Newport News. But the book's greatest strength is Fabey's up-close profiles of the welders, painters, steelworkers, and riggers who started assembling the John F. Kennedy in 2011. He conveys the physical and mental toll of their work, which often takes place hundreds of feet in the air or in below-deck cabins "just a bit bigger than a coffin" and requires mastering new technologies and meeting difficult deadlines despite bad weather. Fabey also empathetically portrays the workers' fears of layoffs, illnesses, injuries, and mistakes, as well as the satisfaction they take in contributing to the national defense. This poignant portrait of working-class life will appeal to fans of Studs Terkel.
If I ever need to build an aircraft carrier this is the book to have. A good read about the shipyard that builds the greatest ships in the world. Lots of inside info on the Navy and how decisions are made. My biggest disappointment was in the author’s obvious dislike of President Trump.