The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George R. Brown Salute to the Home Front, which opened in June 2017, pays tribute to the American Home Front during World War II. The nine new galleries will focus on the beginning of the war in America after years of international strife and its evolvement into a truly “total” war affecting every man, woman, and child in America.
As visitors enter the new gallery space, they immediately encounter a story of unusual significance, one emblematic of the values of the war generation and reflecting the key changes within the country—the story of the Brown Shipbuilding Company. Told through official Navy documents and photos, as well as interviews with Herman and George R. Brown—the company’s founders—it offers a display of high-stakes entrepreneurship, business savvy, innovation, and patriotism.
During the Great Depression, the Brown brothers grew their construction company Brown and Root into a firm capable of building large-scale projects, earning an excellent reputation along the way. When, on the eve of war in early 1941, the US Navy realized one of its ship builders was not capable of producing the necessary ships at the speed and quality required, it called upon the Brown brothers--despite the fact the company had never built a ship.
The Brown Shipbuilding Company quickly began turning out high-quality ships at a rapid pace. As the war raged, the company’s patrol craft sank German submarines in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast. One of the Brown destroyer escorts, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, fought Japanese battleships during the Battle of Samar, earning her crew the highest award for bravery in action, the Presidential Unit Citation. The Brown Shipbuilding Company ultimately launched 354 combat ships into Green’s Bayou outside Houston.
At the end of 1941, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox personally awarded Herman and George R. Brown the Army-Navy E Award for Excellence.
The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston was created by the brothers and their wives, Margarett Root Brown and Alice Pratt Brown, to support, encourage, and assist education, the arts, and community service in Houston and surrounding areas. The Museum is thankful for the continued support of the Brown Foundation Inc., for their continued partnership on the Museum’s Road to Victory.