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Effingham's 'Vivian the Riveter'
03.06 echoes-uss quail 2
The USS Quail, a minesweeper built in Savannah in 1944. It was christened by Effingham’s Vivian Rahn. - photo by Photo submitted

From Dec. 7, 1941, to Aug. 14, 1945, America was involved in World War II. One of the things that allowed this country to win it was the wartime production of equipment and supplies produced or manufactured to help fight it. Millions of men were called to fight the war and the country faced a shortage of men in the factories.

Women began filling the labor shortages and the country developed a slogan, which caught on, calling them “Rosie the Riveter.” These women built airplanes, ships, trucks, tanks and manufactured numerous supplies that supported the war. This is a story of one of the “Rosie the Riveters” from Effingham County.

During the war, Miss Vivian Rahn (who later became my aunt Mrs. Vivian R. Zoller) went to work at the Savannah Machine and Foundry Company in Savannah.

The Savannah Machine and Foundry Company, which was located on North Lathrop Avenue in Savannah, began in 1914 as a marine repair business by the name of Forest City Machine and Foundry Company. In 1924, it emerged as the Savannah Machine and Foundry Company.   

As a result of a Navy contract, the Savannah Machine and Foundry’s president, Walter L. Mingledorff, was able to petition the federal government for funding to construct a permanent graving dock (dry dock) at the shipyard. The $2 million graving dock opened in October 1933, and it was the only commercial graving dock on the Atlantic coast south of Baltimore.  

In 1941, this company was contracted by the U.S. Navy to build three minesweepers. These were wooden ships that could detect mines in the ocean. Because they were constructed of wood, they were safer than metal ships, because most sea mines of that period were designed to explode when they came in contact with metal. The Savannah Machine and Foundry Company built 25 wooden minesweepers and four metal submarine rescue vessels from 1941-1947.

The 20th minesweeper built at this shipyard was named the USS Quail. The keel for this vessel was laid on April 22, 1944, and it was constructed and launched on Aug. 20, 1944.  When each vessel was launched a “sponsor” was picked. The sponsor was the person that was chosen to christen the ship with a bottle of champagne (actually launching the ship down the way into the river).  

The shipyard’s joiner department had the lowest absenteeism during that quarter and they were picked as the group that would “sponsor” the new ship.

Miss Vivian Rahn, who was from Effingham County and also worked in that department, was picked to christen the completed USS Quail, the 20th minesweeper built at this shipyard.

On Aug. 20, 1944, a launching ceremony began at 10:30 a.m. The master of ceremonies was J. Clarke Pool, personnel superintendent of the company,

who introduced Kirk Sutlive, speaker for the occasion. Sutlive was public relations manager of the Union Bag and Paper Corporation. He commended workers and officials of the Savannah Machine and Foundry Company on the unglamorous work they were doing and how important it was to the defense of their country. 

After his speech, Miss Vivian Rahn came forward and christened the ship with a bottle of champagne and the ship was cut loose from its building site and sent down the way into the Savannah River.  Now a Navy ship, it would become U. S. Navy ship number AM 377.  After the USS Quail was launched, it took until March 5, 1945, before the ship was fitted with guns, equipment and a Navy crew.

I am sure that my aunt Vivian Rahn (later Vivian R. Zoller) did not realize how important her efforts were to this country during the war. 

On Dec. 2, 1948, Vivian Rahn married Virgil H. Zoller.  Their children are Berta (Zoller) Newman, Elizabeth (Zoller) Hursey, Herbert R. Zoller and Irving Zoller.  Aunt Vivian died on Sept. 27, 1976.  She was truly one of America’s “Rosie the Riveters” who helped win World War II by producing the war equipment needed to fight the war. 

This article was written by Norman V. Turner of Historic Effingham Society. If you have comments, questions or photos to share call Susan Exley who compiles the column at 754-6681 or email: