Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Barbier, Mary Kathryn

Committee Member

Marcus, Alan I.

Committee Member

Damms, Richard V.

Committee Member

Brain, Stephen C.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


After the introduction of the cargo container and related automation systems in the late 1950s, the numbers of maritime laborers who worked along the piers and aboard ship along American waterways steadily declined. In the late 1950s, tens of thousands of longshoremen and merchant mariners plied their respective trades, but the process of “containerization” reduced their numbers by nearly 70 percent by the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Department of Defense (DoD) similarly containerized and automated its cargo handling during this era. The introduction of the container also had negative consequences for defense maritime policy. Containerization of the National Security Waterfront represented but one decision of many at the Department of Defense to replace laborers and other personnel with automation and privatization. During the Cold War, privatization evolved into contracting corporations for numerous aspects of government operations, including at the DoD. Beginning in the early 1960s, the DoD investigated how best to maximize budgets that were coming under strain from growing Cold War military commitments. Over the course of the following three decades, the DoD adopted containerization for nearly every aspect of its maritime logistics operations. By the 1990s, automation had decimated maritime communities and the DoD’s maritime logistics network.