On September 9, 1940, a federal contract worth $82 million was issued to the Consolidated Steel Company to construct 12 Fletcher class naval destroyers here in Orange, Texas. This and other contracts coupled with the subsequent building of major shipyard facilities along the city's riverfront lifted the city out of a prolonged and deep economic decline which began in the early 1930s with the closing of area sawmills.
The community celebrated the laying of the keels of the U. S. S. Aulick and U. S. S. Charles Ausburne on May 14, 1941. The Aulick became the first naval destroyer to be built in Texas and on Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1942, it was christened and launched amid a crowd of 6,000 people. The Aulick represented the second U. S. Naval warship to be named after War of 1812 Navy veteran John H. Aulick (1787-1861).
by 1946 all 12 destroyers and over four hundred other ships had been completed here at a cost of over $876 million. Orange's well-developed shipyards encouraged major companies to build plants along the riverfront. Several petrochemical and industrial concerns followed suit in the 1950s and 1960s. Wartime shipyards operated by Consolidated, Levingston, and Weaver converted to peacetime activities.