While not primarily noted as a mining man, everything "Henry J." did had its roots in the minerals industry. His empire was built upon aluminum, steel, magnesium, cement, coal, gypsum, refractory clay, iron ore and sand and gravel.
Kaiser attracted national attention during World War II by the speed with which he built ships. He ignored the usual method of building from the keel up, and used assembly-line methods. His "Liberty Ships" were built in separate sections and welded together in a few days.
As early as 1940, he had approached the federal government with the idea of building a steel mill on the west coast. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the project received urgent attention. Groundbreaking for the facility at Fontana, California, 70 miles east of Los Angeles was held early in 1942.
Ore was supplied by the Vulcan mine in the eastern desert of Southern California and from the Cedar City area of Utah. The first plate was rolled August 19, 1943 and the next day, 400 miles away, that plate was welded into the deck of a Liberty ship at a Kaiser-operated shipyard.
After the war Kaiser developed the Eagle Mountain iron ore mine in Riverside County which provided 120,000,000 tons of ore before shutting down in 1982.
In 1956 he formed Kaiser Industries Corporation. At its peak, the combined mining effort of Kaiser-affiliated companies resulted in an annual production of nearly 25,000,000 tons of mineral commodities.
Kaiser worked on more than 70 major construction projects, including Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam. Kaiser, by building cement plants close to the dam projects, eliminated expensive shipping costs. With Joseph W. Frazer, he founded the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation to build automobiles in 1946. In 1953 he formed Willys Motors to produce four-wheel drive vehicles, including models of the famed "Jeep" of World War II.
This "Western Colossus," who left school at age 13 to go to work, had as his motto, "Find a need and fill it."