Liberty ship
Overview
 
Liberty ships were cargo ship
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

s built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by German U-boats, they were purchased for the U.S. fleet and for lend-lease
Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 provision to Britain. Eighteen American shipyard
Shipyard
Shipyards and dockyards are places which repair and build ships. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial...

s built 2,751 Libertys between 1941 and 1945, easily the largest number of ships produced to a single design.

The production of these vessels mirrored, on a much larger scale, the manufacture of the Hog Islander ship
Hog Islander
Hog Islanders is the slang for ships built to Emergency Fleet Corporation designs number 1022 and 1024. These vessels were cargo and transport ships, respectively, built under government direction and subsidy to address a shortage of ships in the United States Merchant Marine during World War...

 and similar standardized types during World War I.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Liberty ships were cargo ship
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

s built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by German U-boats, they were purchased for the U.S. fleet and for lend-lease
Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 provision to Britain. Eighteen American shipyard
Shipyard
Shipyards and dockyards are places which repair and build ships. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial...

s built 2,751 Libertys between 1941 and 1945, easily the largest number of ships produced to a single design.

The production of these vessels mirrored, on a much larger scale, the manufacture of the Hog Islander ship
Hog Islander
Hog Islanders is the slang for ships built to Emergency Fleet Corporation designs number 1022 and 1024. These vessels were cargo and transport ships, respectively, built under government direction and subsidy to address a shortage of ships in the United States Merchant Marine during World War...

 and similar standardized types during World War I. The immense effort to build Liberty ships, the sheer number of ships built, and the fact that some of the ships survived far longer than the original design life of five years, make them the subject of much study.

History and service

In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act
Merchant Marine Act of 1936
The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 is a United States federal law. Its purpose is "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well-balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, to aid in the national defense, to repeal certain former legislation,...

 was passed to subsidize the annual construction of 50 commercial merchant vessels to be used in wartime by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 as naval auxiliaries. The number was doubled in 1939 and again in 1940 to 200 ships a year. Ship types included a tanker and three types of merchant vessel, all to be powered by steam turbine
Steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

s. Limited industrial capacity, especially for turbine construction, meant that relatively few of these ships were built.

In 1940, the British government ordered 60 tramp steamships
Tramp steamer
A ship engaged in the tramp trade is one which does not have a fixed schedule or published ports of call. As opposed to freight liners, tramp ships trade on the spot market with no fixed schedule or itinerary/ports-of-call...

 from American yards to replace war losses and boost the merchant fleet. These Ocean-class ships were simple but fairly large (for the time) with a single 2,500 hp (1,860 kW) reciprocating steam engine
Reciprocating engine
A reciprocating engine, also often known as a piston engine, is a heat engine that uses one or more reciprocating pistons to convert pressure into a rotating motion. This article describes the common features of all types...

 of obsolescent but reliable design. Britain specified coal fired plants because it had plenty of coal mines but no indigenous oil fields. The predecessor designs, including the Northeast Coast, Open Shelter Deck Steamer, were based on a simple ship originally produced in Sunderland by J.L. Thompson & Sons (see Silver Line
Silver Line
The Silver Line was a shipping company formed in 1908, part of the British Merchant Navy. By the 1930s they were offering round the world passenger/cargo services, with the passenger fare on a freighter £100. Entirely on foreign service, the ships did not include UK ports of call. Managing owners...

) from 1879, and widely manufactured up to the SS Dorrington Court, which was built in 1938. The order specified an 18-inch (0.5 m) increase in draft to boost displacement by 800 long tons (812.8 t) to 10100 long tons (10,262.1 t). The accommodation, bridge and main engine of these vessels were located amidships, with a long tunnel to connect the main engine shaft to its aft extension to the propeller. The first Ocean-class ship, Ocean Vanguard, was launched on 16 August 1941.

The design was modified by the United States Maritime Commission
United States Maritime Commission
The United States Maritime Commission was an independent executive agency of the U.S. federal government that was created by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, passed by Congress on June 29, 1936, and replaced the U.S. Shipping Board which had existed since World War I...

 to conform to American construction practices and to make it even quicker and cheaper to build. The US version was designated 'EC2-S-C1': 'EC' for Emergency Cargo, '2' for a ship between 400 and 450 ft (121.9 and 137.2 m) long (Load Waterline Length), 'S' for steam engines, and 'C1' for design C1. The new design replaced much riveting, which accounted for one-third of the labor costs, with welding
Welding
Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

, and featured oil-fired boilers. The order was given to a conglomerate of West Coast engineering and construction companies known as the Six Companies
Six Companies
Six Companies, Inc. was a joint venture of construction companies that was formed to build the Hoover Dam across the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona....

, headed by Henry J. Kaiser
Henry J. Kaiser
Henry John Kaiser was an American industrialist who became known as the father of modern American shipbuilding. He established the Kaiser Shipyard which built Liberty ships during World War II, after which he formed Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. Kaiser organized Kaiser Permanente health care...

, and was also adopted as the Merchant Marine Act design.

On 27 March 1941, the number of lend-lease ships was increased to 200 by the Defense Aid Supplemental Appropriations Act, and increased again in April to 306, of which 117 would be Liberty ships.

The ships were constructed of sections that were welded together. This is similar to the technique used by Palmer's at Jarrow
Jarrow
Jarrow is a town in Tyne and Wear, England, located on the River Tyne, with a population of 27,526. From the middle of the 19th century until 1935, Jarrow was a centre for shipbuilding, and was the starting point of the Jarrow March against unemployment in 1936.-Foundation:The Angles re-occupied...

, but substitutes welding for riveting. Riveted ships took several months to construct. The work force was newly trained – no one had previously built welded ships. As America entered the war, the shipbuilding yards employed women to replace men who were enlisting in the armed forces.
The ships initially had a poor public image due to their appearance. In a speech announcing the emergency shipbuilding program, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 had referred to the ship as "a dreadful looking object", and Time magazine called it an "Ugly Duckling". To try to assuage public opinion, 27 September 1941 was dubbed Liberty Fleet Day
Liberty Fleet Day (Victory Fleet Day)
27 September 1941 was dubbed as “Liberty Fleet Day” due to the 14 “Emergency” vessels that were launched in shipyards across the United States. This fleet included the first Liberty ship SS Patrick Henry, one troop transport, a tanker, a US Navy ammunition ship and a Royal Navy aircraft carrier...

, as the first 14 "Emergency" vessels were launched that day. The first of these was SS Patrick Henry
SS Patrick Henry
The SS Patrick Henry was the first Liberty ship launched.The ships initially had a poor public image and to try to assuage public opinion, 27 September 1941 was designated Liberty Fleet Day, and the first 14 "Emergency" vessels were launched that day. The first of these was Patrick Henry,...

, launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In remarks at the launch ceremony, FDR cited Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

's 1775 speech that finished "Give me liberty or give me death". Roosevelt said that this new class of ships would bring liberty to Europe, which gave rise to the name Liberty ship.

The first ships required about 230 days to build (Patrick Henry took 244 days), but the average eventually dropped to 42 days. The record was set by Robert E. Peary
SS Robert E. Peary
SS Robert E. Peary was a Liberty ship which gained fame during World War II for being built in a shorter time than any other such vessel. Named after Robert Peary, an American explorer who claimed to have been the first person to reach the geographic North Pole, she was launched on November 12,...

, which was launched 4 days and 15½ hours after the keel
Keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...

 was laid, although this publicity stunt
Publicity stunt
A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs...

 was not repeated—and in fact much fitting-out and other work remained to be done after the Peary was launched. The ships were made assembly-line style, from prefabricated sections. In 1943, three Liberty ships were completed daily. They were usually named after famous Americans, starting with the signatories of the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

.

Any group which raised war bond
War bond
War bonds are debt securities issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during times of war. War bonds generate capital for the government and make civilians feel involved in their national militaries...

s worth $2 million could propose a name. Most were named for deceased people. The only living namesake was Francis J. O'Gara, the purser
Purser
The purser joined the warrant officer ranks of the Royal Navy in the early fourteenth century and existed as a Naval rank until 1852. The development of the warrant officer system began in 1040 when five English ports began furnishing warships to King Edward the Confessor in exchange for certain...

 of the SS Jean Nicolet, who was thought to have been killed in a submarine attack but in fact survived the war in a Japanese prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 camp. Other exceptions to the naming rule were the SS Stage Door Canteen, named for the USO
United Service Organizations
The United Service Organizations Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. military, with programs in 160 centers worldwide. Since 1941, it has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense , and has provided support and...

 club in New York, and the SS U.S.O.
SS U.S.O.
SS U.S.O was a Liberty ship of the United States during World War II, named after the United Service Organizations, an organization designed to provide morale to servicemen deployed all across the world....

, named after the organization itself.

Another notable Liberty ship was SS Stephen Hopkins
SS Stephen Hopkins
The SS Stephen Hopkins was a United States Merchant Marine Liberty ship that served in World War II. She was the first US ship to sink a German surface combatant during the war....

, which sank the German commerce raider Stier
German auxiliary cruiser Stier
The German auxiliary cruiser Stier was a German auxiliary cruiser during World War II. Her Kriegsmarine designation was Schiff 23, to the Royal Navy she was Raider J....

 in a ship-to-ship gun battle in 1942 and became the first American ship to sink a German surface combatant.

SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 used to carry cargo during the war. The ship was wrecked off the Nore in the Thames Estuary in 1944 with around 1,400 tons of explosives on board, which continue to be a hazard to the area.-History:The...

 is also notable, though in a less positive way; the wreck of the ship lies off the coast of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 with 1,500 tons of explosives still on board, enough to match a small nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 should they ever go off. One Liberty ship that did explode was the SS E. A Bryan which detonated with the energy of 2000 tonTNT in July 1944 as it was being loaded, killing 320 sailors and civilians in what was called the Port Chicago disaster
Port Chicago disaster
The Port Chicago disaster was a deadly munitions explosion that occurred on July 17, 1944, at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, United States. Munitions detonated while being loaded onto a cargo vessel bound for the Pacific Theater of Operations, killing 320 sailors and...

. Another infamous Liberty ship that exploded was the re-christened SS Grandcamp, which caused the Texas City Disaster
Texas City Disaster
The Texas City Disaster was the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history. The incident took place on April 16, 1947, and began with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City...

 on 16 April 1947, killing at least 581 people.

Six Liberty ships were converted at Point Clear, Alabama
Point Clear, Alabama
Point Clear is an unincorporated census-designated place in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2000 census, the population was 1,876. It is part of the Daphne–Fairhope–Foley Micropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:...

, by the United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 into floating aircraft repair depots, operated by the Army Transport Service, starting in April 1944. The secret project, dubbed "Project Ivory Soap", provided mobile depot support for B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

 and P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts...

s based on Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa beginning in December 1944. The six ARU(F)s (Aircraft Repair Unit, Floating), however, were also fitted with landing platforms to accommodate four R-4 helicopters
Sikorsky R-4
The Sikorsky R-4 was a two-place helicopter designed by Igor Sikorsky with a single, three-bladed main rotor and powered by a radial engine. The R-4 was the world's first large-scale mass-produced helicopter and the first helicopter to enter service with the United States Army Air Forces, Navy, and...

, creating the first seagoing helicopter-equipped ships, and provided medical evacuation of combat casualties in both the Philippines and Okinawa.

The last Liberty ship constructed was the SS Albert M. Boe
SS Albert M. Boe
SS Albert M. Boe was a liberty ship laid down on 11 July 1945 at the East Yard of New England Shipbuilding Corporation in Portland, Maine, as a boxed aircraft transport. The ship is notable as the final liberty ship built. She was named after Chief Engineer Albert M...

, launched on 26 September 1945 and delivered on 30 October 1945. She was named after the chief engineer of a United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 freighter who had stayed below decks to shut down his engines after a 13 April 1945 explosion, an act that won him a posthumous Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal
Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal
The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is a decoration of the United States Merchant Marine . The decoration is the highest award which can be bestowed upon members of that service and is the service’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor; since mariners serving in the United State Merchant...

.

Problems

Early Liberty ships suffered hull and deck cracks, and a few were lost to such structural defects. During World War II, there were nearly 1,500 instances of significant brittle fractures. Twelve ships, including three of the 2,710 Liberties built, broke in half without warning, including the SS John P. Gaines
SS John P. Gaines
SS John P. Gaines was Liberty ship built during World War II, and named for politician John P. Gaines.On 24 November 1943 she broke in two and sank with the loss of 10 lives off the Aleutian Islands...

, which sank on 24 November 1943 with the loss of 10 lives. Suspicion fell on the shipyards which had often used inexperienced workers and new welding techniques to produce large numbers of ships in great haste. The Ministry of War Transport lent the British-built for testing purposes. Constance Tipper
Constance Tipper
Constance Fligg Elam Tipper was a British metallurgist and crystallographer.Constance Tipper specialized in the investigation of metal strength and its effect on engineering problems. During the Second World War, she investigated the causes of brittle fracture in Liberty Ships...

 of Cambridge University demonstrated that the fractures were not initiated by welding, but instead by the grade of steel used which suffered from embrittlement
Embrittlement
Embrittlement is a loss of ductility of a material, making it brittle. Various materials have different mechanisms of embrittlement.* Hydrogen embrittlement is the effect of hydrogen absorption on some metals and alloys....

. She discovered that the ships in the North Atlantic were exposed to temperatures that could fall below a critical point when the mechanism of failure changed from ductile to brittle
Brittle
A material is brittle if, when subjected to stress, it breaks without significant deformation . Brittle materials absorb relatively little energy prior to fracture, even those of high strength. Breaking is often accompanied by a snapping sound. Brittle materials include most ceramics and glasses ...

, and thus the hull could fracture rather easily. The predominantly welded (as opposed to riveted) hull construction then allowed cracks to run for large distances unimpeded. One common type of crack nucleated at the square corner of a hatch which coincided with a welded seam, both the corner and the weld acting as stress concentrators
Stress concentration
A stress concentration is a location in an object where stress is concentrated. An object is strongest when force is evenly distributed over its area, so a reduction in area, e.g. caused by a crack, results in a localized increase in stress...

. Furthermore, the ships were frequently grossly overloaded and some of the problems occurred during or after severe storms at sea that would have placed any ship at risk. Various reinforcements were applied to the Liberty ships to arrest the crack problems, and the successor design, the Victory ship
Victory ship
The Victory ship was a type of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace shipping losses caused by German submarines...

, was stronger and less stiff to better deal with fatigue
Fatigue (material)
'In materials science, fatigue is the progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to cyclic loading. The nominal maximum stress values are less than the ultimate tensile stress limit, and may be below the yield stress limit of the material.Fatigue occurs...

.

Several designs of mass-produced petroleum tankers were also produced, the most numerous being the T2 tanker
T2 tanker
The T2 tanker, or T2, was an oil tanker constructed and produced in large quantities in the United States during World War II. The largest "navy oilers" after the T3s at the time, nearly 500 of them were built between 1940 and the end of 1945....

 series, with about 490 built between 1942 and the end of 1945.

After the war

More than 2,400 Liberty ships survived the war. Of these, 835 made up the postwar cargo fleet. Greek entrepreneurs bought 526 ships and Italian ones bought 98. Shipping magnates like John Theodoracopoulos, Aristotle Onassis
Aristotle Onassis
Aristotle Sokratis Onassis , commonly called Ari or Aristo Onassis, was a prominent Greek shipping magnate.- Early life :Onassis was born in Karatass, a suburb of Smyrna to Socrates and Penelope Onassis...

, Stavros Niarchos
Stavros Niarchos
Stavros Spyros Niarchos was a Greek shipping tycoon, sometimes known as "The Golden Greek." In 1952, Stavros Niarchos built the first supertankers capable of transporting large quantities of oil, and subsequently earned millions of dollars as global demand for his ships increased.- Early life :He...

, Stavros George Livanos, the Goulandris brothers, and families named Andreadis, Tsavliris, Achille Lauro, Grimaldi and Bottiglieri were known to have started their fleets by buying Liberty ships.

The term "Liberty-size cargo" for 10000 long tons (10,160.5 t) may still be heard in the shipping business.

Some Liberty ships were lost after the war to naval mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

s that were inadequately cleared. The Pierre Gibault was scrapped after hitting a mine in a previously cleared area off the Greek island of Kythira
Kythira
Cythera is an island in Greece, once part of the Ionian Islands. It lies opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is administratively part of the Islands regional unit, which is part of the Attica region , Greece.For many centuries, while naval travel was the only means...

 in June 1945, and the same month saw the Colin P. Kelly Jnr take mortal damage from a mine hit off the Belgian port of Ostend
Ostend
Ostend  is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke , Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast....

. In August, 1945 the William J. Palmer was carrying horses from New York to Trieste when it rolled over and sank 15 minutes after hitting a mine a few miles from destination. All crew members and six horses were saved. The Nathaniel Bacon hit a minefield off Civitavecchia
Civitavecchia
Civitavecchia is a town and comune of the province of Rome in the central Italian region of Lazio. A sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is located 80 kilometers west-north-west of Rome, across the Mignone river. The harbor is formed by two piers and a breakwater, on which is a lighthouse...

, Italy in December 1945, caught fire, was beached, and broke in two; the larger section was welded onto another Liberty half hull to make a new ship 30 feet longer, named Boccadasse. As late as December 1947, the Robert Dale Owen, renamed Kalliopi and sailing under the Greek flag, broke in three and sank in the northern Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 after hitting a mine. Other Liberties lost to post-war mines include the John Woolman, Calvin Coolidge, Cyrus Adler, and Lord Delaware.

In the 1960s three Liberty ships were reactivated and converted to technical research ship
Technical research ship
Technical research ships were used by the United States Navy during the 1960s to gather intelligence by monitoring the electronic communications of nations in various parts of the world. At the time these ships were active, the mission of the ships was covert and discussion of the true mission was...

s with the hull type
Hull classification symbol
The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

 AGTR and used to gather electronic intelligence and for radar picket duties by the United States Navy. SS Samuel R. Ailken became the USS Oxford (AGTR-1), SS Robert W. Hart became the USS Georgetown (AGTR-2), and SS J. Howland Gardner became the USS Jamestown (AGTR-3). All of these ships were decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register
Naval Vessel Register
The Naval Vessel Register is the official inventory of ships and service craft in custody of or titled by the United States Navy. It contains information on ships and service craft that make up the official inventory of the Navy from the time a vessel is authorized through its life cycle and...

 in 1969 and 1970.

Only two operational Liberty ships, the SS John W. Brown
SS John W. Brown
|-See also:*List of ships of the United States Navy - other surviving Liberty ship...

 and the Jeremiah O'Brien
SS Jeremiah O'Brien
-See also:*Liberty ship*Victory ship - other surviving Liberty ship*Nash - last surviving Army ship at D-Day...

, remain. The John Brown has had a long career as a school ship and many internal modifications, while the Jeremiah O'Brien remains largely in its original condition. Both are museum ship
Museum ship
A museum ship, or sometimes memorial ship, is a ship that has been preserved and converted into a museum open to the public, for educational or memorial purposes...

s that still put out to sea regularly. In 1994, the O'Brien steamed from San Francisco to England and France for the 50th anniversary of D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, the only large ship from the original Overlord fleet to participate in the anniversary. In 2008, the Arthur M. Huddell
SS Arthur M. Huddell
SS Arthur M Huddel, IMO: 5025706, is a Liberty ship launched in 1943 by St. John's River Shipbuilding. She was converted to a pipe carrier in 1944 and was used in the construction of a fuel pipeline under the English Channel following the Normandy landings. After the war she was laid up at Suisun...

 was transferred to Greece and was converted to a floating museum dedicated to the history of the Greek merchant marine; however, while missing major components were restored, this ship is no longer operational.

Liberty ships continue to serve in a "less than whole" function many decades after their launching. In Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 the hulls of the Richard Henry Dana and Jane Addams serve as the basis of floating docks. The SS Albert M. Boe
SS Albert M. Boe
SS Albert M. Boe was a liberty ship laid down on 11 July 1945 at the East Yard of New England Shipbuilding Corporation in Portland, Maine, as a boxed aircraft transport. The ship is notable as the final liberty ship built. She was named after Chief Engineer Albert M...

 survives as the Star of Kodiak, a landlocked cannery in Kodiak Harbor
Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak is one of 7 communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline...

 at 57°47′12"N 152°24′18"W.

The SS Charles H. Cugle was converted into MH-1A
MH-1A
thumb|right|300pxMH-1A was a pressurized water reactor and the first floating nuclear power station. One of a series of reactors in the US Army Nuclear Power Program, its designation stood for mobile, high power.-History:...

(otherwise known as USS Sturgis). MH-1A is a floating nuclear power plant and the first such thing ever built. MH-1A was used to generate electricity at the Panama Canal Zone from 1968–1975. It was also used as a fresh water generating plant. She is currently anchored in the James River Reserve Fleet.

Fifty-eight Liberty ships were lengthened by 70 feet (21.3 m) starting in 1958. The bridges of most of these were also enclosed in the mid-1960s in accordance with a design by naval architect Ion Livas. This gave the ships an additional 640 long tons (650.3 t) of carrying capacity at a small additional cost.

U.S. shipyards

Liberty ships were built at seventeen shipyards located along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts:
  • Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding
    Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company
    The Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company located in Mobile, Alabama, was one of the largest marine production facilities in the United States of America during the 20th century. Beginning operation in 1917, the shipyard is presently owned by The Lehman Group The Alabama Drydock and...

    , Mobile, Alabama
    Mobile, Alabama
    Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

  • Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore
    Baltimore
    Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

    , Maryland
  • California Shipbuilding Corp., Los Angeles
  • Delta Shipbuilding Corp., New Orleans, Louisiana
  • J.A. Jones Construction
    J.A. Jones Construction
    J.A. Jones Construction was a heavy construction company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. Operating internationally since the 1950s, it merged with Germany's Philipp Holzmann AG in 1979....

     Company
    • Panama City, Florida
      Panama City, Florida
      -Personal income:The median income for a household in the city was $31,572, and the median income for a family was $40,890. Males had a median income of $30,401 versus $21,431 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,830...

    • Brunswick, Georgia
      Brunswick, Georgia
      Brunswick is the major urban and economic center in southeastern Georgia in the United States. The municipality is located on a harbor near the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 30 miles north of Florida and 70 miles south of South Carolina. Brunswick is bordered on the east by the Atlantic...

  • Kaiser Company
    Kaiser Shipyards
    The Kaiser Shipyards were seven major shipbuilding yards located mostly on the U.S. west coast during World War II. They were owned by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, a creation of American industrialist Henry J...

    , Vancouver, Washington
    Vancouver, Washington
    Vancouver is a city on the north bank of the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. Incorporated in 1857, it is the fourth largest city in the state with a 2010 census population of 161,791 as of April 1, 2010...

  • Marinship
    Marinship
    Marinship Corporation was a shipbuilding company of the United States during World War II, created to build the shipping required for the war effort...

    , Sausalito, California
    Sausalito, California
    Sausalito is a San Francisco Bay Area city, in Marin County, California, United States. Sausalito is south-southeast of San Rafael, at an elevation of 13 feet . The population was 7,061 as of the 2010 census. The community is situated near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and prior to...

  • New England Shipbuilding Corporation
    New England Shipbuilding Corporation
    The New England Shipbuilding Corporation was a shipyard located in the city of South Portland, Maine, United States. The yard originated as two separate entities, the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corporation and the South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, which were created in 1940 and 1941...

    , South Portland, Maine
    South Portland, Maine
    South Portland is a city in Cumberland County, Maine, United States, and is the fourth-largest city in the state. Founded in 1895, as of the 2010 census, the city population was 25,002. Known for its working waterfront, South Portland is situated on Portland Harbor and overlooks the skyline of...

    , East and West Yards (both on the same 60 acres (242,811.6 m²) of shipyard)
  • North Carolina Shipbuilding Company
    North Carolina Shipbuilding Company
    North Carolina Shipbuilding Company was a shipyard in Wilmington, North Carolina, created as part of the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program in the early days of World War II. From 1941 through 1946, the company built 243 ships in all, beginning with the Liberty ship SS Zebulon B....

    , Wilmington, North Carolina
    Wilmington, North Carolina
    Wilmington is a port city in and is the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. The population is 106,476 according to the 2010 Census, making it the eighth most populous city in the state of North Carolina...

  • Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation
    Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation
    Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation was a World War II emergency shipyard located in Portland, Oregon, United States, that built over 1000 Liberty and Victory ships between 1941 and 1945. It was closed after the war ended....

    , Portland, Oregon
    Portland, Oregon
    Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

  • Permanente Metals Corporation
    Richmond Shipyards
    The four Richmond Shipyards, located in the city of Richmond, California, United States, were run by Permanente Metals and part of the Kaiser Shipyards, and were responsible for constructing more ships during World War II than any other shipyard in the country. The shipyards are part of the Rosie...

    , Richmond, California
    Richmond, California
    Richmond is a city in western Contra Costa County, California, United States. The city was incorporated on August 7, 1905. It is located in the East Bay, part of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a residential inner suburb of San Francisco, as well as the site of heavy industry, which has been...

     (a Kaiser facility)
    • Yard No. 1
    • Yard No. 2
  • St. Johns River Shipbuilding, Jacksonville, Florida
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

  • Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, Savannah, Georgia
    Savannah, Georgia
    Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

  • Todd Houston Shipbuilding
    Todd Pacific Shipyards
    Vigor Shipyards was founded in 1916 as the William H. Todd Corporation through the merger of Robins Dry Dock & Repair Company of Erie Basin, Brooklyn, New York, the Tietjen & Long Dry Dock Company of Hoboken, New Jersey, and the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company...

    , Houston, Texas
  • Walsh-Kaiser Co., Inc.
    Walsh-Kaiser Co., Inc.
    Walsh-Kaiser Co., Inc. was a shipyard in both Cranston and Providence, Rhode Island. It was built during World War II and financed by the Maritime Commission as part of the country's Emergency Shipbuilding Program. It was originally operated by Rheem Manufacturing, a company with no previous...

    , Providence, Rhode Island
    Providence, Rhode Island
    Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...


Fictional appearances

A Liberty ship was featured in the Quantum Leap episode "Ghost Ship".

A Liberty ship, converted to a hospital ship, is the eponymous subject and setting of Alistair MacLean
Alistair MacLean
Alistair Stuart MacLean was a Scottish novelist who wrote popular thrillers or adventure stories, the best known of which are perhaps The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare, all three having been made into successful films...

's mystery thriller San Andreas
San Andreas (novel)
San Andreas is a novel by Scottish author Alistair MacLean, first published in 1984. One of his final novels, it returns to MacLean's original genre: war at sea.-Plot introduction:...

(1984) The prologue to this novel, also by MacLean, is an essay on Liberty ships and the conditions, character and behavior of the British Merchant Marine owners that used them, and sailors that sailed them.

A Liberty ship is featured in the Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

 1943 film Action in the North Atlantic
Action in the North Atlantic
Action in the North Atlantic is a 1943 war film directed by Lloyd Bacon, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey as sailors in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II.-Plot:...

. Its deck gun
Deck gun
A deck gun is a type of artillery cannon mounted on the deck of a ship or submarine.The deck gun was used as a defensive weapon against smaller boats or ships and in certain cases where torpedo use was limited. Typically a crew of three; gunner, loader, and layer, operated the gun, while others...

 is described as being 5" rather than 4", probably for wartime propaganda reasons. Called the Seawitch in the film, its dedication plaque describes it as "Built for/ U.S. Maritime Commission/ Hull No. 628B/ by/ Atlas Shipbulding Corporation/ Kearny, New Jersey
Kearny, New Jersey
Kearny is a town in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. It was named after Civil War general Philip Kearny. As of the United States 2010 Census, the town population was 40,684. The town is a suburb of the nearby city of Newark....

/ April 1943".

In Clive Cussler
Clive Cussler
Clive Eric Cussler is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times...

's book Deep Six, the prologue details a Liberty ship that disappears in the 1960s and becomes a recurring ghost ship in The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman
The legend of the Flying Dutchman concerns a ghost ship that can never make port, doomed to sail the oceans forever. It probably originates from 17th-century nautical folklore. The oldest extant version dates to the late 18th century....

vein. It is later found by Dirk Pitt
Dirk Pitt
Dirk Pitt is a fictional character, the protagonist of a series of bestselling adventure novels written by Clive Cussler. The name Dirk Pitt is a registered trademark of Clive Cussler.-Character information and the supporting cast:...

, leading to further adventures.

Most of the engine room scenes of the 1997 film Titanic
Titanic (1997 film)
Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal...

were shot aboard the museum Liberty Ship in San Francisco Bay. Scott Sigler
Scott Sigler
Scott Carl Sigler is a contemporary American author of science fiction and horror as well as an avid podcaster. Originally from Michigan he now resides in San Francisco, California with his wife and their dog, Emma.-Biography:...

's book Nocturnal also has several scenes that take place on the Jeremiah O'Brien.

The wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 used to carry cargo during the war. The ship was wrecked off the Nore in the Thames Estuary in 1944 with around 1,400 tons of explosives on board, which continue to be a hazard to the area.-History:The...

 is central to the plot of Stephen Barlay's 1977 novel Blockbuster, in which an extortionist threatens to blow it up, thereby causing serious flooding in central London, if his demands are not met.

See also

  • Allied technological cooperation during World War II
    Allied technological cooperation during World War II
    The Second World War was not won by one nation; the Allies had to cooperate while fighting on the ground, as well as by sharing technological resources and innovations...

  • Empire ships
  • List of Liberty ships
  • Park ships
    Park ship
    Park Ships were merchant steamships constructed for Canada’s Merchant Navy during World War II. Park ships were the Canadian equivalent of the American Liberty Ships and the British Fort ships. All three shared a similar design by J.L...

  • Type C1 ship
    Type C1 ship
    Type C1 was a designation for small cargo ships built for the U.S. Maritime Commission before and during World War II. The first C1 types were the smallest of the three original Maritime Commission designs, meant for shorter routes where high speed and capacity were less important. Only a handful...

  • Type C2 ship
    Type C2 ship
    Type C2 ships were designed by the United States Maritime Commission in 1937-38. They were all-purpose cargo ships with five holds, and U.S. shipyards built 173 of them from 1939-1945. Compared to ships built before 1939, the C2s were remarkable for their speed and fuel economy. Their design speed...

  • Type T2 tanker
  • Victory ship
    Victory ship
    The Victory ship was a type of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace shipping losses caused by German submarines...


Further reading


External links

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