The German Wolf-pack was an elite unit of Submarine commanders who during the 1940/43 period had what they called "The Happy Time" where they were able to roam the Atlantic with very little worry of Allied attack.
Back in late 1939, just after the start of hostilities in September 1939, the US Maritime Commission had sold a significant number of its obsolete World War I reserve fleet to the Royal Navy. This gave the US commence a much needed boost & also let the US navy dispose of its unwanted ships, more importantly it gave the UK the number of ships it needed up to the required level to fight a war against an enemy who clearly had far greater fire power in its arsenal, the deal was struck at a time when the survival of the UK was much in doubt.
In the months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Merchant Fleet had already increased its aid to the Allied forces, the Lend-Lease Act signed in 1941 saw another increase in shipping to the UK, the US also sent supplies to British troops on the front line in the Middle East, Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean, during the last seven months of 1941, U.S. tonnage supplied British campaigns in the with 48,958 vehicles, 302,698 tons of dry goods, and 814 airplanes.
Birth of a Legend
Despite general wide held belief of being an all American ship, the Liberty Ship was in fact adopted from a British design for an emergency vessel capable of eleven knots with a dead weight of some 10,800tons dry cargo ship powered by reciprocation oil fuelled steam engines it had been designed for rapid mass production with welded steel construction. The design so impressed the US Maritime Commission it decided to put the ship into full production.
Because of its slow speed the Liberty Ship was proven not to be commercially viable, the hoped for turbine propulsion could not be fitted as this was reserved for fighting ships & not cargo ships. Through out the war the Liberty's would have to slowly plod their way across the pond with the escort frigates and their ship board guns as the only protection against the marauding German surface air and sub fleets
During World War One the
The Kaiser yard was better known as the constructors of the
The Atlantic coast of the US saw eight new giant ship yards built consisting of 62 slipway's; four on the Gulf of Mexico with 35, and six on the Pacific coast with 62 building ways, the entire yard building project costing $300 million. New shipyards were also built on the Gulf & Atlantic coasts including the
Despite being officially at war the
Naming the ships
The US flagged Liberty Ships were all named after people in its history, the British flagged ships were all prefixed "Sam.....", despite many US based historians claiming that this was in tribute to "Uncle Sam" it was in-fact because all British Liberty's were oil fired with mid-ship accommodation the name "Sam" came from the design Superstructure Aft of Md-ships, Canadian flagged had "Split" accommodation & various other modifications differing to the US Liberty's to confuse attacking German U-boats most were named after parks & were crewed by Canadians, British manned but Canadian built Liberty's were named after forts, whilst standard merchant shipping built in the UK were known as Empire...
During the early days of construction it took between 225 & 230 day to construct a Liberty Ship costing $1.78million by the end of hostilities construction times were down to as little as 42days but more commonly it took around the 60day mark, the record for the fastest construction was the Robert G. Peary which was launched from No. 2 slipway of the Permanente Metals Corporation of Richmond, California on 12 November 1942, some four days fifteen hours and thirty minutes after the keel was laid, it took just another three days to completely fit the ship out before it set sail. The mass-production & pre-fabrication of the welded steel ships was to prove a success with a rate of 3
For protection the Liberty Ships carried a 4-inch low angle surface defense gun, and an anti aircraft defense system comprising a 12 ponder, 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm Oerlikon guns together with PAC rockets,
Before the introduction of the Liberty Ships the most common cruising speed of the convoys was 5knots. The Liberty's had a top speed of 11 knots but would cruse at l0 knots in the private sector this would have proved far too un-economic this was out-weighed by the fact that there was a war on & the fact that the Liberty's could carry a large amount of much needed supply's to the hard pressed allied forces.
The Victory Ships
During 1944 it was becoming clear that the was in the
During the night of
The Bryan had 98 Black enlisted men assigned to it along with the 31 US Merchant Marine & 13 Naval Armed Guard, the Quinault had 100 Black enlisted men, 36 Crew & 17 Armed Guard, a 12-ton diesel locomotive based on the 1200ft wooden pier had a civilian crew of three and a single marine sentry. There was 430tons of bombs waiting on the pier to be loaded when...
At 10:18pm a massive blast rocked the area, The Bryan was obliterated by the blast with no identifiable bits remaining, the Quinault was lifted clear of the water before being turned up-side down and falling back to sea 500ft from its original location, all 67 crew and 30 armed guard then on board died instantly in total including the deaths on the pier & railway 320 were killed. The largest section of the Quinault that remained was a just 65 foot long section of keel which still had its propeller attached, it lat 1000ft from where the pier once stood.
The Miahelo a Coast Guard patrol boat 1500ft from the pier had its wheelhouse wrecked, with the pilot suffering serious injuries, a 30ft tall wall of water almost capsized the boat, an unexploded shell smashed into the engine room of the SS Redline a small tanker passing near by.
The blast was heard 200miles away, half a mile away a number of small boats were flipped over by a 30ft wall of water. The Naval base had been wrecked with the town of
After the War
After the end of hostilities in
As time wore on the remaining
Operation Chase saw a number of Liberty's loaded up with large amounts of surplus munitions & chemical weapons these ships were then towed out to sea where large holes would be cut in the side hence the name Operation Chase (Cut Holes And Sink Em').
The victors of the Second World War were left to deal with 307,875tons of German chemical weapons containing 14 different types of toxic agents. It is thought that the Soviet forces destroyed over 35000tons of artillery gas shells, these were loaded on to two ships that were then sunken in the
In 1964 the John F Shafroth was scuttled 50 miles West of the Golden Gate Bridge with 10,000 tons of munitions on board she settled in just over 8000ft of water. On
Back on the civilian scene many Liberty Ships were converted for varying other uses these included, the Thomas Nelson which saw a 25ft long section added, new engines fitted, new deck cranes and sliding hatch covers fitted this enabled the ships deadweight to be increased she was scrapped in 1981.
The Janet Lord Roper was shortened by 30ft into a self-unloading collar whilst the Charles H Cugle was converted into a floating nuclear power plant; John Lawson became a Liquefied Gas carrier.
Other conversions included a passenger conversion, floating crane platforms & floating warehouses. However most were kept as war time spec with only the armaments removed. Throughout this time the
Back to war
With the out break of the Korean War a number of Liberty Ships held by the fleet reserve were pressed back into service, these included the George Eastman who later went on to become a radio controlled fall-out vessel and was scrapped in 1977, Bert McDowell was also sent to Korea & was scrapped in 1970, the Samuel Bowes one of the few war veteran Liberty's that went to Korea after service there it went back to the fleet reserve where she was sold for scrap in 1974, other Liberty Ships that saw action in the Korean War were George Vancouver, William "Big Foot" Wallace & the British Samjack.
The American flagged Liberty's saw further action in the ill-fated war in Vietnam with 726 Liberty's still in the fleet reserve only 150 were "possible" of re-activation eventually only 28 were pressed into service they were among 956 in the US Navy. The Harry L Gluckman was taken to
Henry W Corbet this was the worlds last sea-going working Liberty, built at Oregon she was damaged in a storm where when hull plates cracked on 24th December 1943 in the area of No2 hold she was laid up & repaired at which point she was transferred to the Soviet Forces, re-named Alexander Nevsky after the war she carried on sailing mostly out of Vladivostok. On
Last of the
The seabed around the world it littered with the smashed remains of Liberty Ships, probably the most famous is the ticking time bomb in the Thames Estuary the USS Richard Montgomery just 1 mile from land with over 3000tons of explosives on board in shallow water even with the highest tides her masts can bee seen above water.
More Liberty Ship parts that are thought to exist are the Superstructure of the William H Alien, which was held by the
Displacement (Max.): 14,245 tones
Length: 441 ft 6 in (129.81 m)
Beam: 57 ft (16.76 m)
Draft: 27 ft 8 7/8 in (8.16m)
Block Coefficient: 0.745
Weights: Hull: 3,425 tons
Plate: 2,727 tons
Shapes: 700 50,000 castings.
Propulsion: 2500 hp (1.86 MW)
Speed: 11 kts
Holds: 5 Three forward of the engine spaces and two aft.
Deadweight: 10,856 tonnes
Gross tones: 7,176 tones
Max Load: 9,140 tons (with a full fuel load)
Cargo volume: 562,608 ft3 grain (14,297 m3)
Cargo Loads possible:
300 railroad freight cars.
2,840 jeeps. 440 light tanks.
230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.
Varies but comprised of:-four inch Bofors (fitted on Stern)
Three inch guns, (Bow)
20mm and 37mm cannon, (fitted either side of Bofors) (fore mast)
0.3 and 0.5 inch machineguns. (Four on Superstructure or a mix with the 20mm cannon)
Crew Compliment: 81