The liberty ship How many were built and do any still exist


Feb 14, 2011
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Quite a few liberty ships were built in WW2- many were torpedoed and sunk, and quite a few survived the war- Michael, you might know this- Was the term 'liberty ship' just a general term to describe cargo vessels built during the war effort- or were all the liberty ships identical in design, function, layout and specifications?
Did any 1 particular liberty ship distinguish herself? I would be very keen to visit a liberty ship floating museum, if such a museum exists.....
How many WW2 liberty ships are languising in mothballs?
 
Feb 7, 2005
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My general understanding (and I could be wrong, of course) is that "Liberty" ships were part of what was known as the U.S. Merchant Marine. These ships were built by the Navy, used for shipping cargo necessary to sustain the war effort, and were powered by reciprocating steam engines. Later the Navy built what were called "Victory" ships. These larger vessels served the same purpose as "Liberty" ships but were powered with steam turbines, which made them faster and less likely to be sunk by enemy submarines.

There are two operational "Liberty" ships still sailing today. One is the S.S Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco, CA. The O'Brien's engine was used by James Cameron in his '97 film as a stand-in for Titanic's reciprocating steam engine. The other surviving "Liberty" ship is the S.S. John W. Brown which has its home port in Baltimore, MD. Both ships are open to the public, and also take visitors on cruises a couple times a year.

Here are the web sites for the Brown and O'Brien:

http://www.liberty-ship.com/
http://www.ssjeremiahobrien.com/

Tarn, the S.S. John W. Brown will be visiting Boston this August (see their web site for details). Having toured the ship twice myself, I highly recommend you stop by and see her!

Denise
 

Jack Devine

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Jan 23, 2004
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The Liberty ships were not all identical, but generally speaking they were pretty close to it. The design was meant for fast and cheap construction, something that a semi-qualified shipyard workforce should be able to put together. The reciprocating engine design was used because any half-competent machine shop could build them, even though they were obsolete. Turbine engines took far more skill and output of those was strictly for warship construction, at least until later in the war.

If you get near Baltimore, the John Brown is well worth the visit.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
The first "Liberty Ship" was The Empire Liberty, 7,157 gt, which had, in turn, been based upon a slightly earlier vessel, the Donington Court. This British design was subsequently adapted for production in the United States - a development which aroused indignation among the the US Anglophobes, who would have preferred an alternative design known as "The Los Angeles" class.
 

James Carey

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Sep 14, 2004
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Wasn't there a problem with the keel cracking in the center due to a weight distribution problem, thus a loss of many of them?
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
I thought that the problems were associated more with cost-cutting, the employment of unskilled welders and the need for speed of construction. The Liberty Ships were, after all, designed for a short life span - was it something in the region of 5 years?
 
Feb 14, 2011
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Interesting information! I just realized i saw the Jerimiah O'Brian when I visted san Francisco some years ago-If memory serves, she was an atractive ship....
I was a bit focused on the bizzare sight of sea lions that found a home on some San Francisco docks....

I discovered my grandfather was in the Merchant marine during WW2- I hope to find out if he served on a liberty ship. I believe quite a few were built here in MA, at the Quincy shipyards...
 
Jul 11, 2001
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There was just a special on the History channel about them. I think they said about 400 were built. Only 7 sank unexpectedly due to the welding cracks giving way at sea.

It was new technology at the time. The fix was to bolt on a horizontal brace that ran the length of the ship on each side.
 
Feb 14, 2011
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I went through my photos from my 1999 visit to San Francisco- and found the snap I took of the Jerimiah O'Brien.
She's a lovely ship! Check out this jpeg:


libertyyy.jpg
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
This is the last time I saw a Liberty Ship, the vessel in question having run aground off Southend, in the Thames Estuary, on her maiden voyage during WWII. She was rapidly abandoned by her crew, and is still there, her cargo of rusting HE bombs being too dangerous to move. The vessel is still owned by the US government.
 
Aug 10, 2002
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Hello all:
There were approximately 2,800 Libertys built. they were 10,000 ton freighters, modeled after a British tramp steamer of 1890. The first 50 built here in the states were under contract for the British, they were coal burners. The first one for U.S. interests was the S.S. Patrick Henry. One of the last was the S.S. Robert F. Peary, she was built in a little over 4 days, the wonders of modular construction. A number of them split in two, most frequently at the after end of #3 hatch, just forward of the house. There were two things causing this. Poor weight distribution and stress concentration.
There were several Libertys built as tankers, and some built as colliers. Mystic Steamship and Berwind Coal ran some of these up into the 1960s. One of their main attractions in war time production was the reciprocating steam engine, it didn't require the machining of reduction gears. The engines had 2,500 Indicated Horsepower. The ships would do 8 - 11 knots depending on load and sea conditions. Having visited the S.S. John Brown while we filmed the special on the S.S. Flying Enterprise, I can tell you they are very interesting.
Regards,
Charlie Weeks
 
Feb 14, 2011
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The John Brown sailed into Boston this week-She is a spectacular sight, moored near the USS Constitution- (which sailed under 3/4 sail power this week). I give harbor tours, and it's interesting we've had quite a few German tourists who were eager to visit the John Brown..
 
Feb 14, 2011
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I wonder how many Liberty ships were sent to the bottom by German U-boats?

Were Liberty ships used in both the Atlantic and Pacific campaigns- or were they used mainly in the Atlantic?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I wonder how many Liberty ships were sent to the bottom by German U-boats?<<

Too many. According to http://www.usmm.org/libertyships.html about two hundred such vessels were lost to hostile action in both thratres of war. Still, the enemy couldn't sink them as quickly as they were being built, and that was the primary reason the Allies won out against the Axis powers. They just couldn't match the sheer production avalanch of ships, aircraft, and munitions from the United States or the means of getting it all where it was needed.
 

Russell Smith

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Jun 18, 2009
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This was in my local paper today.

Last Liberty ship is off to Greece

One of only three surviving WWII, the Huddell was built in Jacksonville.

"By Charlie Patton, The Times-Union

The SS Arthur M. Huddell, which was built in Jacksonville and is one of only three surviving World War II-era Liberty ships, has found a home.

The U.S. government is giving it to Greece to serve as a maritime museum. It is currently in a Norfolk, Va., shipyard being prepared for an Atlantic crossing.

After being towed to Greece, the Huddell will eventually become part of a maritime museum in the harbor at Piraeus, near Athens, said Lou Raptakis, a Rhode Island state senator who spearheaded the effort to rehabilitate the ship."



Full story & photos:
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/100308/met_339695127.shtml
 

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