"Loose talk can cost lives"
The allied boat convoys during WW2 was extremly important to keep up the defence capability of England and Soviet. Of course this made the convoys prime targets of the german "Wolfpack" submarine groups.
To keep routes and time schedules a secret was vital for the convoys, as this poster from 1942 clearly shows!
The convoys often contained the classic ship type called the Liberty Ships.
During World War II, the British needed cargo ships. German U-boats (submarines) were notorious for sinking vessels, so the plan was to replace those cargo haulers as quickly and cheaply as possible. The British turned to the United States for help.
By that time, the U.S. had already rededicated some of its resources to shipbuilding. The American Merchant Marine Act of 1936 called for auxiliary ships. These vessels would, in case of war, supplement the military's fleet. By 1940, shipbuilders were producing 200 per year. That's also the year the British approached the U.S. about replacement ships.
The liberty ship was based on an old, British design. However, the United States, commissioned to build 60 of these vessels, modified the plans. The new design called for oil, not coal, in the steam-powered ships. U.S. workers also welded ship parts together instead of using rivets, which shortened production time.
The United States created more than 2,700 liberty ships at more than a dozen shipyards. The first ship of this design, the SS Patrick Henry, launched in September 1941. Like the others, the Patrick Henry was 441 feet long and capable of traveling as quickly as 11 knots. At a cost of fewer than two million dollars per ship, and with enough shipyards to produce one liberty ship per day at the peak of creation, these solutions worked well for a while.
Some liberty ships were named after famous Americans, like Patrick Henry. Others were named after people who raised the two-million-dollar price tag in war bonds. People or groups who raised the funds were allowed to suggest liberty-ship names. Only one ship was named after a then-living person, but that was a fortunate mistake. Francis J. O'Gara, a merchant marine presumed dead after a submarine attack, was actually a prisoner of war. After returning to the States, he saw the liberty ship named after him.
Sometimes, a liberty ship cracked. People thought, for a while, that this was because workers welded the pieces together: a new concept in shipbuilding at the time. However, the type of metal that liberty ships used had a tendency to become brittle, which caused the cracks.
Liberty ships were mostly for hauling cargo: jeeps, ammunition, tanks, even aircraft. They were armed, of course, with both weapons like deck-mounted guns and members of the Naval Armed Guard. In fact, one liberty ship sank a German vessel in September 1942.
In 1943, the United States started replacing liberty ships with victory ships. The new ships, based on the previous design, were larger. They also moved faster and hauled more cargo. They were harder to sink and designed to last longer than five years, unlike liberty ships.
Today, only a few liberty ships still exist. In San Francisco and Baltimore, people can see them in museums. In other cases, parts of the ships were used for other purposes. For a brief period during World War II, though, these were the go-to ships for Allied forces and their much-needed cargo.
Artist: Stevan Dohanos
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