“Earth will not see such ships as those again” – John Masefield

The featured story in the September 21st, 1941, Volume 1, Number 6 of the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation’s “Bo’s’n’s Whistle” was titled, “In Vanguard of Twelve”. It’s an eye-opener.

“Greatest Mass Launching Since 1st World War Days – Nation-Wide Observance Of Day”

“Saturday, September 27, 1941, has been officially designated LIBERTY FLEET DAY by the United States Maritime Commission. This date is to be the occasion of the launching of twelve new merchant ships, with shipyards on all coasts of the United States participating.

“Of the merchant ships to be launched on this date, there will be three, possibly more, of the emergency cargo type, known as the EC-2, and given the Commission designation of ‘Liberty Ships’.

“Plans have been made by the Commission, with the cooperation of the various shipyards, for a fitting and colorful ceremony at each launching. It is the intention to make ‘Liberty Fleet Day’ an event of nationwide scope and significance, and the people of the United States are cordially invited by the Commission and the shipbuilders to participate. The President of the United States has been asked to take such part as his arduous duties will permit and to address the nation over the radio that day.

“The significance of the ‘Liberty Fleet Day’, particularly with regard to the national defense effort our nation is making, is emphasized when it is pointed out that this will be the largest mass launching of merchant ships since the days of the first World War, the occasion of our last great emergency shipbuilding program. Further, it is doubly significant, because it is evidence that our present emergency program is many months ahead of that of the first World War and ahead, in fact, of the original production schedules which were set early this year. Those schedules, which originally called for delivery of only two Liberty Ships this year, had been so advanced as to indicate that the Maritime Commission will have about 20 in service by that time.

“With the acceleration that has been given the Commission’s long range and emergency programs, the pledge to the American people of ‘two ships a day in 1942 and 1943’ will be fulfilled.

“The Commission has adopted a policy of naming the Liberty Ships for those great Americans of the past who made a considerable contribution to our country’s own liberty, for instance, the first Liberty Ship to be launched on the Atlantic Coast has been given the name PATRICK HENRY; that to be launched in California, the JOHN C. FREEMONT. Others to be launched at frequent intervals from September 27th on, will be named in accordance with the same policy. The only exception is the first Liberty Ship to be launched in Oregon. That is to be named the STAR OF OREGON, as explained elsewhere in this issue.

“There are 312 of these Liberty Ships under construction and the Commission has been authorized by the Congress to build more.
“A brief chronological statement of the emergency ship program will give an idea of the speed-up that has been the result of the order by the President last January to put the program underway and produce as many ships as possible, as fast as possible.

“The Commission found that seven new yards would be necessary, as all existing United States shipyards capable of building ocean-going cargo vessels were filled to capacity with production for the Navy, the Commission, or private owners.

“By February, agreement had been reached with existing shipbuilding companies to construct the yards and operate them. Funds for the facilities were provided by the Commission. Contracts for 200 emergency ships had been let by March 18th. The first keel was laid on April 30th.

“On April 14th the President allocated Lease-Lend (sic) funds to the Commission to build more ships, 112 of which were to be of this Liberty Ship design. The seven yards created under the first emergency program were expanded slightly and two were considerably enlarged. All of the ships had been ordered by the end of May.

“Launching of three Liberty Ships on September 27th, for which keels were laid on April 30, May 19 and May 24, respectively, means that barely more than four months on the ways has been required for these first ships. That will be reduced considerably, it is expected, in the same type of ships that will follow. Performance thus far by the shipbuilders indicates these Liberty Ships can be put into service in from four and a half to six months from the keel layings.

“Some indication of the speed of this program is shown by the fact that production of emergency cargo ships in the first World War days took from 10 to 12 months on an average.

“Within the short space of a few months a Portland marsh has been transformed into a shipyard where a great industry has geared its tempo to the speed and needs of the nation’s defense. Preparations to launch this, our first vessel, have called for the energy, devotion, safety-mindedness and high resolve of every man.

“Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation is proud on this occasion to make its first contribution, the ‘STAR OF OREGON’, to the Liberty Fleet. Progress can be reported in terms not only of facilities built and keels laid, but today a vessel launched.

“May fame and fortune and best of luck attend the ‘STAR OF OREGON’ and all her sister ships to follow”… a wish echoed, to be sure, by all who attended the launching ceremonies.

In truth, those Liberty Ships – all 2751 of them – ” two ships a day” – brought “fame and fortune and best of luck” to our entire country in return for “the energy, devotion, safety-mindedness and high resolve of the men (and women)” who built them. Americans still have an abundance of energy, devotion, safety-mindedness and high resolve – virtues sadly lacking among the nation’s political elite, those leaders with the power to endorse the revitalizing of our shipyards in order to avert the nation’s coming economic collapse. But without an emergency shipbuilding program – turning out “two (of our patented) ships a day” – we’re goners.