Oct 22, 2021, 7:02:32 PM10/22/21
MA (Oxon) in History, University of Oxford (Graduated 1981)Updated Thu
Why was the Liberty Ship considered a production miracle?
By the end of 1940 alone the British Merchant Navy had already lost 644
ships amounting to 2,846,573 gross tons.
In order to replace these losses, and also to provide for the vast
amount of logistics transport required to wage the war on multiple
fronts, the allies had an urgent need for very large numbers of cargo
ships in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. Liberty ships were simple,
cheap, disposable ships that could be made in large quantities very quickly.
Ugly ducklings and designed with an expected life of only five years,
each Liberty ship could carry 11,000 tons of cargo 20,000 miles at 11 knots.
Made in sections that were welded, rather than riveted, together and
using old technology (triple expansion steam engines rather than
turbines) the ships could be built, on average, in 42 days by largely
inexperienced workers. In this way Liberty ship production did not
interfere with warship production.
2,710 Liberty ships were built in 18 shipyards between 1941 and 1945 at
the astonishing rate of more than one per day.
I have had the privilege of sailing on a remaining Liberty Ship - the
John Brown - and a very memorable part of the voyage was spending time
in the Engine Room. Those triple-expansion steam engines were very
proven technology; at the time there were many hands with experience
with them; and they were reliable. The chunk-a-chink, chunk-a-chink
sound they made will always stay with me.
I sailed for just one week on a triple expansion engine ship as an
Engineer Cadet in 1967. Wonderful experience. I loved it. Unfortunately
her Scotch boiler was condemned the following year and the college
couldn't afford the repairs. She had to be taken out of service.
It was marvellous how they managed … (more)
Good answer. For those wanting more detail read “Freedom’s Forge” by
Arthur Herman. Great book on not just the Liberty ships but production
in general that won the war.
Modern warfare will consume logistics on that sort of scale - perhaps
some analogue of the “Liberty Ship” will be required again.
Just part of the American productive capacity in World War II that won
the war for the Allies. The biggest mistake the Axis powers made was
getting the U.S.A. involved in the war as their enemy. Both Hitler and
Tojo would have done far better to keep the U.S.A. neutral and
uninvolved in the war!
Flying Tigers were send to help China before Pearl Harbor. Lend Lease
act and abolishing of the Neutrality act happened before Hitler declared
war on the US. Gotta say the US knew what was coming and was ready to do
the right thing even before war was declared.