Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More Liberty ship research notes September 18, 2015

Merchant Marine Stamp

More Liberty ship research notes September 18, 2015

A merchant marine stamp, designed by V.S. Closkey, Jr. was issued on February 26, 1946 in the District of Columbia [Scott # 939]. It shows a Liberty ship loading cargo

Merchant Marine Stamp of 1946, Steamship Stamp of 1944, and First Day Covers

On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress officially declared war on Japan and Germany. Americans were exhorted to enlist, recycle, work hard, buy war bonds, and sacrifice to avenge Pearl Harbor. Patriotism was in! Even ordinary postage stamps reminded Americans about the war effort.

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Liberty Ships and Victory Ships, America's Lifeline in War

The officers and men of the Merchant Marine, by their devotion to duty in the face of enemy action, as well as natural dangers of the sea, have brought us the tools to finish the job. Their contribution to final victory will be long remembered.

--General Dwight D. Eisenhower on National Maritime Day, 1945¹
In the nearly 20 years following the end of the World War I, America's merchant fleet, including its cargo and passenger ships, was becoming obsolete and declining in numbers. A shipbuilding program began with the passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. However, World War II provided the impetus to intensify those efforts eventually leading to a ship-building program that produced 5,500 vessels. Among them were 2,710 mass-produced ships known as Liberty ships. While reviewing blueprints of the Liberty ships at the White House, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who loved naval vessels and had an eye for design, mused aloud to Maritime Commission administrator Admiral Emory S. Land, "I think this ship will do us very well. She'll carry a good load. She isn't much to look at, though, is she? A real ugly duckling."² Thus, the Liberty ships received their second nickname, "the ugly ducklings."

When the United States entered World War II at the end of 1941, it had the beginnings of a great merchant fleet. But the lethal U-Boats, submarines of the German Navy, prowled the shipping lanes hunting American merchant ships. The Liberty ships proved to be too slow and too small to carry the tons of supplies the United States and her Allies would need to win the war. In 1943, the United States began a new ship-building program. These new ships would be faster, larger, and able to carry cargo long after the war was finished. These were the Victory ships.

The Liberty and Victory ships fulfilled President Roosevelt's prophetic words, serving the nation well in war and peace. Today, of the thousands of Liberty ships and Victory ships built during World War II, only a handful remains.

¹ War Shipping Administration, Press Release 2277(W), Maritime Day 1945--Military Leaders Praise Merchant Marine (18 May 1945).

² John G. Bunker, Liberty Ships: The Ugly Ducklings of World War II (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1972) p. 6.


Research notes…

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Welcome aboard the Liberty Ship the S.S. JOHN W. BROWN Retrieved September 18, 2015

Welcome aboard S.S. JOHN W. BROWN, one of only two remaining, fully operational Liberty ships that participated in World War II. This wonderful piece of history provides an educational and historical opportunity for the public to experience 1944 all over again, without the dangers of being sunk by a submarine or a torpedo bomber!

Through the efforts of talented and dedicated volunteers, coupled with the generous financial support of members and friends, S.S. JOHN W. BROWN continues to educate by operating as a historic museum ship, furnishing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience "living history" of the World War II merchant marine.

Liberty Ships, Italy, March 31st, 1948. Photo taken by Tony Linck, Time Life.


And go here, for frequently Asked Questions about the Merchant Marine

Click on these links at for quotes about American Merchant Marine by Presidents, Military Leaders, National Figures, and others

Quotes about American Merchant Marine by Presidents

Quotes about American Merchant Marine by Military Leaders

Quotes about American Merchant Marine by World and National Leaders

Quotes about American Merchant Marine from Newspapers

Quotes about American Merchant Marine by Famous People

Proclamations, Resolutions, and Statements on National Maritime Day by Presidents, Governors, and National leaders 


U.S. Navy Armed Guard and U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II - A Little-Known Story

The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was a service branch of the United States Navy that was responsible for defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack by enemy aircraft, submarines and surface ships during World War II. The men of the Armed Guard served primarily as gunners, signal men and radio operators on cargo ships, tankers, troop ships and other merchant vessels. Disbanded following the end of the war, the Armed Guard is today little known or remembered by the general public, or even within the Navy. But without the courage and sacrifice of the men of the Armed Guard, victory in World War II would have been much more difficult and taken much longer.

The merchant marine is collectively those non-naval ships that carry cargo or passengers or provide maritime services, and the civilian crewmen and officers who sail those ships. During World War II the ships and men of the United States merchant marine transported across the oceans of the world the vast quantities of war materiel, supplies, equipment, and troops needed to fight and win that war. The men of the U.S. merchant marine were civilian volunteers who nonetheless died proportionally in numbers that rivaled or exceeded any branch of the uniformed military. Like the Armed Guard with whom they sailed, the men of the merchant marine made possible the Allied victory in World War II.

The Armed Guard and the merchant marine were uniquely dependent upon one another; they were literally in the same boat. One cannot tell the story of one without telling the story of the other.

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