The Liberty Ships: Workhorses of the Fleet

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Frank L. McGuire Maritime Library

Gift of Gus Bourneuf

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Frank L. McGuire Maritime Library

Gift of Richard G. Astrauckas

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Frank L. McGuire Maritime Library

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A Liberty ship appeared on this

commemorative stamp in 1946

     Workhorse of the Fleet - A History of the Liberty Ships, is the most recent of several books about the famous ships built in huge numbers to carry equipment and supplies supporting the war effort in Europe and Asia.  Local author Gus Bourneuf begins his account by reiterating the fact that the U.S. was woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of the two world wars when they began.  Bourneuf's book, and others such as Peter Elphick's Liberty - The Ships that Won the War, and John Gorley Bunker's Liberty Ships - The Ugly Ducklings of World War II, pay tribute to the American ingenuity and productivity that came together with astonishing speed to make up for lost time.  

     When Admiral Emory S. Land, Administrator of the War Shipping Administration (WSA), submitted his final report to President Truman in 1946, he noted that "In 1941 we had one great advantage we did not have at the start of our war in 1917.  We had the governmental machinery, the industrial know-how, standard ship designs, and the results of previous experience...to help us to a faster start."

     By the end of the Second World War 2,710 Liberty ships had been built at seventeen shipyards.  These "workhorses of the fleet" could carry 9000 tons of cargo at 11 knots, often with tanks or locomotives lashed to the deck. Together with the rest of the merchant fleet, including a smaller number of the faster Victory ships as well as the hundreds of ships chartered by the WSA from commercial shipping lines, they provided the indispensable support required by the U.S. and its Allies to win the Second World War. They were operated by the WSA itself, the Army Transportation Service and the U.S.Navy, and several were lent to Great Britain.   

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Dedication

This documentary is dedicated to the memory of

Richard G. Astrauckas, a member of the "Greatest

Generation, who passed away in December, 2017. 

Dick joined the Merchant Marine in World War II,

serving aboard the Liberty ship William L. Marcy and

participating in the D-Day landings.  He was always 

interested in the mission of the Frank L. McGuire

Maritime Library to preserve and promote

New London's unique place in the maritime

history of the United States of America.

       --- Brian Rogers, Librarian, 2018