SaddleBrooke WWII Roundtable Presents Liberty Ships

Larry Linderman

On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler started WWII with the invasion of Poland and the initiation of submarine warfare against his enemies in the Atlantic Ocean. From September 1940 to May 1941, England’s major cities were being hammered by the German air force in a strategy that became known as “The Blitz.” On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded Russia, one of our allies. The U.S. wasn’t an active participant until December 1941.

In the early days of the war, both England and Russia were in dire straits. Russian manufacturing was woefully inadequate at maintaining a footing against the nation that had already conquered the rest of Europe. England desperately need cargo ships to provide food, petroleum products, and war material to resist the Nazi threat.

The Roosevelt Administration had to walk a fine line between actively helping our allies militarily and running afoul of the Neutrality Act. In January 1941, FDR persuaded Congress to enact the Emergency Shipbuilding Program, which allowed the U.S. to produce and send aid to its allies.

The speaker at our March meeting will be SaddleBrooke’s own Bruce Rogers who will tell us how the U.S. built the ships and delivered aid to our allies. It is a fascinating story involving a class of ships that had to sail the submarine-infested waters of the north Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Indian Oceans. They became known as “Liberty ships.”

Eighteen shipyards along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts churned out Liberty ships from 1941 to 1945. They did it with a rapidity that boggles the mind even today. Led by ship builder Henry Kaiser’s innovations, the shipyards took only 27 days to complete a Liberty ship by war’s end. Overall, three ships were produced every two days. The Liberty ships became the symbol of America’s industrial might.

Bruce has extensively researched the story of the Liberty ships and he will tell us about them on Thursday, March 19, at 1 p.m. in the West Ballroom of the MountainView Clubhouse.

The Roundtable does not charge dues; all residents and their guests are invited. To defray the expense of treating our guest speakers to a lunch at one of our restaurants and reimbursing travel expenses, we do request a donation of a dollar per person.