The SaddleBrooke WWII Roundtable Presents Liberty Ships

Larry Linderman

The SaddleBrooke World War II Roundtable is back.

We are happy to announce that the Roundtable will resume its meetings, presenting speakers who will enlighten us on all aspects of WWII. Our next program will feature SaddleBrooke’s own Bruce Rogers, who has made a study of the so-called Liberty Ships that played a pivotal role in the outcome of WWII. Here is Bruce’s summary of his presentation, which will be on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m. in the MountainView Ballroom:

Following WWI, the Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of most weapons of war, yet, by the mid-1930s, the Nazis had a plan to dominate the continent and Britain. Not intending to take on the British navy, Hitler planned to starve the island nation into submission by cutting off all food and materials supplied by sea.

As Germany started to attack British shipping on Sept. 1, 1939, and invaded Russia on Aug. 1, 1941, Churchill and Stalin begged the U.S. for support in a variety of ways. Their mutual needs included food, war material, and cargo ships to deliver the goods. A huge fleet of cargo ships was desperately needed. We had no shipyards available to build more ships, and the shipbuilding methods used previously would not suffice.

The U.S. was mostly of an isolationist mood at the start of the war, and we were constrained by a Neutrality Act of our own making, starting in 1939. That act prevented us from giving any support to either side of the conflict. In January 1941, FDR signed the Emergency Shipbuilding Act, resulting in 18 new shipyards to build the much-needed ships. In March 1941, he signed the Lend-Lease Act that became the mechanism by which we would become the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Henry Kaiser (of the Kaiser Auto Co. and Kaiser Permanente Health Care) developed new methods for shipbuilding that produced cargo ships up to 17-times faster than previous methods. In those 18 yards, workers produced 2,710 Liberty Ships and 6,000 ships of all types, which slid off the ways and delivered the materials that were necessary for victory across four oceans.

This is the story of the people, decisions, and the perilous journeys that led to victory in WWII.

Bruce will present his program on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m. We will be back in our usual venue, the east ballroom of the MountainView Clubhouse. All SaddleBrooke residents and their guests are invited. Of course, we will follow the COVID protocols of the CDC and SaddleBrooke TWO for everyone’s safety.

The Roundtable does not charge dues. However, we do ask for a dollar donation to defray the cost of buying the speaker lunch and reimbursing driving expenses. See you on Oct. 14 at 1 p.m.

A native of California, Bruce received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly, an M.B.A. from the University of Santa Clara, and post-graduate studies in nuclear engineering at General Electric, U.S. Army Nuclear Reactor School, and MIT. He was the company commander of HQ Company Army Engineer Reactors Group, with 11 morning reports from Antarctica to Panama and Alaska. He worked in reactor safety and nuclear fuel design at General Electric Nuclear Division. Bruce consulted the California Senate on energy policy and started a consulting company, helping nuclear utilities and government labs on decision analysis, management improvement programs, nuclear waste disposal, and technical problems. He retired in 2002.

He has been married for 53 years, so far, and has two children and four grandchildren.

They have traveled extensively, visiting about 125 countries (and still counting). Here in SaddleBrooke, they enjoy walking, reading, trivia, bocce, and relaxing with friends and a glass of red wine.