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Building Liberty Ships in Brunswick

By 1942, German U-boats had already destroyed more than five hundred million tons of Allied shipping. In that year, reacting to the critical shortage of cargo ships needed to keep the Allied war effort going, the U.S. Maritime Commission chose sixteen sites, including Brunswick, Georgia, to build the aptly-named Liberty ships. Between 1943 and 1945, the J.A. Jones Construction Company with its sixteen thousand workers at the Brunswick shipyard completed ninety-nine cargo ships, of which eighty-five were Liberty ships, each capable of hauling ten thousand tons across vast ocean distances (the remaining fourteen were smaller coastal freighters called Knot ships). Most of the Brunswick Liberty ships served in the American merchant marine fleet, although twelve (the so-called SAM ships) were loaned to Great Britain. Although a few Brunswick-built ships were lost to torpedoes, mines, and wrecks during World War II, many survived to serve the maritime needs of the postwar world.

The Special Collections of the Brunwsick-Glynn County Library of the Three Rivers Regional Library houses an extensive collection of historical materials donated by individuals associated with the J.A. Jones Construction Company that portrays various aspects of the Liberty ship building effort at the Brunswick shipyard during World War II. A digitized sampling of these materials is accessible online through GALILEO and the Digital Library of Georgia-- this essay places those materials within the context of state and national history. The essay also provides hyperlinks to other related digitized collections within GALILEO and elsewhere.

Why "Liberty" Ships? | Liberty Ship Configuration and Crew | Brunswick's Maritime Heritage | J.A. Jones Construction Company | Shipyard Layout | Building a Liberty Ship | Shipyard People | Brunswick's Liberty Ships | A Christmas Present | Knot Ships | Liberty Ship Legacy

Why "Liberty" Ships?

Liberty ships were arguably the most famous cargo ships of World War II-- indeed, more Liberty ships were built than any other ship design in history (over twenty-seven hundred were built). To grasp the significance of the Liberty ship, it is important to understand the historical background of the design and development of this famous mass-produced cargo vessel.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1936 encouraged the revival of the American maritime industry which had experienced a precipitous decline after World War I. Striving to meet this ambitious goal, the United States Maritime Commission (USMC) initially promoted new freighter designs that incorporated advanced features (e.g., turbine engines that could propel ships fast enough to outrun submarines). Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this more sophisticated design would require much additional testing and alteration before full production could become practical.

Meanwhile, responding to massive losses of merchant vessels to German submarines, the British began to order "Ocean" class cargo ships from U.S. shipyards. Through their influence, American shipbuilders soon recognized the virtues of an older and simpler British design (allegedly based on early tramp steamers dating back to 1879). Pressured to develop a realistic construction program that could rapidly produce a large number of cargo ships, the USMC decided to set aside the ambitious advanced designs and instead adopt many aspects of the simpler British design (e.g., reciprocating engines), with modifications to accommodate American practices. Construction methods for these simple ships involved simplified construction approaches (e.g., welding instead of rivets, straight lines to minimize bending, etc.) These simpler vessels could be quickly constructed in shipyards manned by relatively inexperienced workers, and offered functional reliability even when operated by inexperienced crews. However, despite the advantages, the concessions to simplistic construction produced somewhat homely vessels (President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged their practicality but called them "ugly ducklings").

The USMC classification for these ships was "EC2-S-C1": "E" for emergency, "C" for cargo, "2" identifying size (of waterline length between 400 and 450 feet),"S" for steam power, and "C1" indicating this specific design. Ultimately they became better known as "Liberty" ships, although the exact origin of that designation seems uncertain. In response to unfavorable initial impressions, USMC Chairman Admiral Emory Scott Land began referring to the "Liberty Fleet" and named the first EC2-S-C1 the Patrick Henry, after the early American patriot who said "Give me liberty or give me death." In a similar vein, President Roosevelt launched the Patrick Henry on "Liberty Fleet Day" (September 27, 1941) and said that these new ships would bring liberty to Europe. It is also possible that the term derives from the British-built Empire Liberty which has been mentioned by British sources as a predecessor to the Liberty ships.

The vast majority of individual Liberty ships were allocated to the U.S. Merchant Marine service, and individual ships were usually named for renowned Americans. However, the Liberty ships built in the U.S. and loaned to Great Britain followed British naming conventions, in this case accompanied by the prefix "SAM": an acronym for "Superstructure Aft of Midships," the designation assigned by the British Ministry of War Transport.

Liberty Ship Configuration and Crew

The typical Liberty ship was four hundred forty-one-and-a-half feet long and fifty-seven feet wide, with a draft (the depth of keel below waterline when a ship is loaded) of nearly twenty-eight feet. Originally designed to carry just over nine thousand tons of cargo, the ship often carried in excess of ten thousand tons packed into internal holds and secured on deck. In terms of overall design, the Liberty ship incorporated full scantling construction, a raked stem at the bow, and a cruiser stern.

Sectional drawing of a Liberty shipThe Liberty ship had two full decks running the length of the vessel, with seven watertight bulkheads rising to the upper deck, thus allowing for five cargo holds (shown in tan on the lengthwise sectional drawing above) located forward and aft of the central engine room (machinery spaces are shown in red on the drawing in Fig. 1). The cargo holds were accessed through large hatches using steam winches and booms rigged to three centerline masts. In these massive holds the Liberty ships carried weapons, ammunition, food, tools, hardware, vehicles, etc.-- anything and everything that might be needed for the war effort all around the world. Alternatively, Liberty ships could also carry large numbers of troops.

Liberty ship propulsion was provided by a vertical reciprocating triple expansion steam engine providing twenty-five hundred hp. Located in the middle of the ship, the engine conveyed power to the single propeller via a long shaft. Operating at seventy-six rpm the engine could provide a maximum speed of about eleven knots, which was relatively slow, thus making the ships susceptible to torpedo strikes, but traveling in convoys managed to offset the submarine threat. The Liberty ship's engines drew steam from oil-fired boilers (unlike the coal-fired British originals which inspired the American design); the absence of coal bunkers allowed for more efficient use of the remaining shipboard space. When bunkered to capacity with fuel (typically "Bunker C" black oil), the Liberty ship had a range of seventeen thousand to nineteen thousand nautical miles.

Steering was provided via a contrabalanced rudder, with steering gear located in a compartment at the stern above the rudder. Other onboard mechanical systems included steam-powered generators to provide electric power for radios, navigation equipment, refrigeration compressors, pumps, lighting, and degaussing (to prevent detonating magnetic mines). A salt water evaporator produced fresh water for the boilers and for crew consumption.

Crew accommodations were provided in a large three-deck structure located in the middle of the ship (above the engine space) and in a smaller single deck unit located near the stern. The "bridge" deck, the highest level of the amidships structure, housed the master and the radio operator, while the remaining officers were housed on the "boat" deck, just below the bridge deck. The section of the amidships structure on the hull's "upper" deck housed the crew and mess facilities. The aft unit housed the hospital, and, if the ship was armed, some gun crews. Crew complements varied, but an average size (merchant marine officers and crew, plus a U.S. Navy armed guard officer and crew) would usually number less than sixty people.

Although some of the earlier Liberty ships sailed without defensive armament, later ships often carried a small number of three, four, or five-inch guns as well as several 20 mm antiaircraft guns. When the ship came under attack, the U.S. Navy armed guard manned the guns, assisted by the merchant seamen.

During World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine operated as a military auxiliary. Despite defensive precautions, merchant marine personnel suffered greater losses (a 3.9% fatality rate) than any other armed forces branch.

(For additional information about Liberty ships and the merchant marine services that manned them, see the U.S. Maritime Service Veterans for the American perspective, and the Merchant navy officers for the British perspective.)

Brunswick's Maritime Heritage

Brunswick has a long tradition of shipbuilding and other maritime industries. With its natural harbor located at the confluence of the Brunswick, East, and Turtle Rivers, Brunswick was established by colonial officials who recognized the site's maritime potential. Brunswick became an important exporter of naval stores, cotton, and wood during the nineteenth century, as well as a major shipbuilding location during World War I. However, the Great Depression, along with a general decline in the production of naval stores, severely damaged the port's economy. For related history, see the article about Brunswick in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Brunswick's fortunes changed considerably with the advent of World War II. The U.S. Maritime Commission (USMC) selected Brunswick as one of sixteen locations chosen to produce Liberty ships in support of the war effort. Brunswick Marine Construction Company constructed the required shipyard at the southern tip of Brunswick's peninsula, but by January, 1943 the USMC realized that it had made insufficient progress in the actual building of ships. Consequently, in return for appropriate compensation for plant and equipment, Brunswick Marine transferred the yard and the Liberty ship contract to the J.A. Jones Construction Company.

J.A. Jones Construction Company

The J.A. Jones Construction Company, a construction engineering firm originally established in North Carolina, was founded in 1890 by James Addison Jones, subsequently becoming one of the major construction firms of the South. The J.A. Jones Company wasn't a shipbuilding company originally, but had established a reputation for good management, which led the USMC to consider the firm as a suitable operator for major Liberty shipyards; first at Panama City, Florida, and then also at Brunswick, Georgia.

Although shipbuilding was a minor aspect of the company's overall operations, the J.A. Jones Company improved operation of the Brunswick shipyard by implementing industrial efficiency measures drawn from their extensive experience in other fields. Because it was a large firm, the J.A. Jones Company was able to meet the demands of Liberty shipbuilding by drawing upon resources associated with the company's other projects. Under the capable leadership of Emil Kratt (shown holding a sponsorship plaque [jaj055]), the J.A. Jones Company's Brunswick shipyard operation proved very successful, ultimately producing eighty-five Liberty ships (and fourteen knot ships) at Brunswick with sixteen thousand workers.

(For detailed economic statistics related to the J.A. Jones Company shipbuilding operation at Brunswick, see the extensive Liberty ship data developed by Peter Thompson for his article "How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? New Evidence for an Old Case Study" published in the Journal of Political Economy, 109(1):103-137 (February 2001).)

Shipyard Layout

Aerial photograph of the J.A. Jones Company's Brunswick shipyardThis aerial photograph of the Brunswick shipyard, taken directly overhead in 1944, graphically illustrates how the shipyard was laid out to accommodate the complex process of constructing six ships simultaneously. Perhaps the most readily identifiable features shown in the photographic image are the six ship hulls under construction on the six "ways" adjacent to the water. But massive logistical efforts were necessary to build such large ships. Note that, located inland from the ways, there were vast areas dedicated to the delivery and storage of huge quantities of materials and parts, as well as to the fabrication of components to be installed in the hulls. As soon as the hulls were completed, the ships were launched with great ceremony from the ways into the water. Then the hulls were floated over to the outfitting docks (note the two ships tied up to the docks) for the installation of additional features (guns, etc.) needed to fully equip the ship for delivery to the merchant marine service.

Another wartime view of the shipyard is provided, but at a more oblique angle, in [jaj106], an aerial photograph taken through an aircraft canopy. In this image the outfitting bay is clearly visible, although most of the ways are somewhat obscured by the canopy framework.

Building a Liberty Ship

The amazing achievements of these massive shipyard facilities can be appreciated when one contemplates that the J.A. Jones Company turned out ninety-nine large ships at Brunswick during the war, of which eighty-five were Liberty ships. The construction time from keel laying to delivery averaged only eighty-nine days, with one ship constructed in only thirty-four days. Of course, it required a massive workforce to achieve such results.

Photographers recorded the vast range of operations required to build a Liberty ship. The following J.A. Jones Construction Company collection historical photographic images provide a sampling of the many facets of shipbuilding work that took place around the clock during the war years at the Brunswick shipyard.

  • Building a ship inherently involved manipulating innumerable parts and materials, often requiring powerful machines to cope with heavy weights and awkward dimensions. A rail-mounted crane at work is depicted in [jaj111], surrounded by massive components waiting to be incorporated into a ship's structure. Some mobile cranes sat atop elevated structures capable of straddling large ship components, as shown in [jaj117].
  • Welding, rather than the traditional use of rivets, characterized the Liberty ship construction process. [jaj146] shows welders at work in the Brunswick shipyard, wearing the necessary protective gear.
  • Construction of every ship begins with laying its keel. In [jaj108], a clergyman participated in this important first step, a ceremonial event recognized since ancient times.
  • The outline of the ship began to take place as the bottom plates were laid on the way, as illustrated in [jaj001] which shows an early stage in the construction of the John A. Campbell (see additional coverage of this specific ship in a later section of this essay). Scaffolding had already been erected to provide access for workers during subsequent construction phases.
  • After the massive steam engine had been installed amidships, bulkheads and decks were added, giving the hull a more complete shape as shown in [jaj011] of the Samlorian) (see later section for additional coverage of this ship). Still visible at this stage was the shaft tunnel, which enclosed the massive shaft connecting the engine to the screw.
  • With the main deck in place, workers could install such features as the large three-deck structure mounted amidships above the engine, as illustrated in [jaj110].
  • As launching day approached, workers continued to install additional features, such as the gun emplacements prominently displayed in [jaj012] of the Donald W. Bain just two days before launching (see later section for additional coverage of this ship).
  • Ceremonial flags and bunting decorated the ship on launch day, as shown in [jaj061]. The massive screw at the ship's stern is depicted in [jaj107] and [jaj057]; the ships were launched from the ways stern-first into the water.
  • The launching ceremony included the traditional rite of christening the new ship, usually performed by important dignitaries. Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall and his wife posed for the photographer in [jaj031], and Mrs. Arnall christened the Joseph R. Lamar with the traditional champagne bottle in [jaj032].
  • Workers removed wedges from the cradles beneath the hull, as shown in [jaj109], thus allowing the new ship to slip down the ways into the water, as shown in [jaj058].
  • Floating in the water after launch, the new ship was towed to an adjacent dock for final outfitting. In [jaj123], several ships are being outfitted simultaneously-- note that some are doubled up at the dock. Taken from a nearby ship, [jaj112] provides a different perspective of the outfitting facilities.
  • After completion, the new Liberty ship was pushed away from the dock by a tug, as shown in [jaj073], ready to sail away and join the war effort.

Shipyard People

In addition to recording the Liberty ships and their construction, photographers also documented the many different people involved in the Brunswick shipyard operations. These fascinating J.A. Jones Construction Company collection images often give insight into the lives of people representing management and labor, from the most powerful executive to the ordinary laborer.

  • We see a group portrait of several notables at the highest managerial level in [jaj114], during a visit to Brunswick (from left to right):
    • Edwin L. Jones, president of J.A. Jones Construction Company
    • Admiral Emory Scott Land, chairman of the USMC
    • Emil Kratt, Jones' general manager for the Brunswick shipyard
    • Admiral Vickery, head of USMC's technical division
    • Frank Poole (Jones' public relations director)
    • Nat Campbell
  • Emil Kratt, as Jones Company's general manager of the Brunswick shipyard, appears in many photographs. In [jaj026], he stood at the podium prior to launching a Liberty ship-- note the USMC banner hanging from the lectern, with President Roosevelt's admonition for "Speed-- more speed."
  • Ship launchings were elaborate ceremonies, usually involving notable people including political figures such as Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall, shown in [jaj053], and high ranking military officers such as Admiral Glassford, shown in [jaj054]. The contributions of ordinary workers were recognized as well, for example, [jaj025] depicts two women with flowers: one formally dressed as befits a visiting dignitary, the other a welder dressed in ordinary work garb. Many ordinary civilians attended launching activities too, as depicted in [jaj028].
  • Building large ships was a truly massive undertaking that required thousands of workers. Many shipyard workers were Georgians, drawn from farms and nearby towns, without previous shipbuilding backgrounds. The shipyard workforce was diverse, and although white males were heavily represented, there were also many women and African Americans. Their experiences in this new line of work were captured in some of the shipyard photographs:
    • [jaj130] depicts people waiting in the J.A. Jones Company employment office
    • [jaj134] provides a group photograph of the "labor gang" at the shipyard.
    • [jaj121] shows workers queuing up on a foggy day at the shipyard.
    • [jaj145] shows workers suspended high up on a ship's mast, demonstrating some of the unusual working conditions encountered at the shipyard.
    • [jaj104] and [jaj105] depict large groups of workers leaving the shipyard at the ends of their shifts.
    • Although shipbuilding was a very serious business, the workers also made time for fun-- J.A. Jones' baseball players in their team uniforms are shown in [jaj119].

Brunswick's Liberty Ships

Photographers systematically documented the construction of the many Liberty ships built by the J.A. Jones Company at Brunswick. The following historic images from the J.A. Jones Construction Company collection at the Brunswick-Glynn County Library of the Three Rivers Regional Library and the Vanishing Georgia (VG) collection depict specifically-identified Liberty ships at various stages of construction, along with some of the festivities that accompanied their launching ceremonies.

(Please note that the following listing includes only a subset of the Liberty ships that were constructed at the Brunswick shipyard. For a complete listing of all the Brunswick-built Liberty ships, see Cargo Ships Built by the J.A. Jones Company at Brunswick Georgia Shipyard).

For a comprehensive listing of all Liberty ships built at all American shipyards, see the extensive tables at Maritime Business Strategies, LLC).

William B. Woods (USMC hull #1490, Jones hull #106)
The second ship built by the J.A. Jones Company in Brunswick, the keel of the William B. Woods, was laid on way #2 on July, 21 1942. An advanced stage of construction is depicted in [jaj002], with much of the hull and superstructure complete-- notice the elaborate scaffolding which gave workers ready access to various areas of the ship. The ship was launched on April 7, 1943 and delivered on May 31, 1943, allocated to A.H. Bull & Co. She may have been the only Brunswick-built Liberty ship to succumb to torpedo attack, when she was lost off the coast of Palermo, Italy in 1944.

Joseph R. Lamar (USMC hull #1491, Jones hull #107)
The third ship built by the J.A. Jones Company, her keel was laid on way #3 on August 1, 1942. Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall and his wife are shown at the launch ceremony on April 29, 1943 in [jaj031]; Mrs. Arnall is shown christening the ship with the traditional bottle of champagne in [jaj032]. The ship was delivered on June 17, 1943, allocated to A.G.W.I. Lines Inc. She survived the war and was scrapped in 1961.

John A. Campbell (USMC hull #1496, Jones hull #112)
The eighth ship built by the J.A. Jones Company at Brunswick, the Campbell's keel was laid on way #2 on April 13, 1943. Taken on April 21, 1943, [jaj001] depicts a very early stage of construction, during the installation of the hull's bottom plates. The ship is shown shortly after launching on August 14, 1943 in [jaj075]. She was delivered on August 31, 1943, allocated to Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc. The ship was scrapped in 1968.

Henry W. Grady (USMC hull #1501, Jones hull #117)
The thirteenth ship built by J.A. Jones at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #1 on July 31, 1943. The intriguing image [jaj029] shows not the ship itself, but rather a child helping the conductor lead the band during the launching ceremony of October 22 , 1943. Dignitaries who participated in the launching festivities are portrayed in [jaj045], including a family representative of the ship's namesake (Atlanta journalist, political leader, and New South booster Henry W. Grady, who was often referred to as "The Spokesman of the New South"). The ship was delivered on October 30, 1943, allocated to the Wilmore Steamship Co. She was scrapped in 1971.

George W. Crawford (USMC hull #1510, Jones hull #126)
The twenty-second ship built by the J.A. Jones Company at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #4 on November 16, 1943. The ship's christening on January 1, 1944 is captured in [jaj033] with Mrs. I. M. Aiken smashing the champagne bottle against the Crawford's bow. The ship was delivered on January 13, 1944, allocated to the American Range Liberty Steam Ship Co. She was sold for private use in 1947, and scrapped in 1971.

Howard E. Coffin (USMC hull #1512, Jones hull #128)
The twenty-fourth ship built by J.A. Jones at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #6 on November 30, 1943. The J.A. Jones Construction Company collection at the Brunswick-Glynn County Library includes several images of people at the launching ceremonies of January 21, 1944: Emil Kratt (general manager of J.A. Jones' Brunswick shipyard operation) is shown in [jaj040] holding a portrait of the ship's namesake (Howard E. Coffin, an automobile industrialist, also known for his development of coastal Georgia, especially Sapelo Island and Sea Island). Mr. Kratt is also shown with two dignitaries in [jaj035]. In [jaj038], Mrs. Alfred W. Jones is shown holding flowers, flanked by Miss Mona Douglas and Miss Dorothy Torras; in [jaj036] the same three ladies are shown, but with Mrs. Jones now holding the tethered champagne bottle; Mrs. Jones is then shown christening the ship with the champagne in [jaj039]. The ship was delivered on January 31, 1944, allocated to the South Atlantic Steamship Co. She was sold for private use in 1947, and scrapped in 1962.

R. Ney McNeely (USMC hull #1513, Jones hull #129)
The twenty-fifth ship built by J.A. Jones at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #1 on December 9, 1943. On January 28, 1944, [jaj004] was taken the day before the launching on January 29, and consequently depicts the deck and superstructure features in an advanced state of completion. Also taken on the same day, but from a different direction, [jaj003] shows the elaborate scaffolding enveloping the hull. In both images, the large mobile crane (necessary for manipulating the massive loads involved in building ships) is visible. She was delivered on February 10, 1944, allocated to the South Atlantic Steamship Co. The ship went to the U.S. Navy in 1955, and was scrapped in 1973.

Joseph M. Terrell (USMC hull #1516, Jones hull #131)
The twenty-seventh ship built at Brunswick by J.A. Jones, her keel was laid on way #3 on December 23, 1943, and she was launched on February 14, 1944. Here, [jaj074] shows the ship being outfitted at the shipyard docks, prior to being delivered on February 26, 1944, allocated to R.A. Nichol & Co. She was scrapped in 1966.

Samalness (USMC hull #1517, Jones hull #133)
The twenty-ninth ship, with keel laid on way #5 on January 15, 1944, was one of the "SAM" ships loaned to Great Britain. She was launched February 29, 1944 and delivered March 11, 1944. The ship was sold for private use in 1947, and sunk in 1951. The online Vanishing Georgia (VG) collection includes a series of dramatic photographs depicting this ship during and after launching:

  • Mrs. Forrest Prather, whose husband was a superintendent at the shipyard, christens the Samalness in [gly259].
  • The Samalness slides down the ways at launch in [gly260].
  • In [gly261], the ship is shown in the water just after leaving the ways.
  • We see the ship on a trial run in [gly262 ].
  • Here, in [gly263], the ship is shown at the outfitting dock.

Isaac Shelby (USMC hull #1518, Jones hull #134)
The thirtieth ship built by the J.A. Jones Company at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #6 on January 22, 1944. Only a few days later, [jaj005] was taken on January 27, illustrating how quickly the elaborate scaffolding was erected as the ship's construction got underway. She was launched on March 6, 1944, and delivered on March 18, 1944, allocated to Smith & Johnson. She wrecked near Rome in 1945, and was scrapped in 1948.

Samfoyle (USMC hull #2351, Jones hull #136)
The thirty-second ship was one of the "SAM" ships loaned to Great Britain, with keel laid on way #2 on February 8,1944. Scaffolding surrounding the hull is depicted in [jaj007], taken on March 21, 1944; [jaj006] shows the nearly completed deck features on the same date, only two days before she was launched on March 23, 1944. She was delivered on March 31, 1944. The ship was sold for private use in 1947, and scrapped in 1968.

Samfinn (USMC hull #2352, Jones hull #137)
The thirty-third vessel built by J.A. Jones at Brunswick was also a SAM ship. Her keel was laid on way #3 on February 14, 1944. Construction of the hull is shown in [jaj009], taken on March 21, 1944; note the massive component being hoisted into place by a large mobile crane. Taken on the same date, [jaj008] provides a close look at the scaffolding and elevated walkways surrounding the hull. She was launched on March 31, 1944, and delivered on April 13, 1944. The ship was scrapped in 1962.

Samleyte (USMC hull #2355, Jones hull #140)
The thirty-sixth ship was another British loan. The keel was laid on way #6 on March 7, 1944. The ship is still at an early stage of construction, as shown in [jaj023], but after the engine had been installed amidships. She was launched on April 20, 1944 and delivered on April 29, 1944. The ship was scrapped in 1960.

Samlorian (USMC hull #2358, Jones hull #143)
The thirty-ninth ship was another SAM ship for Britain. Her keel was laid on way #3 on April 1, 1944. After much of the propulsion machinery had been installed, [jaj011], taken on April 21, 1944, depicts the shaft tunnel, through which runs the long shaft connecting the steam engine with the screw at the stern. Internal hull details near the bow are shown in [jaj010], taken on the same date. She was launched on May 14, 1944, and delivered on May 26, 1944. The ship was sold for private use in 1947, and scrapped in 1966.

Donald W. Bain (USMC hull #2360, Jones hull #145)
The keel of the forty-first ship was laid on way #5 on April 17, 1944. Two photographs taken on May 23, 1944 depict the nearly completed hull: [jaj012] was taken from a location near the stern looking forward, while [jaj013] records the ship from a location near the bow looking aft. In [jaj050], we see J. Melville Broughton, governor of North Carolina, with his wife Mrs. Broughton (the couple on the left), and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin L. Jones (on the right), during the May 25, 1944 launching ceremony. In [jaj034], Mrs. Broughton holds the champagne bottle, ready to christen the new ship. The ship was delivered on June 17, 1944, allocated to Norton Lilly Management. The ship was sold for private use in 1947 and wrecked in 1951, but was rebuilt. She was scrapped in 1969.

Augustine B. McManus (USMC hull #2361, Jones hull #146)
The forty-second ship built by J.A. Jones at Brunswick, her keel was laid on way #6 on April 21, 1944. The status of the hull as of May 23, 1944 is depicted in [jaj014]. She was launched on June 10, 1944 and delivered on June 24, 1944, allocated to William J. Rountree Co. The ship was scrapped in 1970.

James B. Duke (USMC hull #2362, Jones hull #147)
The keel of the forty-third ship was laid on way #1 on April 29, 1944. Two photographs record construction progress as of May 24, 1944: [jaj015] was taken near the stern looking forward, while [jaj016] was taken near the bow looking aft. The ship was launched on June 19, 1944, delivered on June 30, 1944, allocated to Wessel Duval Co. She was scrapped in 1972.

W. P. Few (USMC hull #2363, Jones hull #148)
The keel of the forty-fourth ship was laid on way #2 on May 1, 1944. The pair of photographs taken on May 24, 1944 show the hull from opposite ends of the ship: [jaj017] shows the shaft tunnel near the stern, while [jaj018] shows the partially completed bow section. She was launched on June 22, 1944, and delivered on July 3, 1944, allocated to Isbrandtsen Steamship Co. The ship wrecked in 1945, and was scrapped in 1959.

Alexander S. Clay (USMC hull #2364, Jones hull #149)
The keel of the forty-fifth ship was laid on way #3 on May 15, 1944. Two photographs taken from opposite ends show the hull at an early stage of construction on May 23, 1944: [jaj019] was taken near the bow looking aft, while [jaj020] depicts the ship from the stern looking forward. She was launched on June 30, 1944, and delivered on July 15, 1944, allocated to the South Atlantic Steamship Co. The ship was scrapped in 1970.

F. Southall Farrar (USMC hull #2365, Jones hull #150)
The forty-sixth ship built at Brunswick by J.A. Jones, her keel was laid on way #4 on May 22, 1944. Two photographs taken from opposite ends of the ship --[jaj021] and [jaj022]-- show the hull in a very early stage for construction on May 23, 1944. The ship was launched on July 4, 1944 and delivered on July 20, 1944, allocated to the Union Sulphur Co. She was scrapped in 1966.

Thomas B. King (USMC hull #2369, Jones hull #154)
The keel of the fiftieth ship was laid on way #2 on June 23, 1944. Hugh F. Aiken is shown on the left holding a framed portrait of the ship's namesake (Thomas Butler King, coastal Georgia politician and planter) in [jaj030] during her launching ceremony on August 7, 1944. She was delivered on August 19, 1944, allocated to Wessel Duval Co. The ship was scrapped in 1970.

Felix Riesenberg (USMC hull #2391, Jones hull #176)
The seventy-second ship built, her keel was laid on way #6 on November 16, 1944. Mrs. N. M. Campbell dramatically splashes champagne during the ship's christening on December 14, 1944, as shown in [jaj086]. The ship was delivered on December 26, 1944, allocated to the American West African Line. She was sold for private use in 1947, and scrapped in 1972.

A Christmas Present

In November 1944, responding to a critical need for additional ships during a particularly difficult time for Americans fighting a worldwide war, the U.S. Maritime Commission challenged all the "six-way" shipyards to deliver six ships by the end of the year. At the Brunswick shipyard, the J.A. Jones workers decided to respond by building seven ships by year's end. To make this possible, more than two thousand workers volunteered to work on Christmas Day, donating their holiday time-and-a-half pay as a Christmas gift to America. This remarkably generous gift to the war effort captured widespread attention and appreciation. Photographers captured the excitement of that memorable day.

  • A scroll, shown in [jaj092], lists all the workers who worked on Christmas Day, 1944 without pay-- a generous gesture of support for Allied military personnel around the world.
  • Santa Claus appears in [jaj091], donating his time in a locomotive as well as in the kitchen.
  • In [jaj087], Santa is shown shaking hands with Emil Kratt, general manager of J.A. Jones' Brunswick operations, helping workers build ships.
  • Santa and director of public relations Frank Poole both help Myrtis Campbell count workers in [jaj088].
  • Santa is shown in [jaj090 ] helping prepare a free meal for the shipyard workers on Christmas Day.
  • Military service personnel around the world expressed their appreciation for the Brunswick workers' Christmas present to them. As shown in [jaj089], officers of the USS Hornet sent this photograph to express their gratitude for the generous Brunswick contribution.

Knot Ships

In early 1945 the J.A. Jones Company began to construct a series of smaller cargo ships at the Brunswick shipyard. Officially classified as "C1-M-AV1" by USMC, these coastal freighters were better known as "Knot" ships. Individual ship names were based on traditional nautical terms, e.g., various types of nautical knots.

By the end of 1945, fourteen Knot ships had been completed at Brunswick (although ten planned additional ships were cancelled as the war wound down). All survived the war, and several took on new roles-- for example, two Brunswick-built Knot ships were converted to drill ships during the 1970s.

Coastal Ranger (USMC hull #2728, Jones hull #203)
The ninety-ninth and last ship completed by the J.A. Jones Company at the Brunswick shipyard, her keel was laid on June 7, 1945. The ship's bow, with prominent USMC logo, is shown in [jaj059], ready for launching on August 25, 1945. She was delivered in December 1945, allocated to the North Atlantic & Gulf Steamship Co. The ship was sold for private use in 1948, and scrapped in 1969.

Liberty Ship Legacy

The J.A. Jones Company closed the Brunswick shipyard at the end of the war in 1945, but the shipyard's legacy lived on and is fondly remembered today.

The vast majority of Brunswick-built ships survived the war. Many went into the reserve fleet, and some served in various postwar roles around the world. However, all the Brunswick Liberty ships had been scrapped by the 1970s, so none survive today, although several Brunswick Knot ships survive serving other roles such as storage and drilling. Indeed, of the more than twenty-seven hundred Liberty ships built in America during the war years, only two survive: the Jeremiah O'Brien and the John S. Brown. Both are operated as museums, and make frequent cruises for interested visitors. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the O'Brien as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1984 (see the related ASME brochure ).

The J.A. Jones Construction Company donated many records related to its Brunswick Liberty shipyard operations to the Brunswick-Glynn County Library, now the Three Rivers Regional Library, on August 23, 1989-- these formed the core of the library's collection of historical shipbuilding materials. The J.A. Jones Company has continued to support periodic public events in Brunswick celebrating the World War II shipbuilding achievements.

After the war, the J.A. Jones Company gave a cutaway scale Liberty ship model, previously used for training purposes, to the city of Brunswick for public display. Exposed to weathering for many decades, the original scale model eventually deteriorated to such an extent that it had to be scrapped.

Liberty ship model, Brunswick, Ga.

A new scale model, dubbed the City of Brunswick, was unveiled on August 23, 1991 and can be seen today at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. Adjacent to the ship model is a historical marker summarizing Brunswick's Liberty ship story.

Today Brunswick's Liberty ships are all gone-- but those famed ships, the people who built them, and their significant contribution to America's wartime effort during World War II, are not forgotten!

Edward A. Johnson