WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Battleship North Carolina is our most famous monument to World War II but it is not our only connection.
“Without the liberty ship we would not have been able to supply our troops or allies for the first two years of the war,” explained local author, historian and former Naval Officer Wilbur Jones.
Liberty ships meant food, weapons, everything for those fighting. But for the Merchant Marines aboard, liberty ships were no pleasure cruise.
“They were uncomfortable and they were slow, if you could get ten knots out of them with a push you were going ok. They were lightly armed so you were almost a sitting duck,” Jones said.
Liberty ships were Wilmington’s contribution to the war. That infamous date, Pearl Harbor day December 7, 1941 was one day after our first launch the Zebulon Vance.
“The first ship came off the ways on Dec 6, 1941 a total of 126 liberty ships were built here,” Jones told us with pride.
The ships made a vital contribution to the war and the economy of our city. Rosie the Riveter worked here.
“At the peak of the war the employment population at the ship yard was about 23 thousand people towards the end of 1943. It took about 280 days to build the first one the Vance, and by mid-1943 at the peak of the liberty ship construction here we were cranking them out in 42 days about a month and a half,” Jones said.
While liberty ships were famous for their contribution to the war effort, their construction was limited.
“They were replaced by faster ships with more capacity but they were absolutely vital,” Jones concluded.
For more information, pictures and displays visit Wilmington’s Home Front Museum at the Hannah Block Historic USO.