South Portland in Cumberland County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
Voyages for Victory
Each new ship strikes a blow at the menace to the Nation and for the Liberty of the Free People of the World…
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
September 27, 1941
At the launching of the first Liberty ship, Patrick Henry from Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard
In 1940, with “blitzkrieg” attacks wrecking havoc on land and “unterseeboat” torpedoes wiping out the British naval fleet, the Germans appeared to be on their way towards conquering Europe. However, the U.S. still had not formally entered the war.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Within days the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy, entering into a two-ocean global war. To fight this war, the Allies needed a cargo ship that could be built faster than the German U-Boats could sink them. The ship built for this task would become the Liberty ship.
Though equipped with only minimal guns for defense, the Libertys faced torpedoes, mines, bombs, and enemy fire, performing courageously. They endured typhoons in the Pacific, monsoons in the Mediterranean,
Jeremiah O’Brien Returns to Normandy
On June 19, 1943, Jeremiah O’Brien slid down the ways at the West Yard of the New England Shipbuilding Corporation. She made seven voyages overseas and participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy. After the war she was laid up at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in San Francisco, CA. Though she was still in excellent condition, she was never recalled from the reserve fleet and was destined for the scrap heap until her rescue by Rear Admiral Thomas Patterson in 1962. On April 18, 1994, the O’Brien set sail on her commemorative voyage to England and France. Although 50 years old, she sailed 12,000 miles with no repairs and always arrived ahead of schedule.
The Shipyard Society Brings Her Home
In 1980, Ed Langlois, a former NESC employee founded the South Portland Shipyard Society with two goals: to create a Memorial preserving the history of the South Portland shipyards and to bring the Jeremiah O’Brien back to Portland Harbor. The mission was fulfilled on August 6, 1994, when the O’Brien steamed past Portland Head Light into Portland Harbor,
This voyage culminated the work of two dedicated volunteer organizations: the National Liberty Ship Memorial in Fort Mason Park, San Francisco[,] and The Shipyard Society of South Portland, Maine.
[Photo captions read]:
1. Liberty ships frequented Port Lyautey, Naples, shown here in October 1943, with views of Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Within a few months, war had ruined this “jewel of the Mediterranean.”
2. In February 1945, workers unloaded cargo from a Liberty at the King George’s Docks in Calcutta Harbor, India.
3. Liberty ships shown in the background brought supplies for the D-Day troops at Omaha Beach at Normandy, France. Barrage balloons float overhead to deter enemy air attack.
4. Liberty ships, along with other merchant ships, joined convoys and were escorted by naval vessels through dangerous war-torn waters. The convoys offered protection in numbers for the lumbering Liberty ships, who at a maximum of 11 knots were among the slowest in the convoy.
5. Lights May Mean Death whilst in convoy
Your ship MUST be kept thoroughly Blacked Out at all times, otherwise you are endangering all ships
Signal Lamps and Navigation Lights, if used at all, must be DIMMED to show the absolute minimum of light necessary!
Offenders will be dealt with drastically!
To be posted in prominent places throughout the ship
6. South Portland Liberty Ship Casualties of World War II
John Winthrop • William King • Daniel Webster • William Pierce Frye • Julia Ward Howe • Richard Hovey • John Poor • Samlong • Edward Crockett
Charles W. Eliot • Sumner I. Kimball • George Cleeve • Ezra Weston • Robert L. Vann • George S. Wasson • Arthur Sewall • Samwake • Samsuva • George Hawley • Joseph Carrigan
South Portland’s Liberty ships steamed overseas with their holds full of vital supplies for troops in every theater of the war. This map shows one of the many voyages each of these Liberty ships made. This was the last voyage for the John Poor, which was torpedoed and sunk on March 19, 1944. The Jeremiah O’Brien and the John W. Brown still survive as the last two remaining Liberty ships.
8. The discharge book for Walter Ray Kennedy of East Sullivan, Maine, shows his tour of duty as a chief engineer on board the Calvin Coolidge, a South Portland-built Liberty ship.
9. With its five holds,
10. On July 11, 1943 the Liberty ship, Robert Rowan, with her cargo of ammunition, blew up after being hit by a German air attack during the invasion of Sicily. In August, the Allies captured the island of Sicily.
11. Wes Masterson displays the American flag at Utah Beach, Normandy.
12. Admiral Patterson inspects the hull of the O’Brien
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #32 Franklin D. Roosevelt series list. A significant historical month for this entry is February 1945.
Location. 43° 39.205′ N, 70° 14.019′ W. Marker is in South Portland, Maine, in Cumberland County. Marker is at the Liberty Ship Memorial in Bug Light Park, on Cushings Point, off Madison Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: South Portland ME 04106, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Work Force (here, next to this marker); The Yard (here, next to this marker); WWII: On the Home Front (here, next to this marker); South Portland and Its Liberty ShipsThe Ugly Ducklings (here, next to this marker); The Ultimate Sacrifice (a few steps from this marker); Liberty Ship Memorial (a few steps from this marker); South Portland's Ships for Liberty (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in South Portland.
Also see . . .
1. Liberty Ships Built by the United States Maritime Commission in WWII. United States Merchant Marine website entry (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. SS Jeremiah O'Brien. Museum website homepage (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. SS John W. Brown. Project Liberty Ship website homepage (Submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 23, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 709 times since then and 57 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. submitted on June 2, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.