Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Blue Water Ships, Brown Water Bayou

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 16, 2015

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My feature article from last fall in Houston History Magazine, “Blue-Water Ships, Brown-Water Bayou:Wartime Construction of the EC-2 ‘Liberty’ Type Cargo Ship at Houston, 1941-1945,” is now available as a preview here, and the full article in PDF here.

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GeneralStarsGray

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17 Responses

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  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on September 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Excellent story, Andy. Interesting, informative and the publication laid the story out nicely, as well. I was unaware of how much Liberty ships could carry until I read your story, and now I can see why they were so vital to the war effort.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks very much. It’s a story that’s almost forgotten locally.

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on September 17, 2015 at 3:32 pm

        I may have mentioned it before, but my grandfather worked on Liberty ships in the S.F. Bay Area during the war. He didn’t talk a whole lot about the experience, but I do remember him telling me about the cacophony of noise that was evident amid the non-stop shipbuilding.

        I’ve been to see the Jeremiah O’Brien, one of the three remaining Liberty Ships, in San Francisco a couple of times. It seems hard to believe they could turn those out in just six weeks after they got the process down.

        • Andy Hall said, on September 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm

          He probably worked at one of Henry Kaiser’s yards out there. They set all sorts of records. The yard in Houston (and really, most of the others around the country) didn’t turn them out nearly as fast.

          Still, a pretty amazing feat.

          • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on September 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

            And, yes, my grandfather did work at a Kaiser Shipyard. It must have been something to see those places during their prime.

        • Andy Hall said, on September 17, 2015 at 4:05 pm

          There is a Liberty hull sitting a mile or two from me right now, as it happens — a hulk that’s being scrapped, that for many years was used as a nuclear reactor test facility. There’s a lot of pearl-clutching here about the possibility of residual radioactivity, which is amusing coming from people who think nothing of living downwind of the refineries and petrochemical plants in Texas City and La Porte.

  2. Neil Hamilton said, on September 17, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Andy,

    Excellent story and great pics! The story of the Liberty ships has always been an interest of mine. Thanks for sharing this article with us here. Much appreciated.

    Sincerely,
    Neil

  3. C. Meyer said, on September 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I am going to have to read this…just started building a 1/350 scale model of the John W. Brown Liberty Ship.

  4. Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on September 22, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Nice piece of writing and an interesting bit of history. And another cool digital ship rendering (though where’s the yellow school bus for scale, Andy?).

    My Dad spent the war protecting convoys of these (and other) ships on destroyer escorts. Not exactly a comfortable cruise, from what I heard.

    Thanks, Andy.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

      DEs must have been unpleasant ships to serve in, cramped and wet. Maybe not as bad as their British counterparts, the Flower Class corvettes — “a corvette would roll on wet grass,” according to Nicholas Monsarrat — but rough in any case. Stafford’s Little Ship, Big War is a good memoir of DE service.

      • Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on September 26, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        Yep, I don’t know much about the British corvettes, but the DEs were wet and cold and miserable in the North Atlantic winters, and hotter than a pancake griddle in the South Pacific sun.

        Dad used to explain that, since the American built DEs were also going to be used by the British (as part of Lend Lease), the DE designers were told to include an “open bridge” for the officers to keep watch. It seems the British believed that since an open bridge had served them well since the days of Admiral Nelson and before, then by God, they were going to stand the watch on open bridges in WWII. (Of course, there’s no record of Admiral Nelson’s fleet running convoy duty to Murmansk in the winter. A trivial detail.)

        A DE underway in heavy seas could disappear completely beneath the taller waves and pop up on the other side. This made standing watch on an open bridge interesting, to say the least. Dad mentioned one occasion when he was standing watch and after a few hours a fellow sailor brought him some hot coffee. Before Dad could enjoy a drink, his mate had to break his ice-encased (gloved) hands free from the railing of the bridge.

        And thanks for the tip on Stafford’s book. I’ll look for it.

        • Andy Hall said, on September 29, 2015 at 10:14 am

          If you can find a copy, Monsarrat’s Three Corvettes is a compilation of three books he published during the war while on escort duty. They have all the limitations one would expect of that circumstance, but they are nonetheless extremely vivid depictions of service in the small ships of the RN.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 22, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      I’m all out of school buses, by the way; will this do?

      • Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on September 26, 2015 at 1:59 pm

        Well, thanks for the update, but I don’t know… given recent positive developments in retiring certain historic military insignia, maybe you should use a “Sherman tank” instead of the “General Lee” for the size comparison. Just a thought (from son of the “Land of Lincoln”)…

        • Andy Hall said, on September 26, 2015 at 2:10 pm

          My original concept for illustrating the article was to do the ship with all its potential cargo spread out before it (X Willis Jeeps, Y Sherman tanks, etc.), but I lacked the computing horsepower to render it.


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