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SS Patrick Henry

U.S. Maritime Commission type EC2-S-C1 “Liberty Ship”

The driving force behind the Liberty ship design was speed of construction. The U.S. Maritime Commission initially designed and contracted its standardized “C” cargo ships at a relatively leisurely pace, but by the beginning of 1941, the Roosevelt administration’s order to construct an initial 200 “emergency” vessels forced the commission to find a way to build ships as quickly as possible.

Although the commission based Liberty ships on an older, simplified design to speed up production and maximize their cargo capacity, shipyards employed cutting-edge production ideas, especially pre-fabrication. The Maritime Commission intentionally designed the Liberty ship to minimize the amount of specialized craftsmanship required for their construction – many yards expanded on this idea by constructing whole sections of the ships in workshops and then welding them together in the shipbuilding slipways as they were completed.  The triple-expansion steam engine of the Liberty ship, unlike the specialized steam turbine engines used in many “C” and U.S. Navy ships, was very simple; it was manufactured by machine shops across the country.

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SS Patrick Henry was the first Liberty ship delivered.  It made its maiden voyage in January 1942, only a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The vessel made several trans-Atlantic crossings and participated in Convoy PQ-18, a critical supply run from the United Kingdom to Murmansk in the Soviet Union in 1942.  It served through the duration of the war before it ran aground off of Florida in 1946.  Although the War Shipping Administration was able to re-float Patrick Henry a short time later, the damage to its hull ended its sailing career.  The Maritime Commission laid the ship up in reserve until the government sold it for scrap in 1958.


Detailed view of the house and boat deck.


Detailed view of 5-inch gun and anti-aircraft guns.


Detailed view of the aft cargo hatches and booms.


(Maritime Administration Heritage Asset, Object 1978.015.0001)