Army Transport Service
The U.S. Army had the
largest fleet of vessels of any organization during
World War II.
Just prior to World War II
and early in the war, the US Army's Quartermaster
Corps vessels were organized into two different
components. The Army Transport Service (ATS) manned
the ocean-going transports and cargo vessels. The
Harbor Boat Service (HBS) manned harbor tugs and
After the Transportation
Corps assumed the water transport role for the Army
(31 July 1942), the ATS and HBS were absorbed into
one organization - the Transportation Corps - Water
Division. However, the term "ATS" was used
throughout the war years to refer to this new Water
With few exceptions, civilian
mariners were contracted by the Army to man the
larger tonnage ships. Smaller craft were manned by
Army and Coast Guard crews and a few civilian crews.
The ATS operated the
Army-owned vessels in close cooperation with the
Navy and War Shipping Administration.
Terminal watercraft included
tugboats, launches, and barges, and supported the
operation of military ports and terminals both in
the U.S. and overseas - a responsibility not shared
with the Navy.
The Liberty Ship
With the outbreak of war in
Europe in 1939, the EC2 program (E for Emergency, C
for Cargo, 2 for Large Capacity) was quickly
implemented to expand the US merchant fleet to meet
its many needs.
The design for the EC2 was
based on an 1879 British tramp steamer. Critics
called the EC2 the "ugly duckling." President
Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to them as "dreadful
The reality of war meant that ships had to be
built quickly, cheaply, and simply. Much of the
construction was pre-fabricated in large sections
that were lifted into place. The EC2's were
considered expendable and not expected to last
beyond five years.
If one judges the Libertys
by performance, rather than looks, the Liberty's
design exceeded every expectation (not bad for an
"emergency, temporary, expendable" fix).
Over 2700 Liberty ships were
constructed between 1941 - 1945. During the war,
the Libertys served in a number of capacities, under
many different flags, and in all corners of the
The Liberty ship, along with
the smaller shallow draft FS ship (Freight Supply),
the T-2 Tanker, and the later war Victory class
ship, were key to the maritime supply effort for
Allied forces during World War II.
Above, a hull is ready for it's first inner-floor
section, which will carry heavy cargo into the hold.
Above, the stern of a Liberty ship is eased into
place by cranes, to be welded to the
rest of the vessel.
The "Liberty" ship was a
nickname given to the EC2 ships by Admiral Emory
Scott Land, head of the United States Maritime
Commission. The Commission's responsibility was to
oversee the expansion of the merchant fleet.
The first 200 ships ordered
were referred to as the "Liberty Fleet." September
27, 1941, the day of the first launchings, was
declared "Liberty Day." The program was to be a
cornerstone in President Roosevelt's "great bridge
A photo just after launching the Liberty ship in the
background, workers in Los Angeles clear the way for
keel number 150. Yards around the country competed
to find ways to cut corners, with awards and bonuses
given to workers for time-saving ideas.
the Liberty ship, Betty Zane, in
being loaded by a commercial barge,
8 April 1943.
To the right, loading even the decks of the
Liberty ships was necessary in the great push to
support the war on two fronts. Brooklyn Army Base,
New York, 1943.
Left, a Liberty ship loading cargo from the pier and
from lighters alongside.
RESPONDING TO THE WAR
At yards all over the country,
1.5 million workers learned to rivet and weld
prefabricated components. The workday was divided
up into three 8-hour shifts.
The Battle of the Atlantic,
World War II Time-Life Books, 1980
Above, two ex-waitresses and a
former seamstress set a shipbuilding record. They
welded more plate steel than most of the men who
worked at their California yard.
Above, workers at Kaiser's
Oregon yard line up to punch out.
THE BUILDING PROGRAM
The first two new
shipyards established by the U.S. Maritime
Commission in 1941 were the Oregon Shipbuilding
Corporation in Portland, Oregon, and
Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Incorporated in
The first ships were
contracted on 14 March 1941, and by 1945, 3140
Libertys in five different versions had been
ordered. Eventually 18 shipyards completed
construction on 2710 Libertys.
Above, minus its bow, a hull
nears completion in the Oregon yard. The largest
cranes ever built (background) hoisted the massive
prefabricated units into place.
Above, one of four deckhouse sections, complete
with wiring, furniture and fixtures arrive by
Henry J. Kaiser of the Oregon
yard, became a master of mass-production. He had
previously completed construction of Hoover,
Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams ahead of schedule,
but had never before built a ship.
Kaiser's theories on
mass-production created some mirth among
conventional shipbuilders, but he continually
reduced delivery times. His 75th ship, the JOSEPH
N. TEAL, was completed in 10 days after the keel
inner-floor sections to go into hull bottoms,
are stacked four deep, ready to go.
Above, a massive
bulkhead is lowered by a crane into a ribbed
hull while welders wait in the bilges, ready
to secure it.
Above, beach umbrellas shade welders on stove-hot
steel decks on a Liberty ship in the summer. In
spite of occasional scorching days, most of the
California shipyards offered balmy weather
throughout most of the year.
Here, welders fix
ribs of an inner-floor section before
adding the steel sheathing. These
40-ton sections were assembled only a
few feet from the ways.
The most common limiting
factor in U.S. Army logistics has always been
Transportation Corps influenced the changing
character of war more than any other service branch.
During the world war, the Transportation
Corps transported 7,290,000 passengers,
of which 94% were Army personnel, to
overseas destinations. And it shipped
126,787,875 tons of cargo to some 330
destinations worldwide in 5,280
SPECIFICATIONS & LAYOUT
OF A LIBERTY SHIP:
The basic Liberty
ship was originally intended to have a crew
of 45, but this was later increased to
include gun crews up to 36, making a crew
total of 81.
Later the figure was
amended, increasing the ships crew to 52 and
reducing the gun crews to 29.
The cargo gear
included 5-ton booms for each hold and a
50-ton boom at No. 2 hold and a 15 or 30-ton
boom at No. 4.
Amidships on the boat
deck, were four steel lifeboats each 24 ft
long with a capacity of 25 persons.
Life in the
Transport Hold, Nathan Glick, Ink and
Center for Military History Army Art