Monday, August 13, 2012

SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Commander K. with SS Jeremiah O'Brien, Go Giants!, SF, CA

"The foundation of all our hopes and schemes was the immense shipbuilding program of the United States." Winston Churchill

On the waterfront in San Francisco, that bluest of blue cities, you will find a significant cog of the Military Industrial Complex that was critical to winning World War II -- A Liberty ship -- the SS Jeremiah O'Brien (  I was delighted to have a chance to visit the ship recently in SF at Pier 45 on the San Francisco waterfront.  These ships were crewed by members of the merchant marine -- about 43 civilians per ship.  They also had a US Navy armed guard that manned the guns.

World War II simply could not have been won had these ships not been rapidly built and used to transport men and desperately needed supplies to allies such as Great Britain and the Soviet Union.  It is interesting to note that the Liberty ship was based on a British design.  The SS Jeremiah O'Brien was built in just 56 days in South Portland, Maine by the New England Shipbuilding Corporation (see earlier posts The Corporations that Won World War II, 7/20/12) and Freedom's Forge, 8/10/12).  Henry Kaiser set the record for speedy construction building one ship in an astonishing 4 days and 15 hours and 26 minutes in November 1942.  Source: Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman, 2012  (http:/  Kaiser was a captain of industry who led the "Six Companies" that built the Liberty ships.  A movie based loosely on his life called The Man from Frisco ( was produced in 1944.

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien made four voyages between the US and the UK from July 1943 to October 1944.  This ship made no less than 11 shuttle runs between Great Britain and the Normandy beaches.  Her guns engaged enemy aircraft and she was the target of at least one torpedo and two bomb attacks.

D - Day Model, SS Jeremiah, SF, CA
The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is one of only two Liberty ships out of 2,710 built during World War II that is still afloat.  These were the ships that were, in part, built by "Rosie the Riveter".

Birth of Feminism
Inside the ship, you will find Jeeps from World War II -- over 640,000 were built during the war...

US Army Jeep
In 1994 a volunteer crew of the O'Brien returned the ship to the beaches of Normandy in a commemorative voyage dedicated to all those who lost their lives aboard Liberty ships during the war.   On June 6, 1994 it was anchored off Pointe du Hoc where the US Army rangers had scaled the cliffs fifty years before. The trip included 14 port calls and lasted about 6 months.

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is seaworthy and still makes occasional trips into San Francisco bay.  Please check their web site for details...

Commander Kelly says, "If you are in Northern California, go check out the SS Jeremiah O'Brien.  Don't forget to stop at the nearby Buena Vista Cafe ( for a highly appropriate Irish Coffee after your tour of the Jeremiah O'Brien!"

Special thanks to Oona Kelly!

How to make an Irish Coffee!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

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