Training Never Stops on the SS John W Brown

Prior to becoming a historic ship in Baltimore, the Liberty ship JOHN W. BROWN was moored in New York and served the city’s Board of Education as a vocational high school.  Students came to the ship and learned the skills needed for a maritime career.  The ship filled that role for 35 years, from 1946 to 1982.  Now as an operating historic ship in Baltimore, JOHN W. BROWN continues to be an educational resource for a variety of local organizations.


Several different groups conduct training on the BROWN.  Local first responders (police, SWAT, EMTs, K-9 teams) train aboard the ship to gain experience working in a realistic shipboard environment which they may encounter in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas.  Local maritime schools, operated by two of the major maritime unions, bring students to the ship when the class room training can be enhanced by doing a portion of the course aboard an operational ship.  JOHN W. BROWN offers STEM internships to local high school students enrolled in that curriculum.  Those students get a close look at some of the science, technology, and engineering found in the engine room of an operating steam ship.  Classes from local schools, including the Naval Academy, tour the ship to learn about World War-II merchant marine operations and shipbuilding.


However, one of the most important training programs on the BROWN addresses the needs of our own volunteers.  The Liberty ship steam plant is an old design, no longer found operating elsewhere.  The only place to train our volunteers to operate the engineering plant is right here on the ship.  A formal training course was prepared and approved by the Coast Guard so that we can instruct volunteers to be JOHN W. BROWN firemen/watertenders.  These are the watchstanders that operate the ship’s boilers to produce the steam used by the main engine and the auxiliary machinery.


Three volunteers are presently taking the fireman/watertender course.  The course includes classroom training, demonstrations of practical knowledge of associated machinery and procedures, homework assignments, and a final exam.  Completion of the course, along with having the requisite amount of sea service, enables the volunteer to gain a Coast Guard endorsement in their merchant marine credential as fireman/watertender without having to take a Coast Guard examination.  The course was first approved by the Coast Guard in October 2012 and to date 10 volunteers have completed the course.


In addition to being an operational historic ship, JOHN W. BROWN continues her role as a training facility.  In this case, by training the firemen/watertenders who will operate the ship’s boilers in the future.


[FWT Course instructor: M. J. Schneider]

[Present students: Jay Jacobs, John Stratman, and Kris Lindberg]


Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.

Thanksgiving on the SS JOHN W BROWN

Our blog this week is a bit like stepping back in time.  We'll be going to Thanksgiving Day 25 November 1943.

There was a man named Paul Baran who was a member of the US Navy Armed Guard (they were the ones who manned the guns to protect the ship). Paul was aboard on the SS JOHN W. BROWN’s third voyage and we have lots of information about this because Paul kept a journal of each day he was  aboard.  The info we have is in the form of letters to his girlfriend.  The ship departed the Chesapeake Bay on 15 Sep 1943 for Oran, North Africa. She carried Sherman tanks, Locomotive, Purple Hearts medals, clothing, and hazardous materials.  The voyage took almost 19 days.   


From Paul Baran’s journal:

Oran NAfrica              day 65                                              Nov 24, 1943

Hello!!! Darling!!!

Well today is my liberty day so I guess I go up to the Red Cross to see a couple of movies.  I hope you don’t mind, it’s the only enjoyment there is over here.  I don’t know what I’d do with myself if they didn’t have the Red Cross.  This will be short for I’m going ashore soon.  I hope I meet someone I know today.  I hear that some of my friends are over here now. Well tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  They brought some turkeys board today, so I guess will have a good meal for a change. Well honey! I guess I better sign off.  I wrote you another Vmail today.  I hope you get them all soon.  So long Darling & God Bless you  & have a wonderful time on Thanksgiving for both of us. Love xxx


Oran, Africa               day 66                                              Nov. 25, 1943
                                                                                       Thanksgiving Day

Hello !!! Honey!!!

          Well I sure did meet someone I know of all persons, Stinky Margie’s boyfriend. We had a nice long talk & departed. Well today is a day to be thankful & believe me honey! I’m plenty thankful. One reason is to still be alive & fighting for what I believe is right & to come home to my love one Josephine.  Oh! Yes! I went up to the Fleet Post Office while I was ashore yesterday & sent you a cablegram & one to Mom Baran.  I hope you get them soon. I saw two good movies yesterday.  “Zigfield Follies” & “This is The Army”  two good pictures. Well I wrote you another letter today. Be pulling out of here soon almost all loaded up with the French mechanized unit. So long now, God Bless you.  Love & Kisses, Paul xxx



Paul did not write about the Thanksgiving Day dinner, but we know that most Thanksgivings the crew had a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

This is a sample menu from a Liberty Ship during the war:

Tomato Soup
Roast Turkey with Oyster stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Giblet gravy
Creamed corn
Fruit & assorted nuts
Pumpkin pie

 The SS JOHN W BROWN spent five Thanksgivings away from home during the war.  Holidays are a time for people to gather with family and friends, but for merchant marines and other enlisted men, they had to work through holidays and spend extended periods of time away from their loved ones.  As we gather tomorrow with friends and family, let us be thankful for those past and present who keep us safe.  Happy Thanksgiving from the crew and members of Project Liberty Ship and the SS JOHN W BROWN!

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.



"These Vagabond Shoes, They Are Longing To Stray...'

"Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today..."  Maybe not leaving today, but we are leaving home in less than a month and heading to New York, New York.  We will be leaving Baltimore on September 7th, the date that the BROWN was launched in 1942, and we will be arriving on the 9th. Returning to New York, her home for many years. The ship will be open for visitors from Saturday 9/10/16 until Saturday 9/17/16 from the hours of 10am-4pm.  On both Saturdays, the 10th and the 17th, the engineering plant will be operating alongside the pier (Pier 36) and visitors can see the 135-ton triple expansion steam engine in operation at slow speed.  This is a rare sight- to see an engine designed in the 1880's and built/installed in the 1940's, still operating and still capable of performing as a ship's main propulsion!

 All of the BROWN's 13 wartime voyages either began or ended in New York.  In this picture, the BROWN was returning to her new home for the next 36 years.

In 1946 the government loaned the BROWN to the city of New York, where she became a floating maritime high school, the only one in the United States.   The ship served in that capacity from 1946 to 1982, where thousands of students graduated and then began careers in the merchant marines.  While a school ship, the BROWN was meticulously maintained by the students and their instructors.  As you can see the hull was painted black during these years. 

Photo by Pete Kolln, 1965

Picture taken at Pier 73 by Mr. L. Tibaldi in the 1950's. 

On Sunday, September 18th, the BROWN will have a Living History Cruise out of New York, from Pier 36. This will be the BROWN's 106th Living History Cruise! Passengers who have purchased tickets for the cruise can board the ship at 8am. The ship will leave at 10am and return to the pier at 4pm.   For the next 72 hours we are offering a promotion.  By clicking this link, you will get $20 off your ticket price.   This promotion must be done online, using this link, and not by phone.  This link should be all you need, but putting in the promotion code of NYNY2016 will also get you the discount for the next 72 hours. This is a once in a lifetime experience that you can take part in, as it's not everyday that the  74 year old Liberty Ship can come to New York City and have a Living History Cruise.

This is a great experience and it will be lots of work for the 65 crew members that are taking the ship from Baltimore to New York, and the many more who will be traveling from many states to stay for part or all of the time in NY.  Crew will be sleeping, eating, bathing and working on the ship during this time. Crew members are 100% volunteer and are willing to do the work needed for this trip because they believe in our mission statement.  "Our goal is the preservation and operation of the S.S. JOHN W. BROWN, the last surviving Liberty Ship on the east coast, and one of only two operational Liberty Ships remaining from the great fleet of over 2,700 identical Liberty's which were one of the keys to the Allied victory in World War II.  The BROWN is being preserved as a museum ship and a living memorial to the men and women of the American industry that built the great Liberty fleet and the Merchant Seamen and Naval Armed Guard who sailed and defended these ships all over the world."

Painting of the ship is almost complete (hint hint...you may see an upcoming blog showing off the last few months of work) and we have a JWB Alumni and PLS Work Party weekend coming up to get everything ready for our New York visit. We hope to see lots of visitors while we're in New York, as well as passengers on the Living History Cruise. Help us spread the word about this visit to New York!   

Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible

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