The Yards That Built Liberty Ships
In the early days of the program it was evident that the sheer quantity of ships was essential and the solution was "ships built by the mile and chopped off by the yard." New shipyards were created by a syndicate formed by Todd Shipyards Inc., and the Henry J Kaiser group.
Once the production lines got under way, the time taken to build a Liberty at Bethlehem-Fairfield dropped to as little as 28 days. On the average, it took 592,000 man-hours to build a Liberty Ship. The construction of one Liberty ship required 3,425 tons of hull steel, 2,725 tons of plate, and 700 tons of shapes, which included 50,000 castings.
The Kaiser Permanente Metals Corp. No. 2 Yard in Richmond, California, built S.S. ROBERT E PEARY, from keel laying to launching, in 4 days 15 hours and 30 minutes. The PEARY was then outfitted, painted, taken on sea trials, and the vessel fully loaded with 10,000 tons of cargo. The PEARY sailed seven days after her keel was laid.
It was felt that if the ship could make more than one trip it would be cost effective. Luckily, the Battle of the Atlantic swung to the Allied side, and only 196 Libertys were lost in combat. Approximately half the surviving fleet was sold at the wars end, and some of those were still in service in the early 1970s some 25 years later.