Workers gather to watch a launching ceremony. Library of Congress /

By Mark McConville

STUNNING pictures have revealed the emergency shipyard where cargo ships for Britain and the US could be built and launched in less than one month.


Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Erecting bottom shell plates. Library of Congress /

The incredible images show shipyard workers busy welding the ships together, climbing aboard to begin their work and using a rowboat to inspect the cutboard ways.

Other shots show the workers relaxing on their lunch break, posing for the camera and queuing up to being their shift.


Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Workmen boarding a ship. Library of Congress /

The launching ceremony for the first ship to be built is also pictured with thousands of workers and guests watching on as it is slid off the shipways.

The black and white photographs show Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard on Baltimore Harbour, which was established in February 1941 after an order from the United States Maritime Commission.


Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Launching ceremony. Library of Congress /

The commission ordered the establishment of shipyards to build cargo ships for America and Britain to quickly and cheaply replace the ships lost to German torpedoes.

A total of 27,000 employees were set to work at Bethlehem-Fairfeild Shipyard to build these new ‘Liberty ships’.


Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Inspecting cutboard ways. Library of Congress /

Each Liberty ship was designed to carry over 10,000 tons of cargo, but often carried far more to meet wartime needs.

The construction process was streamlined to the point where in some cases an entire vessel could be welded together and ready to launch in less than a month.


A worker with a personal monogram on his overalls. Library of Congress /

SS Patrick Henry was the first Liberty ship launched on 27 September 1941, attended by President Roosevelt. In the speech delivered at the launching, Roosevelt referred to Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech of 23 March 1775.


A shipyard worker. Library of Congress /

Roosevelt said that this new class of ships would bring liberty to Europe, which gave rise to the name “Liberty ship”.