Baltimore’s liberty ship

The SS John W. Brown, a World War II era Liberty Ship, has been restored by dedicated volunteers in Baltimore.

The SS John W. Brown, a World War II era Liberty Ship, has been restored by dedicated volunteers in Baltimore.

The Brown, docked in Fells Point

The Brown, docked in Fells Point

Called “the cargo-carrying key to victory” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Liberty Ships of World War II were part of a national effort to build ships faster than the enemy could sink them.

Shipbuilding began in Baltimore in 1941 at Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard. Ultimately 19 shipyards produced some 2,700 ships during the war. And 2,500 survived the war. Today, the SS John W. Brown is the only surviving, operating Liberty Ship on the East Coast.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it calls Baltimore home. It still gets around a lot for an old girl, with Voyages into History on the Chesapeake Bay four times a year, visits to other ports, occasional charters and dockside tours.

I got a chance to take a look around on Fourth of July Weekend in Fells Point. She’s a big ship, over 400 feet long with a steam engine that takes up three decks. She’s a merchant ship, not a war ship. But she carried guns and an armed guard from the U.S. Navy.

After you take a look outside…

Head inside the ship for a look at the different quarters for the merchant marines and the U.S. Navy, the engine room, the inside bridge.

And finally there’s a museum and gift shop.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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