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What did you do in the war dad? part 5 Liberty Ships

I remember my father telling me that he made the trip to Europe and then back to the USA on Liberty Ships. He said the trip back was faster than the trip to Europe.

The Liberty Ship or the later Victory Ships are among the unsung workhorses of America’s war effort during the Second World War. An astounding 5, 500 of these vessels were built to move men and material to the war zones. Liberty and Victory ships were manned by the men of the Merchant Marine, many of whom lost their lives to prowling U-boats. My dad’s taxpayer-funded cruise to Europe was without such risk since the war had ended months before he made the journey.

I was pleased to find among his pictures two postcards of the ships that took my father to Europe and back home again when he was demobilized after a year in Germany.

My dad can be forgiven for confusing a Liberty Ship for an Attack Transport which is what the O'Hara was.

My dad can be forgiven for confusing a Liberty Ship for an Attack Transport which is what the O’Hara was.

Here’s what Wiki says about the O’Hara:

USS James O’Hara (APA-90) was a Frederick Funston-class attack transport that served with the US Navy during World War II and later in the Korean War. The ship was named after a Continental Army officer who fought in the Revolutionary War and who later became Quartermaster General of the US Army.

Initially acquired as an Army transport, the ship was soon acquired by the Navy and reclassified an attack transport for the duration of the war, then returned to the Army and redesignated USNS James O’Hara. In the 1950s she was reacquired once again by the Navy and reclassified, serving as USS James O’Hara (T-AP-179) until her final decommissioning.

The ship was laid down for the Army under Maritime Commission contract by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation, Tacoma, Washington, 16 June 1941; launched 30 December 1941; and delivered to the Army 30 November 1942.

A ship like the O’Hara could carry 2,000 troops, about the strength of two US Infantry Regiments. When they were filled to capacity the conditions must have been rather unpleasant and not at all like the O’Hara is described on the back of the postcard below.

These cards were apparently sold on board as a type of souvenir. The fact my dad did not mail them seems to verify that's why he kept them.

These cards were apparently sold on board as a type of souvenir. The fact my dad did not mail them seems to verify that’s why he kept them.

I do not know which ship my dad was on going to Europe and which ship he was on coming back. The O’Hara is the older of the two ships.

This ship was named for a US Army Medal of Honor winner. It's technically a Victory Ship and built after the so-called Liberty ships.

This ship was named for a US Army Medal of Honor winner. It’s technically a Victory Ship and built after the so-called Liberty ships.

Wiki entry for the US Joe P. Martinez:

Private Joseph Pantillion Martinez (July 27, 1920–May 26, 1943) born in Taos, New Mexico, was a United States Army soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor — the United States’ highest military decoration —- for his actions on the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Private Joseph P. Martinez was the first Hispanic-American and first Coloradan[1] to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II. His posthumous award was the first act for combat heroism on American soil (other than the 15 at Pearl Harbor) since the Indian Wars.[2]

Not a bad ship to take a cruise on given the description heh?

Not a bad ship to take a cruise on given the description heh?

Whether they were Attack Transports, Liberty Ships or Victory Ships, these “Ugly Ducklings” as President Roosevelt called them were work horses and without them the war may have turned out very different.

I find it interesting that both of the above ships saw extensive service in the Pacific Theater. Had my father been just a year younger he may have been on one of these headed to the Pacific. He was being trained for the invasion of Japan when the war ended in August, 1945.

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11 comments on “What did you do in the war dad? part 5 Liberty Ships

  1. My grandfather and great-uncle helped build Liberty ships in San Francisco during the war, so I’m always interested in reading up on this important part of our war effort. He said the rush to build these ships was so frantic that there was a constant crescendo of noise that prevented anyone from hearing anyone around them talk.

    I believe there are just two Liberty ships still afloat and seaworthy. One is in San Francisco, the Jeremiah O’Brien, which I visited five years ago. It was inspiring to see this link to the past.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I like finding out about the home front especially from those who experienced it. They don’t usually get the credit they deserve.

  2. My father, Homer Orris Hicks, served on the USS James O’Hara from 1943 (Norfolk, VA) thru 1945 (San Francisco, CA), as a naval officer. He captained one of the LCVP landing craft that delivered men to the beach. I remember many of the “war stories” about the James O’Hara that he told. I also have a book written by one William H. French who described many of the crew’s experiences, during the war. Ancestry.com also has a muster list of the names of the O’Hara’s crew, but I am sure that there are other sources if anyone is interested.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing this information Bob.

    • My father also served aboard the USS James O’Hara from 1943-1945. He was
      Chief Store Keeper, he said he ordered supplies for the Captain and the crew.
      He always laughed because the Captain apparently liked Scotch Whiskey, and my dad was a bourbon drinker. He had to learn to like Scotch, as when the captain
      place his personal orders, my dad would just change the number of cases, so
      he had booze for the card games. His name was Robert LLoyd Tibbitts. I wonder
      if our fathers new each other? My dad got on in Norfolk 1943 and also got off in San Fransico in 1945. My father talked very little about the war, I think what they saw
      at all those Island battle was very brutal.

      • Hello John, thank you for stopping by and leaving the interesting comments regarding your father. I don’t remember what I said in that particular post but my dad was in the Army as a MP in occupied Germany 1945-46. He would not have been on the James O’Hara at the same time as your father as he returned from Europe in 1946. Thanks for stopping and making the interesting comments. Bruce

  3. I went to Korea on the James J O’Hara landing in Yokahama Japan earlyJanuary 1953
    I was a member of the Canadian Army {RCEME} I remember it being a rough trip of about twelve days . My most vivid memory was of the American troops being escorted aboard the ship by MPs and placed in the brig low in the bow . The ship had recent damage to the port side forward and the sinks were all new on that bulkhead .That washroom had a door where one could look down into the brig and see the people below .Lawrence F. O’Brien { obrienlll450@gmail.com }

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your memory of your time on the O’Hara. Do you know why those Americans were in the brig and why they would be going to Japan? Thank you for your service Lawrence.

  4. My father was a GM on the USS James Ohara from 43 to 45 started in Sicily, ended at Iwo Jima his name Gerhardt Schwieder

  5. My father Gerhardt Schwieder GM, gunners mate, served aboard the USS James O’hara between 1943-45 I believe his tour started with the invasion of Sicily or Selerno and ended up with the invasion of Okinawa

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