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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.