From a flier prepared by the Oatland Island Education Center (transcribed by Charles E. Varner)
To view a scanned image of the original flier, though it will be less legible, click below:
This is a story of the eighty-eight Liberty Ships built at the Southeastern Shipyard in Savannah during World War II.† Itís about the men who built the ships; men who in many cases came from rural areas and had never seen a ship, much less helped to build one; of the women, who for the first time took construction jobs in a manís world and performed as well as the men with whom they worked; and of Blacks who in those days of segregation could never rise above the roles of custodians and ďhelpers.Ē
For many of these people it was not portholes, ladders, the bow, port, and starboard, it was round windows, the pointy end, upstairs, downstairs and right and left.† Many were taken right out of high school.† Others were in their 70ís and 80ís.† They lived in places called Pine Gardens, Tattnall Homes, Deptford Place, and Moses Rogers Grove.† They car-pooled from Clyo, Springfield, Statesboro, and Brooklet.† They worked in the heat and the mosquitoes and they worked in the bitter cold.† There were more than 45,000 of them during the three and a half years the yard existed.† They built ships and built them well.
Itís a story also about those ships; where they went, what they carried, the storms they rode out, the attacks they suffered from submarines and dive-bombers.† Itís about the role they played n winning the Battle of the Atlantic and carrying men and supplies in the island hopping campaigns in the Pacific.
Itís a story about the men who sailed those ships Ö to Oran, Belfast, London, Southhampton, Liverpool Ö to the Normandy beaches Ö to Guadalcanal, the men who died, 11 from Savannah when the S. S. James Oglethorpe was sunk by a U -boat, and those who survived, some who survived several sinkings.† Itís about older men with years of experience at sea and itís about men who made captain and were handed their first ship at the age of 23 or 24.† Itís about the bickering between the merchant crews and the U. S. Navy Armed Guard crews, Merchant Captains and convoy commanders, deck crews and the men in the engine room.† Itís a story about fear Ö fear of an unpredictable sea and fear of a relentless enemy who at least at first, sank ships faster than they were being built.† And, itís about relationships stronger than family, friendships forged that would last 50 years, and a sense of accomplishment that would be greater than any other that most of these men would know.
Finally this story is about the ultimate of these ships.† Some were lost during the war but many, built only to last the duration, were still sailing 25; 30 years after the war ended.† They are all gone now, either scrapped at shipbreakers around the world or, in the case of a few, sunk to serve forever as artificial fish reefs.
Few remember these ships, even fewer in Savannah know or remember that 88 of them were built here; that more than 45,000 people worked at Southeastern Shipyard, making it the largest industry ever located here.† They should remember Ö remember ths ships, the men and women who built them well, and the men who sailed them.† Many argue that the Battle of the Atlantic was the most critical of the war.† That battle might have been lost or, at least, would have been prolonged hat it not been for the Liberty Ships.† They deserve to be remembered.