Liberty Ship SS Robert E. Peary built in 4 days, 15 hours, 29 minutes

Liberty Ships, the "Ugly Duckling" workhorses of World War II, were built in 13 states by 15 companies in 18 shipyards. The first of 2,710 Liberty ships, the SS Patrick Henry, was launched in September 1941, after 150 days of construction. (The shipyard was built at the same time as the ship.)

In 1941 and 1942 German U-Boats and surface raiders sank 2,963 Allied ships, while the U.S. built 863 to replace them (not many freighters were built elsewhere). As workers gained experience, the shipyards speeded up production of these "expendable" ships. At an average cost of $1.8 million, a Liberty had to make just one trip to be considered successful.

launching of the SS Robert E. Peary
Photo of launching of the SS Robert E. Peary

Prefabricated sections traveled on railroad flatcars from throughout the United States to be put together the same way Henry Ford assembled cars before the war. Eventually, the shipyards created a competition amongst themselves for speed in building a Liberty Ship.

Prefabricated section of Liberty ship

Prefabricated section of Liberty ship on railroad flatcar

Permanente Metals Corporation (Kaiser) No.2 Yard in Richmond, California won the competition. The keel for the SS Robert E. Peary was laid at 12:01 AM on November 8, 1942 and 250,000 parts weighing about 14,000,000 pounds were assembled in 4 days, 15 hours and 29 minutes. On November 12, 1942, she was launched.

After the final fitting out, the SS Robert E. Peary went to war on November 22, 1942 carrying 17 U.S. Naval Armed Guard and 43 Merchant Mariners. Her voyages included:

Food and war supplies from San Francisco to Noumea, New Caledonia; nitrate from Espiritu Santo, Guadalcanal, Suva, Antofagasto (Chile), Canal Zone, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), arriving Savannah on April 3, 1943.

Peary supplies troops on Pacific islandDuring this voyage the SS Robert E. Peary saved American soldiers trapped near the beach of a Pacific island held by the Japanese. While under enemy fire, the Peary maneuvered close to shore and shot a line ashore from her Lykes gun, over which she supplied the troops with ammunition and food until they defeated the attack. (Illustration from Mast Magazine, Oct. 1944)

On May 7, 1943 left New York, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Liverpool England, returned to New York on July 15, 1943. Shipped POW's from Casablanca to Norfolk, then to Jacksonville, New York, Lock Ewe, (Scotland), Boston, Halifax, Liverpool; men and equipment from Cardiff (Wales) to Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 under constant attack. Returned to England and headed for Normandy again on June 13. Continued "shuttle" service to Normandy until September 18, when she sailed for New York for repairs. The SS Robert E. Peary made a few more trans-Atlantic crossings during 1945. Her final voyage, without her Armed Guard crew, took her from Boston to Yokohama to Colon (Panama).

The valiant SS Robert E. Peary was scrapped in June 1963 in Baltimore, Maryland.

SS Robert E. Peary

"The Liberty ships of World War Two" published as a Special Edition of The Pointer, USN Armed Guard WWII Veterans, 115 Wall Creek Drive, Rolesville, NC 27571, August 1998
The MAST Magazine, October 1944

Men and Ships of WWII
Past Features
Liberty Ships

6/5/00 ©1998, 1999, 2000. You may quote material on this web page as long as you cite American Merchant Marine at War,, as the source. You may not use more than a few lines without permission. If you see substantial portions of this page on the Internet or in published material please notify @