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Ariecho

January 1 - Liberty ships

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FIND ALL OUR DAILY THREADS HERE

 

General:

 

Happy New Year everyone.  We had a surprise guest writer today with brian333.  Enjoy his articles.  

 

Large ships and events that occurred on a January 1 (links indicate already covered ships, classes, or events in the daily threads):

1888 - SMS Kaiser Franz Josef I - Kaiser Franz Josef I-class - Laid down

1890 - HMS Repulse - Royal Sovereign-class - Laid down

1897 - HMS Renown - Centurion-class - Commissioned

1901 - RM Giuseppe Garibaldi - Giuseppe Garibaldi-class - Commissioned

1907 - HMS Temeraire - Bellerophon-class - Laid down

1915 - HMS Formidable - Formidable-class - Sunk

1924 - USS Cincinnati - Omaha-class - Commissioned

1930 - FS Suffren - Suffren-class - Commissioned

1930 - FS ValmyGuépard-class - Commissioned

1931 - RM Alberto da Giussano - Condottieri-class - Commissioned

1931 - RM Giovanni delle Bande Nere - Condottieri-class - Commissioned

1936 - FS La GalissonnièreLa Galissonnière-class - Commissioned

1937 - HMS King George V - King George V-class - Laid down

1937 - HMS Prince of Wales - King George V-class - Laid down

1941 - HMS Mauritius - Fiji-class - Commissioned

1943 - U-boat attacks on convoy UGS-3 (2 ships sunk)

 

Statistics:

Allies: 22 ships laid down, 12 launched, 27 commissioned and 3 sunk

Austria-Hungary: 1 laid down (SMS Kaiser Franz Josef I)

Italy: 1 laid down (RM Giuseppe Garibaldi) and 2 commissioned (RM Alberto da Giussano and RM Giovanni delle Bande Nere)

Edited by Ariecho
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Guest post by brian 333

 

Today's Focus: Liberty Ships


In WW2 there were severe issues with shipping, mostly stemming from the U-boat campaign in the Atlantic, but also due to the massive need for materials in the war zones which vastly overtaxed any peacetime shipping. As early as 1941 the United States began building the answer to this problem: the Liberty Ship.

http://www.usmm.org/...s/johnbrown.gif

It was a simple design and used tried and true technology. Its single greatest innovations were an all-welded hull for weight savings and modular construction. Though these would result in some catastrophic failures, such as brittle fractures, the ships were vital to maintaining the supply lines to Allied forces around the world.

http://www-g.eng.cam...ibertybreak.jpg

At first many 'experts' in the media and in the military wanted to blame the construction techniques, or hastily trained welders, for the ships' failures, but it was later determined that the steel used was of a lesser grade, (the good stuff was being reserved for warships!) and that when welding it induced a brittleness to the steel just outside the weld. By the late war period these issues had been remedied, and many Liberty Ships went on to long careers as merchant ships after the war.

One issue for the Liberty Ships was speed. They didn't have any. The high-tech processes required for the construction of more powerful turbine engines were too costly and time consuming for these ships, whose primary goal was to get in the water and get cargo moving. So an old fashioned triple expansion engine was used.

http://www.hnsa.org/...ng/img/pg60.jpg
http://www.hnsa.org/...ng/img/pg70.jpg

(Note: in the diagram, steam goes in on the HP side and exhausts on the LP side after having moved each of the three pistons in turn.)

The triple expansion steam engine was old technology, simple to build and maintain, and exceptionally reliable. Unfortunately this gave the ship a top speed of 11 knots; however, efficient cruising speed was 11 knots, which in the day was seen as sufficient for a cargo ship. Indeed, this gave the ship enough speed to cross the Atlantic in 11 days going non-stop from New York to Gibraltar.

Given her bunker capacity of over 20,000 nautical miles of oil, and her boilers' ability to drink almost anything liquid and flammable, the trans-Atlantic route was a cinch for the Liberty Ship. Even the Pacific was no barrier, and Liberty Ships could be found in every theater of the war.

Which brings us to the true purpose of the Liberty Ship: cargo. Indeed, without cargo ships, operations in the far flung reaches of the globe would not have been sustainable. Much of that cargo came in the almost 11,000 long ton allotments of the Liberty Ship. By modern standards, 11,000 tons of cargo seems small, but these ships had to make use of primitive port facilities, (shallow water ports,) and because their cargo was smaller, the loss of a single vessel was not as catastrophic to a convoy as if the tonnage of several Liberty Ships was hauled in a single larger ship.

In all, some 2,700 Liberty Ships were built, enabling a huge amount of cargo to be moved and distributed to the armed forces of the Allies around the world.

Liberty ships were conceived for war, and didn't go to sea unarmed. They were designed with a 4" deck gun on the fantail to discourage surface attacks by U-boats, but some were upgraded with additional guns, and almost all of them were given anti-aircraft capabilities. While a crew of 20 was sufficient to handle the daily operations of the ship itself, up to 40 additional crewmen were assigned to some ships, depending upon her weapons loadout. Few ships have had so many different gun arrangements on a single hull, so there is no single standard. However, anything from 3" guns to spare .50cal machine guns could be found on them. Any surplus gun available that had a chance to down an airplane was the weapon of choice!

As much as the various escort ships and hunter/killer groups did to reduce and eliminate the U-boat threat, the Battle of the Atlantic could not have been won without the Liberty Ships and the brave crewmen who sailed them.

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UGS-3 and the SS Arthur Middleton


Prior to the invasion of North Africa, U.S. convoys went to England where their cargoes were sorted, stored, and delivered to the fighting fronts. In the follow-up of the capture of ports along the coast of North Africa, U.S. convoys were able to directly supply the fronts through African ports, and the UG/GU convoy route was created, both to provide better support to the fighting men and to relieve the workload on already overworked British ports. UGS was the code for United States to Gibraltar, Slow. UGF was the code for the same route with fast ships, (usually troopships and large fast freighters.)

However, things weren't all gravy for the U.S. Logistics folks. Schedules were a mess, and because there was no standard system for delivery, delivery dates could not be assured. To help alleviate this issue the fighting commands ordered in duplicate and triplicate, hoping at least some of the materials got through. However, this strained the already overworked logisticians.

Added to this, General Patton's staff constantly updated their requests for specific cargoes so that items had to be loaded, unloaded, reloaded, altered, and shifted around right up to the delivery date. UGS-2 left New York five days late due to these delays, prompting the logistics staff to set a deadline of 45 days before departure for any changes of cargo and 30 days before departure for any emergency changes. General Eisenhower later wrote, "We should have paid more attention to red tape and paperwork."

He sent his aid, Gen. Clark, to Washington with a revised schedule and while it didn't relieve all the problems, it handled most of them and set in stone the convoy system to North Africa for the remainder of the war. Under this system, fifteen ships of each GU convoy would be dedicated to sending materials inside the Mediterranean Sea while the remainder would make port in Atlantic harbors. This led to a glut of supplies in the West of Africa, but it effectively limited shipping to the numbers of cargo vessels the ports of Africa could handle and to the available escort ships as well.

In the middle of all of this wrangling between active field units and support units, UGS-3 departed from New York headed to Gibraltar on 12 December 1942, and arrived in the waters off Gibraltar on 30 Dec 1942. Its trans-Atlantic crossing was uneventful, but the following day an escort signaled that a sub had been detected and dropped a few depth charges. Nothing came of that action and the convoy split up, some headed to the Atlantic ports, while the rest headed for Oran.

On 1 January 1943, within 9 miles of their destination, the ships detached from UGS-3 had to form a single file to enter the anchorage at Oran. As they did, SS Arthur Middleton, a liberty ship built in Mobile Alabama in 1942, was struck in the bow by a torpedo fired from U-73.

Middleton's cargo was explosives and ammunition.

The torpedo detonation and secondary explosion obliterated everything forward of the #5 cargo hatch.

http://www.merchantn...planliberty.jpg

As you can see, that's almost the whole ship. Reports claim that fire blew as high as 1000 feet into the sky from the blast. The remainder of the ship sank within one minute, with only three survivors. They were U.S. Navy Armed Guards, stationed on Arthur Middleton to handle the stern gun. They were either flung from or dived from their gun deck and were recovered 25 minutes later by HMS Boreas and brought to HMHS Oxfordshire, a British hospital ship.

History records this as a double-sinking, because being transported aboard SS Arthur Middleton was the USS LCT-21.

 

Author's note: My apologies for not footnoting and citing sources; I was hop-skipping to get this in on time and I set aside some of the quality you would normally associate with the Daily Threads.

 

*edit note* Corrected erroneous dates. I listed the convoy dates as occurring in 1941, half a year before the ship was built and almost a year before the invasion of North Africa!

Edited by brian333
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