November 1, 1941 Bulletin: Liberty Ship Production Stopped

How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? (Florida International University)

A report by the Government Review Office (GRO), an arm of the US Congress, upheld the protest by the Northwest Shipyards of Seattle Washington against the plan to build Liberty ships in yards across the country.
I knew that using a British design and burning coal to satisfy foreign interests was against the American interests and sense of fair play,” a triumphant Senator Foghorn of Washington said. “We are pleased to see the Liberty program competed so that a real American design burning oil will have the chance to become the preferred design for this important new program supporting the US Navy.”

In particular, the GRO objected to the selected companies’ lack of shipbuilding experience. “Several of the selected teams have never built a ship.  It is difficult for us to believe, for example, how Henry Kaiser and those that have built Dams can in any real sense be qualified to build ships.”

The report also criticized the inexperience of the selected shipyard workers and the planned production schedule.  “Several of the proposed yards are being staffed by workers who have never before had experience in shipbuilding, so it is difficult to evaluate the claims that these yards and workers can deliver Liberty ships on time and under budget.”

We also believe that using new untested welding techniques is questionable.  We have reviewed past practices of building ships with time tested riveting techniques and find the production schedules to be unrealistic and questionable and request that the Department provide quantitative justification for its projections and assumptions.”

In addition, the GRO found the proposed armament for the ships to be unacceptable.  “Four inch guns will prove inadequate in protecting the ships and we think the Department should re-examine the proposed armaments and find a more adequate means for defending the ships from air and naval attack.”

We find that the projected life cycle costs of the ships make assumptions about the price of fuel five years out that are untested and unwarranted,” the GRO’s report concluded.  “As part of the bidding process, we would like to see the bidders come up with documented projection for the price of fuel over the expected life cycle operations of the Liberty ships.”

Upon being advised of the GRO’s findings, the White House indicated that they would proceed with production.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “They are dreadful looking objects, but we need to build them full stop.”


***Posted January 24th, 2010