South Portland and Its Liberty Ships

South Portland and Its Liberty Ships (HMY0Y)

Location: South Portland, ME 04106 Cumberland County
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Country: United States of America
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N 43° 39.207', W 70° 14.016'

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In the mid-1800s, when South Portland was still a part of Cape Elizabeth, its waterfront appeared to be a continuous line of bustling yards building and repairing ships. From Butler on Turner's Island to Knight and Blanchard in Knightville to Turner and Cahoon, Pickett, and Dyer of Ferry Village, all along the Fore River master craftsmen were producing ships that spread South Portland's name around the world. By the end of the century, with the transition from wooden to steam ships, just a few of South Portland's world-renowned shipyards continued to build ships.

One of those remaining yards, the Cumberland Shipbuilding Company, built wooden cargo ships for World War I on Cushings Point. In 1941, Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Corporation constructed one of the most advanced shipyards in the world on this abandoned Cushings Point site. During World War II, thousands of men and women built 266 emergency cargo vessels - 30 Ocean class ships for Great Britain and 236 Liberty ships for the U.S. - a feat that would ensure South Portland a prominent place in the history of modern shipbuiding.

Maine is a veritable cradle of Americanism. During over three centuries, Maine has been a stronghold of American shipbuilding. Maine ships have sailed the Seven Seas.
William Stark Newell
June 13, 1941

[Photo captions follow]

1. Detail from the cover of the New England Shipbuilding Corp. Employee Manual c.1943
Courtesy of Maine Historical Society, Raymond Verrier Collection
During World War I, the Doyen Shipyard in Knightville launched four ships, where Hannaford Bros. supermarket stands today.
Courtesy of Hobbs Funeral Home
Since 1850, the Portland Shipbuilding Co./Marine Railways has repaired, rebuilt, and constructed steamers, tugs, and trawlers. This prosperous yard completed construction of the steamer Roosevelt for Admiral Robert Peary's arctic expedition. A shipyard still repairs tugs and fishing boats at this location today.
Courtesy of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Historical Society
This photo shows a storage area for the West Yard.
Courtesy of Portland Harbor Museum
2. Before South Portland separated from Cape Elizabeth in 1895, the town's northern end was known as Purpooduck and its southern end as Spurwink.
Courtesy of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Historical Society
With World War II escalating demand for the Liberty ships, construction began on South Portland Shipbuilding Corp.s' West Yard in the spring of 1941. Its first Liberty ship, John Davenport, slid down the ways on May 15, 1942.
Courtesy of Portland Harbor Museum
In this advertisement a shipyard worker emphasizes the importance of each Liberty ship and worker in the quest to win the war and bring American men back unharmed.
Courtesy of Portland Harbor Museum
On board the Jeremiah O'Brien in 1994. From left: Admiral Thomas Patterson, Captain George Jahn, Walter Jaffee, Ed Langlois, founder of the Shipyard Society, and pilot, Howard Wentworth.
Courtesy of the Shipyard Society

The Jeremiah O'Brien was launched from the West Yard on June 19, 1943. 51 years later she steamed past Portland Head on return from Normandy and the fiftieth anniversary of her role in the 1944 D-Day invasion. While in Portland, many visitors went on board, toured the restored vessle, and cruised the harbor.
Courtesy of Don Johnson
3. Dignitaries including Senator Harry S. Truman, attended Maine Shipbuilding Day festivities at the Todd-Bath shipyard. On August 16, 1942 five British Ocean class ships: Seaman, Gallant, Wayfarer, Stranger, and Traveler were launched simultaneously.
Courtesy of Joel Eastman
4. Here the Ocean ships were decorated and ready for launching. Two more vessels were under construction in the adjacent basins.

Yard workers and visitors crowded the docks and the ships' upper decks to take part in this historic event.
Photograph by Victor Kahill, courtesy of Don Johnson
HM NumberHMY0Y
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 7:36pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)19T E 400522 N 4834122
Decimal Degrees43.65345000, -70.23360000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 43° 39.207', W 70° 14.016'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds43° 39' 12.42" N, 70° 14' 0.96" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)207
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 5391-5399 S Portland Greenbelt Pathway, South Portland ME 04106, US
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