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Victory: 1943

May 1943. Baltimore, Maryland. "Electric welders working on the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards." Photo by Roger Smith for the Office of War Information. View full size.

May 1943. Baltimore, Maryland. "Electric welders working on the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards." Photo by Roger Smith for the Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Captain Adrian Richardson

Baltimore Afro-American - Oct 5, 1943

SS Frederick Douglass

Afro-American, May 22, 1943.

Frederick Douglass Launching Saturday

BALTIMORE — The Liberty Ship Frederick Douglass will be launched at the Fairfield, Md., yards of the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipbuilding Company at noon on Saturday, Willard Briscoe, company public director, said this week. …

It was James Drury, local port agent for the National Maritime Union, who several months ago first requested the U.S. Maritime Commission to name a Liberty Ship after some famous Negro American. Later, officials of Local 43 asked that such a ship be launched from the Bethlehem-Fairfields yards here.

Atlanta Daily World, May 24, 1943.

Race Captain at Helm of Douglass

WASHINGTON — A Negro captain and a colored and white crew were awaiting completion of the SS FREDERICK DOUGLASS at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, in Baltimore Md., this week, following the launch of the third Liberty Ship named for an outstanding Negro on May 22.

The vessel was christened Saturday afternoon by Anne Wiggens Brown, Baltimore-born concert singer and original staff of “Porgy and Bess,” as the Negro master, 51-year-old Capt. Adrian Richardson, and three members of his crew witnessed the ceremony.

Also present at the launching was Frederick Douglass III, grandson of the former slave who once worked as a ship caulker in the Baltimore area and who escaped from there in 1838 to become an internationally famous abolitionist, orator and editor. The grandson is now a public school teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. …

The first Liberty Ship named for an outstanding Negro American, the SS BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, is already in active service under a Negro master, Capt. Hugh Mulzac. The second, the SS GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER, was recently launched at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, Cal.

Kilroy Was Here

I half expect that any minute Kilroy will pop his nose over the top edge of that steel plate.


About five months later:

On September 20th, 1943, German submarine U-238 attacks the New York-bound convoy ON-202, torpedoing U.S. freighters Frederick Douglass and Theodore Dwight Weld.

British rescue ship Rathlin rescues all hands (40-men merchant complement, 29-man Armed Guard, and one female stowaway) from Frederick Douglass, which remains afloat until finished off later the same day by U-645.

Theodore Dwight Weld sinks so quickly that 20 of the 42-man merchant complement and 13 of the 28-man Armed Guard perish. Rathlin rescues the survivors.

Ref - Cressman R. J., Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in WWII

No Liberty today

Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock, the last name of this facility, was a B&ORR customer of mine in the 1970's, and a shadow of its WWII self. The site where Liberty ships were cranked out at a rapid rate for liberty, is today a facility for imported Japanese automobiles.

Way back in the 1960's, my banker father helped MSD set up a pension and profit sharing program for its employees.To show their gratitude, MSD for many years sent a liveried driver by our house at Christmas time with a giftwrapped bottle of fine scotch for pop.

Family connection

Although I do not know who the two guys in the photo are, my maternal grandfather worked in the same shipyard during WWII. The late Senator Robert Byrd also worked in one of the Baltimore shipyards building ships during the war.

V for Victory

With apologies to our British friends.

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