Also in this playlist...
This transcript is automatically generated
Good evening I'm Oliver North and this is war story.
Welcome aboard that -- miles O'Brien now -- national liberty ship memorial here in San Francisco harbor.
O'Brien is -- only unaltered operational survivor of the Normandy invasion.
And -- -- nearly 3000 liberty ships built during World War II would have been fuel -- our troops and allies overseas.
You're up against the formidable -- and tonight you'll meet one of those thought to send this ship and others like -- in the -- of factor in the -- things marine.
That's the story of unsung heroes who served in every theater and the invasion of North Africa for the landings on -- -- they cross every election.
There's -- -- tonight they paid a price in blood and called back.
Over 700 merchant ships were -- And one of every 26 -- -- was killed.
That's a higher casualty ratio than any of our armed services.
This is the story of the united states merchant marine.
American was still recovering from the great depression and money was hard to come by.
A loaf -- -- was eight cents a gallon milk plus 51 cents and the average income was 1266.
People were desperate for work.
They came from small towns in port cities they were old men and young boys some had been -- their whole lives and others have been rejected by the draft boards.
I have gone down to try and sign up -- -- And I was rejected because my eyes will be on hand poor eyesight I wanted to get Marines.
And it turned me down because they got hurt pretty -- credit hopeful -- He may have pledged that could.
He didn't have closed in on warm place -- -- otherwise I was on -- the Mariners all have one thing in common.
There were hungry for adventure and motivated by a strong sense of patriotism and duty but any hopes of smooth sailing would soon be turned by a storm brewing an ocean away.
September 1 -- can 39 Adolf Hitler and the Nazis launched a blitzkrieg on -- Immediately -- France declared war on the axis powers World War II could be done.
Like June 1940 the Nazi war machine that added Norway Denmark Holland and France was fast growing empire.
Fortress England now stood alone against German.
There's an off the air armada sites like these are seen over -- every day.
The test of choking England would -- to this 49 year old -- admiral -- donuts.
He was the commander of the good to see both -- and -- -- that was right hand man admiral Dennis of course was a submarine -- doing we'll we'll watch.
Soldiers suddenly Israel has blood nineteen year old Pete Peterson was a decent -- -- you -- 518.
He -- conclusively Germany near the Danish border.
That you supply.
To of Great Britain of either equipment food or soldiers for that matter.
And if he could.
Disrupt that supply and keep it from going to its destination that would be a great war effort and he was absolutely.
From June to October 1940 German U boat sank a 137.
One and a half million tons of British shipping this was.
The group could cite a happy time for the for the U -- Michael Higgins is the author of action in the south Atlantic and a former merchant mariner.
It's also referred to as backyard -- the fact years when many many merchant ships were being sought by the July.
And -- -- -- just his formidable.
The Luftwaffe staged an all out assault on England from the air the battle of Britain raged for.
Good ones delivering yet another load of Churchill in a desperate move British prime minister Winston Churchill -- girl man -- met only once.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
FDR was reluctant to get involved in another European war.
We declared neutrality which we can not help either side.
So FDR did.
Our range for.
-- to be.
Given to Great Britain but it was very much under the table and it was within the constraints of the neutrality act of 1930s.
The act for -- American ships from carrying passengers or freight to countries that war.
But FDR discreetly found a way to maneuver around and introduced a revolutionary new concept lend -- These are warships that figure in the historic trade at the United States has made with Great Britain.
The ship -- Britain against Nazi Germany.
The lend lease act was a master stroke on the part of FDR without United States support.
-- -- fallen.
It's just slammed no brainer.
As a result of the American civil war Americans.
Merchant marine had been effectively destroyed or eliminated.
As a solution congress passed the merchant marine act of 1936.
To develop and modernize the killing American merchant marine -- Would promote US commerce and in times of war.
Would serve as a naval exhilarating but at the onset of war the merchant Marines still wasn't ready to become the lifeline Britain desperately needed shipyards.
-- the answer.
From Maine to Texas and along the West Coast eighteen -- sprang up to build what would be called liberty ships after Patrick Henry's famous speech.
Give me liberty or give me death.
Valued at only a million and a half dollars each liberty ships -- -- forty feet long and could carry nearly 101000 tons of cargo.
At eleven knots Bernard -- was a nineteen year old native new Yorker when he first set eyes and -- liberty ship.
The SS Thomas Donaldson there are thousands of these ships.
Put together in very short -- 2708.
At best this liberty was -- I think -- four days.
Beautiful sleek lines though it -- -- it was they called it the ugly duckling it was more like a -- But it was very kind of was comfortable vote.
Who failed the only thing with the liberty for that they roll and they pitch.
Depending on the scene and sometimes -- would come to our one and you just hope that whoever was Wheldon didn't do it on the Monday morning.
I think -- some -- -- during the week.
On September 27 1941 the first liberty ship the Patrick Henry was launched from -- shipyard in Baltimore.
FDR declared it liberty day.
This -- -- say in the history of American shipbuilding.
Today we're going wrong for fourteen trips are being -- on the Atlantic on the Pacific economic go.
Our shipbuilding program is one of our.
And says -- princess -- what's great about levity.
Less than three months after the first -- still felt they would -- Harbour was attacked by Japan.
Congress declared war the next day.
And Germany declared war on the United States four days later.
It would take seven to fifteen tons of supplies to support just one soldier for a year was now the responsibility.
Of over 250000.
Merchant -- -- -- the liberty ships.
And the rest of the US merchant fleet.
Filter by section