Armed Guard - The Liberty Ships
Liberty Ship Nomenclature
This is a listing of the original and completion
names of the 2710 Liberty ships built between
September 27, 1941 and September 2, 1945.
Many of the pictures displayed are peacetime pictures
and show the ships with a different name and without
guns, but they are the ships we sailed.
The style of nomenclature adopted for the
emergency vessels the United States Maritime
Commission used broad guidelines. Initially,
the ships - with certain military exceptions and in
some of the variations to the basic type - were,
generally, named for eminent Americans from all
walks of life who had made notable contribution to
the history or the culture of North America in general
or the United States of America in particular - some
famous, some forgotten, yet others heroic - or even
Then, as war progressed, 120 Liberties were named for
heroes of the American Merchant Marine; not only those
who had lost their lives by enemy action but in other
disasters at sea. All ranks were among them, from master
to seaman, chief engineer to wiper, purser to cook, as well
as radio operators, utility men and a stewardess.
Altogether, more than one hundred Liberty ships were
named for women and another group honoured some of the
war correspondents killed on duty.
But the main guideline was that the name used had to be of
a deceased person, and during the term of the Liberty
shipbuilding program the Maritime Commission received many
letters from American citizens suggesting that certain of
their ancestors or relatives 'qualified' for a ship to be
named for them.
Only one Liberty ship, FRANCIS J. O'GARA, was named for a
living person - and this in error. Purser of JEAN NICOLET,
sunk by a Japanese submarine, he was thought to have perished,
but returned home after the war from a Japanese prisoner-of-war
And there were also complaints received at the USMC Public
Relations Office, generally from persons who objected to the
names already allocated. It is said that one prominent
politician complained '... I understand my name has been
given to a Liberty ship. I am not dead, not in dry dock and
do not need my bottom scraped. Please cancel the name.' He
was advised that the ship had been named in honor of another
person of the same name who had been dead for many years.
The first column is the USMC Hull Number.
The names in the second column are arranged in
alphabetical order by the entire name. That means that
"JOHN W. BROWN" is found under the "J" group, not the
Of all these ships, there are only two left
in operating condition, SS JOHN W. BROWN on
the East Coast, and SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN on
the West Coast.