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Building Liberty Ships in Savannah
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781591141235
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Era: WWII
  • Number of Pages: 288
  • Subject: History/WWII
  • Date Available: October 2009
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Full Description:

During World War II eighty-eight of the almost three thousand Liberty ships built in America were launched in Savannah, Georgia. Without Liberty ships, the Battle of the Atlantic might have been lost. Few remember the Liberty ships today; fewer remember the shipyard or that the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation was the largest industry ever located there. The land on which this shipyard stood is now derelict. Thousands drive by it every day and have no idea of the great contribution to the war effort that was made on that site.

This social history tells the story of the men and women who built these merchant ships in Savannah. Most came from rural areas and had never seen a ship, much less built one. Many were taken out of high school; others were in their seventies or eighties. The demand for labor found women being recruited for construction jobs in a man's world and performing as well as their fellow male workers. The war also brought African Americans into the shipbuilding industry, but in the segregated South they were not allowed to rise above the roles of custodians and "helpers."

For most of these workers it was not "bow" and "stern" or "port" and "starboard"; it was "pointy end" and "left and right." They lived in city housing projects and carpooled from throughout South Georgia. They worked in the heat and mosquitoes and in the bitter cold. Their work was dangerous and boring, but many worked double shifts, nights, and seven days a week. There were 45,000 of them during the four years of the shipyard's existence, and in spite of all of the problems faced, they built ships and built them well.

Cope makes use of more than 120 taped interviews with shipyard workers, merchant seamen, dock workers, and Navy and Coast Guard personnel, as well as letters and official documents, to present an authentic and moving record of the working conditions and lives of those who built the Liberty ships in the shipyards of Savannah.


Tony Cope was born and raised in Savannah, GA, where he taught and served as a school administrator for more than thirty years.  He now lives in County Cork, Ireland.

Click here to access the author's own website: http://ontheswingshift.wordpress.com


Praise for On the Swing Shift

“This is a touching account of a dynamic venture in Savannah’s history.”

Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Having begun my career in the sixties, I was privileged to have seen Liberty and Victory  ships still plying their trade twenty plus years into careers which were not expected to exceed five. Tony Cope's book "On The Swing Shift" is more than just a book about building ships in wartime. Cope goes further by delving deep into the psyche of a nation at war using many anecdotes of individuals associated with the yard or sailing on the ships built there. He describes building methods, welding rater than riveted, prefabricated rather than keel up. He details the methodology and principals of forming a convoy. There is evidence of considerable research using both published and unpublished sources. ;As a mariner, I found the description of the only voyage of the yard's first ship, the S.S. James Oglethorpe particularly captivating. On her maiden voyage she joined the the ill-fated Convoy HX 299 out of New York to become caught up in the Battle of St. Patrick's day in the mid-Atlantic.  The book exceeded my expectations in the wealth of topics covered. To my mind it is a well-researched social history which examines a community confronting the needs of a nation entering a global war."

—Capt NS James Robinson (Retd) DSM FNI NS, An Cosantoir (The Defender), the Irish Defense Forces Magazine

"[A]n entertaining read. . . . Well organized and extremely well supported and documented. . . . This book is easy to read and provides far-reaching insight into a segment of World War II martime history too often overlooked . . . .This book would be a useful and relatively inexpensive addition to most maritime libraries with a focus on World War II, whether they be scholars or merely aficianados."

International Journal of Maritime History, December 2010

More by this Author

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Events and Conferences

Speaking Engagement & Signing
2:00pm, Shaver Read More
Speaking Engagement & Signing
6:00pm, Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, 41 MLK Blvd., Savannah, GA Read More
Speaking Engagement & Signing
6:00pm, Kinsale Bookshop, 8 Main St., Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland Read More
Customer Reviews
1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
ON THE SWING SHIFT, "Building Liberty Ships . . .
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
By: Alan C. Iannacito
Author Tony Cope has written a comprehensible and readable history of the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation's Liberty Ships program during WWII. Probably not enough history has been written about the Liberty's and their crews whose losses during the war years may have exceeded our comprehension. As a former crew member of an AGS (Former AKA36), I have a special affection for auxiliary type ships and their histories. Cope's book has satiated of my appetite for the history of the Liberty ship and some of the people who built them. The obvious craftsmanship and detail stands out in this book. I am particularly appreciative of the organization and the weaving of the material into humanistic experience. Judged by today's reading habits, the book wouldn't be considered a "page turner," but I couldn't put it down until I finished it.


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