The end of the millennium—a time to look back as well as forward. No nation has changed more significantly in this century than has the United States, and perhaps no sector has seen its fortunes ebb so dramatically as has the U.S. maritime industry.
During World War II, the U.S. maritime industry experienced an amazing rejuvenation. Tonnage production in merchant shipyards in 1943 was 67 times that of 1938. By mid-1945 two-thirds of the world's merchant fleet was flying the U.S. flag. Men and women both were cutting and welding steel, constructing engines and boilers, and using assembly line methods to fabricate Liberty ships, T-2 tankers, and Victory ships. The Liberty ship Robert E. Peary, built in a West Coast yard, was completed in the worldrecord time of one week. These vessels not only fulfilled a crucial wartime mission to fight the forces of Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese invaders, but also went on to serve the trade lanes of international commerce for decades afterward.