Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Liberty Ship to Carry History into Brunswick World War Icon Open for Tours

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Liberty Ship to Carry History into Brunswick World War Icon Open for Tours

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

BRUNSWICK -- On Wednesday, one of the Liberty Ships that won World War II will dock in the Brunswick harbor where many were manufactured.

The S.S. John W. Brown, now a museum memorial ship, will stop in Brunswick for a six-day visit on its way south from Savannah to Jacksonville -- cities where old shipyard workers will join others aboard to see the ships they made.

The Brown, however, was not hammered and welded together in Brunswick. It was made at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore and launched Sept. 7, 1942, as part of a Labor Day celebration in which 174 vessels were launched nationwide, six of them Liberty Ships.

Virginia Tippins plans to visit even if it wasn't built here. She worked as a timekeeper for J.A. Jones Construction Co., which turned out 99 Liberty Ships from the time it opened in September 1943 until it closed at the end of the war.

With the Brunswick shipyard and its six lines working around the clock, Tippins recalled working until 3 a.m. some days.

"I know we worked early until late,'' she said.

In Savannah and Jacksonville, the Brown will offer day cruises but none is on the Brunswick schedule, which is fine with Tippins and her husband, Gene, who served as a first sergeant in the 3rd Army in Europe.

"I don't care about going out,'' she said.

Gene Tippins, who sailed home from Europe on a Liberty Ship, said he doesn't care to repeat the experience.

"It was rough. We came back through the North Sea. It rocked, rattled and rolled,'' he said.

It was also rough on the ships before they ever sailed. A.C. Patterson of Blackshear welded Liberty Ships at the Panama City shipyard.

He recalls it as miserable duty crawling between the double hulls and welding the steel plates to support ribs.

"These ribs held it all together. There were holes in the ribs barely big enough to crawl through. You'd get into spaces 24 to 30 inches apart,'' he said.

Patterson recalled crawling out, wringing the sweat from his shirt and taking a drink of water before crawling back into the hulls.

"The sun beating down, the heat for the welding and people up top with jackhammers pounding, it was pure damned hard,'' he said.

J.A. Jones had 12,000 employees who were credited for inspiring a nation that had grown weary of the war. On Christmas Day 1944, the employees came to work and then donated their salary of $16,080 to the government to help with the war effort. Their generosity grabbed headlines around the world and the workers received letters of appreciation from military brass, including Adm. Bull Halsey in the Pacific.

Carley Zell, a 102-year-old Sea Island resident, operated food services at the Brunswick shipyard and fed all the workers free. …

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