Inside the Baltimore shipyard that produced hundreds of WWII vessels at incredible speed

In 1941, the United States Maritime Commission ordered the establishment of emergency shipyards to build cargo ships for the U.S. and Britain that could be assembled as cheaply and rapidly as possible to replace losses from German torpedoes.

The Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard on Baltimore Harbor was established in February and quickly set 27,000 employees to work building these new "Liberty ships."

Each Liberty ship was designed to carry over 10,000 tons of cargo, but often carried far more to meet wartime needs.

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The Baltimore shipyard that produced WWII vessels
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The Baltimore shipyard that produced WWII vessels

Workers gather to watch a launching ceremony.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Liberty ships at anchor await final fitting and rigging.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Workers climb a ladder on the outfitting pier.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

An arc welder.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A worker welds a floor to a vertical keel.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Erecting bottom shell plates.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A chipper removes excess metal from a welded seam aboard the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Way No. 8 of the shipyard, with the Frederick Douglass in the early stages of construction.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Storing miscellaneous bulkheads in a stockyard.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Working on interbottom units.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Shaft alley sections.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Burning off excess steel plate.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

The bow of a nearly completed ship.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A pipefitter.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A welder rests during his lunch hour.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A shipyard worker.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A shipyard worker shows off a war bond.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A welder enjoys some ice cream.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Erecting bottom shell plates.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Erecting a flat keel.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Workers tighten bolts with a pneumatic wrench in the belly of the Frederick Douglass.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

A worker with a personal monogram on his overalls.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Rod welders work on the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Rivet heater Willie Smith poses in a porthole on the Frederick Douglass.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Men work on the Frederick Douglass.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Electric welders.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Day 2: Keel plates are laid.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Day 6 : Bulkheads and girders below second deck are in place.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Day 14: Upper deck is in place.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Day 24: Ship is ready for launch.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Workers gather for a ship launching ceremony.

(Photo via Library of Congress)

(Photo via Library of Congress)

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The construction process was streamlined to the point where in some cases an entire vessel could be welded together and ready to launch in less than a month.

On Sept. 27, 1941, the first Liberty ship, SS Patrick Henry, was launched from Bethlehem-Fairfield in a ceremony led by President Roosevelt.

Over the next four years, the shipyard churned out 384 Liberty ships, plus 94 larger and faster Victory ships and 45 amphibious landing ships.

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