SS Jeremiah O’Brien Makes History Twice
The SS Jeremiah O’Brien, in San Francisco, is a maritime wonder. Of the 2,710 Liberty ships built and launched during World War II, the O’Brien is one of only two survivors. But the O’Brien is singular for two reasons: it’s an unaltered, historically accurate Liberty ship that also fully functional. Moored at Historic Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf, the living museum has the added distinction of being listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The story of the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien began at the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland, Maine in June 1943. The emergency cargo vessel of the type EC2-S-C1 was one ship among the largest single class of ships built in U.S. history and originally operated for the War Shipping Administration. The ship was named for Jeremiah O’Brien, the first American to capture a British naval vessel during the Revolutionary War.
In its 16 months of service, the O’Brien made seven World War II voyages and 11 English Channel crossings in support of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. After the war, the ship was put in the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay where it sat idle for 33 years.
In 1979, as the O’Brien seemed destined for the scrap yard, volunteers pitched in hundreds of hours to remove the layers of preservatives so the ship could be restored. The O’Brien is the only ship to have ever steamed out of the mothball fleet under her own power.
Today the ship serves as a memorial to the seamen of the U.S. Merchant Marine who served on Liberty ships in World War II, to their Navy gun crews, and to the civilian men and women who built them. The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is open daily for dockside tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pier 45 in San Francisco, CA (94133).