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The Liberty Ship John Muir

by Harold Wood

According to Edwin Way Teale, in his otherwise excellent book The Wilderness World of John Muir (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), "during the First World War, a liberty ship was christened the SS John Muir." Teale had his wars mixed up. In actuality, all "Liberty Ships" were built during and used in the Second World War, not the first.

The Liberty Ship John Muir was built in 1942. It was one of approximately 2700 Liberty Ships built during Second World War. A "Liberty Ship" was an emergency cargo ship, mass-produced using a common design. As German submarines kept sinking supply ships, it was important to the war effort to mass-produce as many new ships as possible for transporting supplies. So Liberty Ships had to be constructed quickly - in under six months. Since many hundreds of Liberty Ships were sunk under enemy fire during World War II, new Liberty Ships had to be built to replace them over and over again. Remarkably, the Liberty Ship John Muir survived the war, and was finally scrapped in 1966.

Liberty Ships were to be named, quite simply, after outstanding Americans, heroes and leaders in American history. This was easy for the first 300 ships, but became increasingly more difficult as the ship-building program expanded into the thousands. The simple list of the founding fathers and patriots had to be expanded into some 60 name lists, including authors, athletes, abolitionists, painters, historians, political and social reformers, scientists, college presidents, feminists, merchant marine heroes, railroad builders, diplomats, explorers, Indians, and pioneers. And not only Americans were recognized. Interestingly, several people who were friends of John Muir also had Liberty Ships named after them: John Bidwell, John Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Asa Gray, David Starr Jordan, William Keith, William Kent, Joseph LeConte, Enos A. Mills, Harriet Monroe, Theodore Roosevelt, Josiah D. Whitney, and S. Hall Young.

Here's the data about the Liberty Ship John Muir:

  • Hull Number: 1226
  • Date Built: December, 1942
  • Built by: Marinship Corp., Sausalito,California, Yard No. 4.
  • Scrapped: Portland, Oregon, May 1966
  • Named after: Naturalist, explorer, conservationist, responsible for the establishment of the Yosemite National Park
  • Length: 441 ft. 6 inches
  • Breadth: 56 ft 10 3/4 inches
  • Depth: 37 feet 4 inches
  • Gross Tons: 7176 DWT: 10,414 tons
  • Speed: 10-11 knots

Stamp hobbyists have created these to commemorate thiis Liberty Ship:

Information provided by:
Captain C.J. Carroll
U.S. Merchant Marine, Retired
Captain of a Liberty ship at age 22 during the WW2
Still looking fir Mermaids.
Captain Carroll kindly responded to our April, 1998 request for information on

Liberty Ships: The Ugly Ducklings of World War II by John Gorley Bunker (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1972), The Liberty Ship by L.A. Sawyer and W.H. Mitchell (Cornell Maritime Press, 1973), and The Liberty Ships - The People behind the Names by Captain Deschamps, P.O.Box 10156 Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110.

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