What? Wrong war, right?
Nope. Francis Lightfoot Lee did take part in World War II – as a Vessel Type EC2: Liberty Ship.
The call went out to American shipbuilders to mobilize for construction of a new fleet of troopships in 1941. “Built by the mile and chopped off by the yard,” and delivered at the rate of one a day, American ingenuity and can-do — facing a global challenge at the end of 1941 — transformed its shipbuilding industry and produced more than 2,700 Liberty ships in five years to move men and materiel to the front.
The Liberty ships — a vast new fleet for the war effort — was built in a national “Virtual Shipyard” that harnessed skills, resources, and facilities all across America. From 1941 to 1945, the United States increased its shipbuilding capacity by more than 1,200% and produced over 2,700 Liberty Ships.
Upon seeing the design for the Liberty ship, which was based on a British ship first built in 1879, President Roosevelt named her “the ugly duckling.” Here are some interesting facts about Liberty Ships:
- Liberty ships were built in 1943 in as few as 16 days.
- A Liberty ship could carry an amount of cargo equal to four trains of 75 cars each.
- Libertys sailed with no name painted on their bows so as to give the enemy no hint as to their mission or cargo.
- Services of more than 40 skilled trades were required to build a Liberty ship.
- Every Liberty ship had its own distillation system to make sea water drinkable.
- The first Liberty ship was named after Patrick Henry. The last 100 were named for merchant seamen who died in wartime service.
- One hundred and fourteen Liberty ships carried the names of women; eighteen Liberty ships were named for African-American individuals.
- Our favorite Liberty ship was named for Francis Lightfoot Lee!
- Ship Name: SS Francis L. Lee
- Namesake: Francis Lightfoot Lee
- MC Hull No.: 26
- Ship type: Standard
- Laid down: 13 October 1941
- Launched: 14 March 1942
- Fate: Scrapped 1965
Here’s an invitation from the Menokin Foundation. If you were a crew member on the Francis L. Lee, or a friend or family member of one of her crew, or a person who helped build her, we would love to hear from you. We welcome your stories and pictures. We also welcome you here at Menokin, the home of your ship’s namesake.