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Life on a Liberty

HRPE L-6409

The vast bulk of the ships we encounter in the course of cataloging the HRPE photographs are Liberty ships. Not entirely surprising, really, as there were 2,710 completed between 1941 and 1945, making them a large portion of the Army and Merchant Marine fleets. Some of the Liberties were converted to transport ships, and the reception was not entirely favorable. While the holds of a Liberty were just fine for crates of supplies or racks of bombs, fitting them up with bunks resulted in conditions like this:

The inscription on the back says these photos were taken to show the “crowded conditions”. For officers, conditions were slightly better, with bunks only three men high, and actual mattresses on springs.

The photographer who created this series of images chose to document everything, including the latrines, providing an illustration to the usual commentary that they were insufficient, unhygienic, and unsuitable to carrying large numbers of men. Quite simply, a ship that was meant to have a crew of 44 with up to 25 armed guards was not meant to comfortably house 550 men on intercontinental runs, or 1,600 on shorter voyages, and modifications weren’t going to change that.

HRPE L-6413 Galley
HRPE L-6412 Fire drill
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