SS Jeremiah O'Brien

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World War II Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien at Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
Career (United States) 100x35px
Name: Jeremiah O'Brien
Namesake: Jeremiah O'Brien
Builder: New England Shipbuilding Corporation
Launched: 19 June 1943
Fate: Museum ship
General characteristics
Class and type: EC2-S-C1 (Liberty ship)
Displacement: 14,245 tons
Length: 441 ft 6 in (135 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17.4 m)
Draft: 27 ft 9 in (8.5 m)
Propulsion: 3-cylinder reciprocating triple expansion steam engines
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h)
  • 8 x 20mm anti-aircraft gun
  • 1 x 3in (76mm) gun
  • 1 x 5in (127mm) gun
SS Jeremiah O'Brien
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Location: San Francisco, California
Coordinates: 37°48′40″N 122°25′5″W / 37.81111°N 122.41806°W / 37.81111; -122.41806Coordinates: 37°48′40″N 122°25′5″W / 37.81111°N 122.41806°W / 37.81111; -122.41806
Built/Founded: 1943
Architect: New York Shipbuilding Corp.
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: 07 June 1978[1]
Designated NHL: 14 January 1986[2]
NRHP Reference#: 78003405

SS Jeremiah O'Brien, also known as Jeremiah O'Brien (Liberty ship), is a Liberty ship built during World War II and named for American Revolutionary War ship captain Jeremiah O'Brien (1744–1818). Now based in San Francisco, the O'Brien is a rare survivor of the 6,939-ship armada[3] that stormed Normandy on D-Day, 1944,[4][5] and one of only two currently operational WWII Liberty ships afloat of the 2,710 built during the war (the other being the SS John W. Brown based in Baltimore).


Built in just 56 days at the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland, Maine, and launched on 19 June 1943, this class EC2-S-CI ship not only made four perilous round trip wartime crossings of the Atlantic and served on D-Day, the vessel later saw sixteen months of service in both the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean calling at ports in Chile, Peru, New Guinea, the Philippines, India, China, and Australia.

The end of the war caused most of the Liberty ships to be removed from service in 1946 and many were subsequently sold to foreign and domestic buyers. Others were retained by the U.S. Maritime Commission for potential reactivation in the event of future military conflicts. The O'Brien was mothballed and remained in the National Defense Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay for 33 years. In the 1970's, however, the idea of preserving an unaltered Liberty Ship began to be developed and, under the sponsorship of Rear Admiral Thomas J. Patterson, USMS, (then the Western Regional Director of the U.S. Maritime Administration) the ship was put aside for preservation instead of being sold for scrap. In a 1994 interview printed by the Vintage Preservation magazine "Old Glory," Patterson is alledged to have claimed the ship was steamed to her anchorage in the mothball fleet (unlike the many that were secured as unservicable and towed into storage), and frequently placed at the back of the list for disposal, which undoubtedly contributed to her survival.

Possession of the O'Brien was taken in 1979 by the National Liberty Ship Memorial, an all volunteer group, to be restored; at which point she was virtually the last Liberty at the anchorage. Amazingly, those who volunteered to resurrect the mothballed ship were able to get the antiquated steam plant operating while the vessel remained in Suisun Bay, and after more than three decades of sitting in rusting idleness, the O'Brien's boilers were lit; and on 21 May 1980, the ship left the mothball fleet -- the only similar vessel ever to do so under her own power [citation needed] -- for San Francisco Bay, drydocking, and thousands of more hours of restoration work. The ship then moved to Fort Mason, on the San Francisco waterfront just to the west of Fisherman's wharf. There the O'Brien became a floating museum dedicated to the men and women who built and sailed the ships of United States Merchant Marine in WWII. Licenced to carry tours around San Fransico bay, it was suggested that the ship be restored to ocean going specification, and after efforts in securing sponsorship this was accomplished in time for the 50th "D-Day" Anniversary Celebrations in 1994. The ship makes several passenger-carrying daylight cruises each year in the San Francisco Bay Area, and occasional voyages to more distant ports such as Seattle and San Diego.

Footage of the ship's engines was used in the 1997 film Titanic to depict the ill-fated ship's own engines.

50th Anniversary of D-Day

File:O'brien underway.jpg
SS Jeremiah O'Brien underway in San Pablo Bay on August 27, 2005, as seen from the aft steering station.

In 1994 the O'Brien, in its eighth voyage, (the previous seven were during World War II) steamed through the Golden Gate, down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic to England and France, where the O'Brien and its crew (a volunteer crew of veteran World War II-era sailors and a few cadets from the California Maritime Academy) participated in the 50th Anniversary of Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Normandy that turned the tide of WWII in Europe — the only large ship from the original Normandy flotilla to return for the 50th anniversary celebration.

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien was designated a National Historic Landmark, and is docked at Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California. It also hosts the amateur radio station K6JOB.

File:S.S. Jeremiah OBrien, Polynesian fantasy.jpg
Polynesian fantasy, SS Jeremiah O’Brien. Two pinups were painted on her maiden voyage, just above the bow. When the ship was restored, the old pinups were found under later paint. [6]


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. "Jeremiah O'Brien (Liberty Ship)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2008-06-18. 
  3. "American Merchant Marine Ships at Normandy in June 1944". U.S. Maritime Service Veterans. 
  4. "SS Jeremiah O'Brien". World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  5. While the preceding reference claims that Jeremiah O'Brien is the sole surviving D-Day armada ship, there is at least one other: Nash (tugboat), another National Historic Landmark ship located in Oswego, New York.
  6. S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien

See also

External links

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