SS Patrick Henry

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The SS Patrick Henry was the first Liberty ship launched.

File:SS Patrick Henry Liberty ship 1941.jpg
SS Patrick Henry in September 1941.

The ships initially had a poor public image and to try to assuage public opinion, 27 September 1941 was designated Liberty Fleet Day, and the first 14 "Emergency" vessels were launched that day. The first of these (with hull number 14) was Patrick Henry, launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland. Other "Emergency" vessels launched that day, in various yards around the country included: SS John C. Fremont, SS Louise Lykes, SS Ocean Venture, SS Ocean Voice, SS Star of Oregon, and SS Steel Artisan (later known as USS Barnes and HMS Attacker).

In the speech delivered at the launching, Roosevelt referred to Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech of 23 March 1775. Roosevelt said that this new class of ships would bring liberty to Europe, which gave rise to the name "Liberty ship". Patrick Henry was sponsored by Ilo Browne Wallace, wife of Vice President Henry A. Wallace, with Mrs. Robert H. Jackson, wife of the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and Madame Bruggmann, wife of the Minister of Switzerland Karl Bruggmann and sister of the vice president. Ilo Wallace christened the ship. The ship's fitting was completed on December 30, 1941.

Her maiden voyage was to the Middle East. During World War II she made 12 voyages to ports including Murmansk, Trinidad, Cape Town, Naples, and Dakar.

She survived the war but was seriously damaged when she went aground on a reef off the coast of Florida in July 1946. She was scrapped at Baltimore in 1960.