The Battle of the Atlantic was about one thing, logistics. Without a flow of food and supplies Great Britain would not be able to stand against the power of Germany. In this chess battle the humble merchant ship could be considered the pawn but collectively they were the most important pieces on the board. All efforts were bent by the Germans to sink them and by the allies to save them. After the fall of France the Kriegsmarine gained new bases in western France from which to sortie their packs of U-Boats. With shorter routes and longer patrol times the losses to British shipping climbed rapidly. Britain could not build merchant ships as fast as the U-Boats were sinking them.
Even after Germany declared war against the USA in December 1941 the situation did not immediately change. American merchant shipping was devastated in a U-Boat campaign off the eastern seaboard. From 1939 through 1940 the United States only produced 102 merchant ships. Far more merchant ships were needed than these figures. The design that came to symbolize the American capability to produce merchant ships in huge quantities was the Liberty Ship. The design was started in September 1941. It was another crash program designed to prepare America for the increasingly likely prospect of entering the war. There was already a shooting war between the German U-Boats and the American warships of the Neutrality Patrol. A great expansion of the USN was already in progress but that required a long lead-time. It was in the production of the Liberty Ship that incredible speed was achieved.
In 1942 the USA added 646 freighters through the years production and of those 597 were Liberty Ships. For the first time allied freighter production exceeded the losses suffered. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. By 1943 the Liberty Ship was being produced at the rate of 140 vessels per month. In other words one months production was 40% greater than an entire two years production before the war. The Liberty Ship was not glamorous. It was not fast and it was far from handsome. It was an uniquely American adaptation of the classic British tramp steamer.
They were called "Ugly Ducklings" because of their rather homely appearance. Slab sided, blunt bowed composed of straight lines and flat planes, the Liberty Ship design was totally devoid of grace or beauty. The design incorporated obsolescent steam engines capable of propelling the ship at only 11-knots but for the huge range of 17,000 miles. At the same time, the design maximized to all important features, cargo carrying capacity and speed of construction. Costing a comparatively low figure of only $2,000,000 per ship, the 441-foot hulls maximized cargo space. They could carry a weight in cargo greater than their own displacement. Capable of transporting 10,800-tons in cargo, one Liberty Ship could figuratively transport four destroyers or a heavy cruiser on the back of the homely transport.
At the end of World War One Henry Ford thought that he could mass-produce his ASW Eagle Boats by using the same principles that he used in the mass production of automobiles. Henry Ford was wrong it was harder than it looked and still required a significant degree of skilled workers. The miracle of the Liberty Ship came from a Henry but it was Henry Kaiser rather than Henry Ford. In the 1930s Kaiser had built the huge Boulder, Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams ahead of schedule. His secret for speed of construction was building the ships in a modular format. Instead of concentrating all construction at the slip where the ship was laid down, Kaiser had as many modules built inland and transported by rail to the shipyard.
Once the modules arrived at the shipyard they stored as a form of inventory until the specific module was called for in the construction of one of the ships. Decks, superstructure, fuel tanks, bulkheads and other modules were prepared in advance and would be riveted onto or in the hull when needed. When the hull was finished it was quickly launched to make room for the keel of a new sister. The hull was towed to a finishing area for installation of engines, armament and fittings. The procedure was hugely successful. In a somewhat staged race, using multiple ships, one ship went from keel laying to finishing in 80 hours and 30 minutes.
There are two 1:350 models now available for the Liberty Ship. The Trumpeter mass-produced plastic injection kit has one significant benefit to the modeler, its price. Because of the manner of production and the economics of scale, injected plastic kits are always less expensive than limited production resin and brass multimedia kits. On the other hand the 1:350 scale Liberty Ship from L’Arsenal enjoys one over-riding advantage. It is the most accurate Liberty Ship commercially available in any scale. All production parameters are of the highest quality. This article is a photographic survey of the Liberty Ship from L’Arsenal. However, there will be a second article on the kit from L’Arsenal taken from a rather unusual prospective.
The L’Arsenal kit 350-5 is the military version of the Liberty Ship and includes an armament of 5-inch, 3-inch and 20mm Oerlikon guns. The components include 102 resin parts, 190 brass photo-etch parts and 12 machined brass cargo booms. The resin parts include a one-piece full hull of excellent quality casting and detail. Clean up is minimal with little sanding along the bottom of the hull and a small point at the bow. The photo-etch parts are found on a large 11-inch x 5.5-inch relief etched fret and is equal to the finest photo-etched found from any source. Take a good look at the photographs of the Liberty Ship from L’Arsenal built by Pierre Marchal. With the exception of a small amount of rigging, that kit was built right out of the box with no embellishments. The quality of the individual parts and the finished model speak for themselves through the photographs in this article.
Model of L'Arsenal's 1:350 scale Liberty Ship built straight from the box by Pierre Marchal. No extra parts were used, only the basic contents of the box.
Photographs from L'Arsenal Web Site.
But wait, there's more! Fresh from his Marin County Xanadu, the Eminence Gris of SteelNavy, the one, the only, Rob Mackie will be preparing another segment on the review of the Liberty Ship in 1:350 scale from L'Arsenal. In Rob's review, he is going to ask the tough questions as the L'Arsenal 1:350 Liberty Ship goes one on one with a different scale version of the same ship. That's right, the Liberty Ship in 1:350 scale from L'Arsenal will be tackling the Liberty Ship in 1:1 scale of the Jeremiah O'Brien. Since Rob resides in his princely residence across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, he will be taking the L'Arsenal model aboard one of the last surviving Liberty Ships to determine which version is the most accurate, the L'Arsenal Liberty or the Jeremiah O'Brien. It's a tall order going up against the original but don't count out Jacques Druel and the gang from L'Arsenal yet.