Liberty Ship

Liberty Ship John W. Brown Cruise, Baltimore Harbor, 10 November 2002


Matt, Isaiah, Ashley, Amanda, and the Skipper embarked in the Liberty Ship John W. Brown for the Brown's annual Veterans' Day tour of Baltimore Harbor on 10 November 2002.  The Brown is the only still-operational WWII Liberty Ship on the east coast.  It was a real treat to be actually underway on a large steam-propelled ocean-going ship.  

Click on any of the following photos to see a full-size image.

DCP_1528.JPG (294794 bytes)  The Skipper, Amanda, Ashley, Isaiah, and Matt line up at "Oh Dark Thirty" outside Amanda's house to load up in the Ark (aka the Skipper's Suburban) to head to North Locust Point Marine Terminal in Baltimore to board the ship.

DCP_1544.JPG (232009 bytes)  When we get there, the ship looks very big, and we look very small.  No one except the Skipper has ever been to sea before on something this large.

DCP_1545.JPG (245708 bytes)  The mid-ships superstructure and bridge area of the John W. Brown.  You can also see her ribbons which are laid out on her ribbon bar as follows:

Combat Bar

Atlantic War Zone Medal 


Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone




If you can identify the four remaining ribbons in the ribbon bar marked (?) above, please email 

WWII Merchant Marine Medals In order;

 Atlantic War Zone        *

Pacific War Zone        *

Mediterranean/ Middle East War Zone        *

Victory Medal        *

Defense Medal        *

Mariners Medal         *

Meritorious Service Medal

Prisoner of War Medal

Distinguished Service Medal

My Dad, Joseph Stropole was awarded the medals marked ith an asterisk. He served in the Merchant Marine from the 1930's until the late 1950's. I am also a decorated Merchant Marine Officer....

 Joseph P. Stropole, Chief Engineer.


DCP_1547.JPG (273279 bytes) The stern of the John W. Brown showing also her after gun mounts.

DCP_1546.JPG (333281 bytes)  The after gangway where we boarded the ship.

DCP_1532.JPG (201211 bytes) View from aft looking forward while still at the pier.

DCP_1535.JPG (319091 bytes)  Underway at last.  Water all around. Another view looking forward across the after cargo holds toward amidships, with the Key Bridge in the background.  As the skipper is wont to say, "It's GREAT to be at sea again!"

DCP_1530.JPG (326002 bytes)  Isaiah, Matt, Ashley, and Amanda in the wheel house of the John W. Brown.

DCP_1529.JPG (107215 bytes)  View from the enclosed wheel house at the helm looking forward.  As you can tell, the visibility isn't the greatest.  Liberty Ships such as the Brown were generally conned (steered) from the open flying bridge above the enclosed bridge except in inclement weather or when the ship was under attack.

DCP_1533.JPG (257284 bytes)  Today's mission was to honor America's veterans by giving them a tour of the Baltimore Harbor.  Here some of the vets man the rail to get a view of Baltimore's Fort McHenry.  This fort successfully withstood an intensive British naval bombardment in September 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the poem 'The Defense of Fort McHenry" which has become our national anthem. 

DCP_1534.JPG (226831 bytes)  AIR ACTION PORT!  Suddenly the sky is filled with vintage World War II fighter aircraft.  What to do?

DCP_1531.JPG (131287 bytes)  Sea Scout Isaiah knows what to do.  He hops on the nearest anti-aircraft gun and prepares to fill the sky with flack!

DCP_1536.JPG (359084 bytes)  Suddenly nautical reinforcements arrive unexpectedly in the form of the Chesapeake  Flotilla Wardroom's Sea Scout Training Vessel der PeLiKan.  Some of our fellow Sea Scouts are also spending the day at sea!

DCP_1537.JPG (131208 bytes)  Sea Scouts Matt and Isaiah prepare to render honors as der PeLiKan passes astern of the Brown.

DCP_1538.JPG (231023 bytes)  Isaiah, Matt, Ashley, and Amanda gaze at the Dundalk Marine Terminal complex as the Brown completes her turn-around and begins to head back to the pier.

DCP_1539.JPG (306258 bytes)  Although we were the only Sea Scouts onboard for the voyage, we weren't the only BSA Venturers onboard.  Here we sailors pose with Venturers from Reading, PA who specialize in World War II army living history impressions.

DCP_1540.JPG (285125 bytes)  Isaiah's neckerchief gets an improved tight roll under the watchful eye of a re-enactor who is also on active duty in the Navy.

DCP_1542.JPG (264932 bytes)  One of the Abbott and Costello impersonation team speaks with some vets.

DCP_1541.JPG (371723 bytes)  All too soon our voyage drew to a close as the tug McAllister came up on our starboard quarter and began to ease the John W. Brown back into her berth.

DCP_1543.JPG (150941 bytes)  Back on dry land, Sea Scout Matt is welcomed home as a returning hero by a bevy of beautiful young ladies.  As Matt is always wont to say, "Sea Scouts DO have more fun."

DCP_1548.JPG (224453 bytes)  Matt was so overcome by his good fortune in meeting these lovely girls that we thought for a moment that to revive him he'd need medical attention onboard the retired U.S. Navy  Hospital Ship Sanctuary berthed at the next pier.  Fortunately, Matt eventually recovered on his own, and we headed back home after a great experience.

As Sea Scouts, we had a great time during our day in the John W. Brown and we are looking forward to next year when we hope we can come again. This adventure has our 5-star recommendation!

The following information about the Liberty Ship John W. Brown and Liberty Ships in general comes from the web site Tech Pubs.  To visit that web site for much more great information about Liberty Ships in general, click here.

The Liberty Ship John W Brown was launched in 1942 in Baltimore, and has had an interesting history.  She initially carried cargo, before being converted to a troopship in the Mediterranean.  As a troopship, she was present at the beachheads of Anzio, Salerno and southern France.  After the war, in 1946, she was converted to a maritime school in New York, where she remained for the next 36 years.  Eventually, Project Liberty Ship took her over and she moved to Baltimore, where she is now berthed.

Of the 2,710 Liberty Ships completed, 253 were lost during the war, a loss rate of 9%.  The wide cause of losses shows the wide range of hazards that these ships were exposed to.  Losses occurred due to kamikazes, torpedoes, surface raider guns, aircraft bombs, collisions (made more likely with blacked-out ships traveling close together in convoy) and to the weather (an ever-present hazard, even during wartime).

A Liberty Ship was 441 feet 6 inches long overall, with a maximum beam of 57 feet and a depth of 37 feet 4 inches.  Liberty Ships had five cargo holds, three forward of the accommodation and two aft, and the deck was designed with minimal obstructions to enable cargo to be carried on top of the holds.  The single machinery space was located below the accommodation, although there was a slight overlap forward over the number three hold.  This space contained two boilers and a triple expansion steam turbine.  A single propeller was fitted (normal practice in merchant ships) which gave a speed of 11 knots (comparable with many general cargo vessels of the day).  Accommodation was provided for 81 people.  This was initially intended to be 45 crew and 36 gunners, however changes in this arrangement were not uncommon.  Four lifeboats were provided, two with capacity for 25 people and two with a capacity for 31 people.  The John W. Brown was later converted to carry up to 550 troops in the holds in bunks five tiers high.

Liberty Ships saw service all over the world: they were present in the Atlantic and Russian convoys; they anchored off the beachheads in North Africa, Europe and in the Pacific islands; they carried food to civilians as well as supplies and equipment to the armed forces; as hospital ships they treated the wounded; they transported prisoners away from the fighting; they evacuated rescued Allied prisoners from Asia; in perhaps their most welcome role, they brought the troops home again after the fighting was over.

To visit the Liberty Ship John W. Brown official web site, click here.

Subsequent to the initial posting of this page to the web, we received the following information from veteran Sea Scouter Steve Nichols:

The JOHN W. BROWN was built at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore.  her keel was laid on 7/28/1942; She was launched on 9/7/42; and she was delivered on 9/19/42.  She was the 62nd of 384 liberty ships built at Fairfield between April, 1941 and October, 1944.  Approximately 2400 of this type were built by 18 yards.

My Grandmother sponsored the THOMAS NELSON PAGE, launched at Fairfield on June 1, 1943.  I have in my possession, the Champaign bottle used in the christening.

The triple expansion steam engine produced 2500 horsepower at 72 rpm.  The cylinder diameters were 24-1/2”, 37”, and 70”.  The stroke was 48 “.  She used 30 tons of fuel a day, and was capable of making 11 knots.  The engine weighed about 135 tons.  The engine was made by 20 different companies.  the engine for the JOHN W. BROWN was made by the Worthington Pump and Machinery Corporation, Harrison, NJ.  The ship had two boilers, with a steam pressure of 220 psi.  All the auxiliary engines were steam reciprocating.

The JOHN W. BROWN  survived as a school ship for many years in New York.

One Liberty, the THEODORE PARKER, was sunk as an artificial reef off Morehead City, NC.  I have gone diving on this wreck.

In the early 60s a Tsunami hit Kodiak harbor in Alaska.  They brought in a liberty ship to use as a fish processing factory.  Today that ship sits on dry land, with a doorway in her hull for forklifts, and is still used for fish processing.

The JEREMIAH O’BRIEN is an operational liberty ship museum in San Francisco.  They do occasional day trips and the ship is available for tours, including the engine room, on a daily basis.

There is a book, “the Liberty Ships” by L. A. Sawyer and W. H. Mitchell, published by the Lloyds of London Press Ltd. in 1985 that is a wealth of information on this topic.

/s/ Steve Nichols  

Here is another interesting item:  "Jan. 14, 1944 - The Liberty Ship James A. Wilder is launched at Wilmington, California. Named after the first Chief Seascout, the ship's launching ceremony is attended by representative Sea Scout leaders from Southern California. The James A. Wilder thus joins the Liberty Ships William D. Boyce and Daniel Carter Beard as the third Liberty Ship named after prominent Scout leaders."  Found at

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