The Remarkable Welding Step Made
76 Years Ago

( Million Kilometers of Welded Joints - for the Victory )

Nearly 76 years ago PATRIC HENRY - the first of the Liberty ships - splashed into the waters of Chesapeake Bay (flows into the Atlantic Ocean, washing the East coastline of the USA). It was September 27, 1941. The Liberties were 10,865 deadweight tons, considered expendable, with a short service life probable, maybe making only one or two voyages under wartime severe conditions [1].Battle ship PATRIC HENRY

Under the Maritime Commission guidance all together 2,710 Liberty ships were built between 1941 and 1944. Created as the simplistic, capacious, easily operated during loading-unloading processes, these quickly-built vessels had not very "photogenic" appearance, and they were instantly dubbed "ugly ducklings" and "sea scows". In a message to shipyard workers on the occasion, President Roosevelt refrained from calling them as "dreadful-looking objects" as he done when announcing the emergency ship program in January [1].

Because of their 2,500 horsepower engines these ships had rather low speed (11 to 11.5 knots, or 20 to 21 km/h) for commercial service or for escaping both German and Japanese submarine and air attacks. However, really they had large carrying capacity and strong power of survival together with active ability to withstand enemy action (Range - 23,000 miles, or 37,000 km; Armament - stern-mounted 4 in, or 102 mm, deck gun against surfaced submarines and variety of antiaircraft guns). Indeed, thanks to the last properties a lot of Liberty ships changed the course of the World War 2 [1, 2].

It has to be noted that each Liberty ship contained for about 600,000 feet of welded joints, and welding labor accounted for about one third of the direct labor employed in construction. This ship program was in many ways unique and risky [3]. However, it gave an outstanding result - we can calculate, that during the war American welders, building only the Liberty ships, produced as minimum as a half of million kilometers of welded joints!

If the above mentioned PATRIC HENRY was built in 150 days - from the keel-launching to launching, the majority of next Liberties were built of about 17 days. The unique record was achieved during the ROBERT E. PEARY manufacturing - 4 days, 15 hours and 30 minutes! Such speedy completion was made possible by welding large sub-assemblies elsewhere in the yard and then bringing them together for final assembly on the ways, a technique daring in those days but today is a standard shipbuilding method [1]. Firstly - 24 and 17 years ago - K.Adamson (USA) and V.Vologdin (USSR) began to use welding for the aims of ship repair and building [4]. The record of the American Bureau of Shipping Show that at as at October, 1937, 86 small vessels under 260 ft in length were under construction, of which 66 are all welded. In 1938 the USA built the biggest all-welded ship of 18,500 tons deadweight [5]. However, the scale of the Liberty project was really very impressive. In all, 18 mostly new yards containing 210 slipways, with a work force which swelled to over 650,000 people by mid-1943, built the Liberties. The new workers included housewives, farmers, clergymen, thousands of unskilled persons who had never been in shipyard before, and many with unrelated skills [1]. Their teaching was in many cases made by the help of the Hobart Trade School, which went to two-shift operation to train large classes of women, students enrolled to learn defense production welding [6].

Using mainly ship transportation the USA forwarded to Great Britain and the USSR a lot of arms, vehicles, important materials, tools, food, clothes, footwear, fuel, etc.

During the war only the USSR obtained from the USA: 427,284 trucks; 13,303 tanks; 35,170 motorcycles; 2,328 cars; 2,5 million tons of petrol; nearly 2000 locomotives; 4,5 million tons canned meat, sugar, flour, salt, fats, a lot of spare parts, arms, medicaments, textiles, etc. Between 01.10.41 and 31.05.45 the American help was given by sailing 2,660 ships with the load in 16,5 million tons. Above 15,5 million tons have reached their purposes. The total American help to the USSR was estimated in 11 milliard dollars [7], (Let us note, that It's 5,5 times more than the USA expenders on the Manhattan-Nuclear Project [12]). It is a pity, but during this help obtaining there were losses of ships, vital war materials and devices. For example, it was "one of the most melancholy episodes in the whole of the war" (as Winston Churchill called it), when Convoy PQ17 sailed from Iceland in June 1942 with 33 vessels, including 6 new Liberties, was attacked by fascists air and sea troops.11 vessels, including 2 Liberty ships survived the ordeal [1]. As the Soviet writer V.Pikul wrote, 37 vessels were in PQ17 convoy, and more than a half of them were under the USA flag. Soviet ports have only accepted 65,000 tons from 188,000 tons of this convoy military cargo. 210 bombers, 430 tanks, 3550 trucks, cars and locomotives have remained on the sea bed together with ruined ships, other important materials and things. It has been lost armaments as for the army in 50,000 men [8]. Convoy PQ18 (all together 39 ships) was more successful. 20 battle-scarred ships, including 5 of the 6 Liberties which started the voyage, reached Murmansk in September 1942 [1].

It is known, that during 1939-1945 the antifascist coalitions’ countries lost 5,151 trade ships which were equal 21,571,000 deadweight tons totally [9]. 2,710 Liberty ships had all together nearly 29,600,000 deadweight tons, which almost fully compensated the above mentioned losses. 6,5-10,4% of them were provoked by enemy's, mainly magnetic, mines. The USSR used its own ways - scientific and technical potential - for ships demagnetization, but the Soviet Union order of needed for these purposes electrical cable was only 650 km on the whole war, while Great Britain's a week output of cable was 1852 km [9]. It is clear, that the USSR shortage in the cable was compensated by the Allies’ deliveries. The main part of needed for demagnetization tools, for example, the so called "pistols", were also supplied by Great Britain. As a result, no one Soviet demagneted ship has been damaged by enemy's mine. By the way, thanks to demagnetization the Allies’ trade ships losses reduced for two last war years up to 310 vessels, while for three previous years the mentioned losses were 3510 ships. Here it is interesting to note, that each battleship, cruiser and Liberty ship needed for demagnetization 3,810, 2,743 and 670 meters of cable, accordingly [9].

It is known that in 1944, during the Second Front opening, while landing of troops through La Manche, nearly 50% of these troops used the Liberty ships. These ships history, being sometimes dramatic and tragic (more than 200 ships were casualties of the war, sunk or only partly salvageable; a few of them was broken because of serious welding problems [1]), gave also the powerful impulse for the all-welded ships introduction. It may be illustrated by titles of articles, which appeared on the pages of welding and various journals after the war: "Pioneer Work of Tyneside Branch Welding in Shipbuilding"; "Lessons from Structural Failures of Welded Ships"; "Future Ships - Will They Be Welded?"; "Notes on Welding Applied to Ship Construction"; "Submerged Arc Welding Increases Production 300%"; "Welding in Marine Engineering", etc. At that time, as it has been written in the article "Welding’s Part in Economic Battle", "Out of 2,600 ships only 3-4% gave trouble" [10].

Due to the gained experience it has been developed "Guide to Joint Design for Welding Ship Hulls" - [11], which - if to use it right - practically fully excludes failures of welded ships now. It is an opinion that "More than 4,000 welded ships were constructed during the war" [11]. Much earlier, in 1945 Robert T. Young wrote: "The record of these (Liberty) quickly built welded ships has more justified the adoption of welding in view of number of vessels built, their ability to withstand enemy action without fatal damage, and the comparative ease with which repairs can be made to them. In fact, considering the 5,000 or more welded ships built under the most adverse conditions, the loss through structural failure of a half dozen is less to be wondered at than the entirely satisfactory service given by hundreds of them when they were urgently needed [1]. These impartial and far-signed statements prove the truth that during the Second World War ship welders of antifascist coalition really produced nearly 1,000,000 kilometers of welded joints!
We may safely suggest that no less welded joints were made by the Allies during tanks, aircrafts, various weapons manufacturing and repair, as well as during producing ammunition and many welded structures, used for the victory in the Second World War.

Of course, the main struggle was on the earth, especially at the Eastern Front, where the USSR was suddenly attacked by the majority of German picked troops. The USSR ground forces very often and successful used against them tanks, which were produced during the war up to 160,000. Among them there were nearly 100,000 tanks marked as T-34 - the best tank of the Second World War. It had: the main gun - 76,2 mm; power/weight - 17,5 hp/tonne; speed - 53 km/h; operational range - 400 km [13].Tank T-34 Achievements of the soviet welders, leading by E. O. Paton - the founder of the well known Electric Welding Institute - gave possibilities to find the best technologies of this tank manufacturing. Multipass electric manual and submerged arc welding was successfully used for joining of armour plates of different thickness and in various space positions. The strength of these welds was even more than the strength of the base material [4].

A.N.Kornienko (a collaborator of Paton Electric Welding Institute) wrote a lot of very interesting articles, devoted to welding technologies usage in different spheres of our life - from the beginning till the present. Below we shall only use a small part of these articles’ materials.

Many hundred thousands assault-planes (Il-2), fighters (Yak-7, La-5), bombers (Pe-2), heavy guns, as well as bodies of mines, torpedoes and shells, were also produced, using welding [14, 4, 15, 16, 17]. During the war a lot of metal bridges, pipelines, carriages, vehicles and other welded constructions were made too [18,19]. In spite of war severe conditions, being limited in scientific, material and human resources, Soviet people - in many cases hungry and frozen women and adolescents - made welded joints in tanks and other military production. Undoubtedly, such joints had a length in million kilometers and even more! At the same time it was the unity between countries of antifascist coalition, and indeed this strong unity brought the victory in the Second World War! The Allies cooperation was extremely important for the Great Britain, because Germany's U-boats sank 150 ships in the first nine months of the World War 2, leaving Britain alone. It was the situation, when Germany's U-boats were sinking ships faster than the British could built them [20]. By the way, later the Germany ship building was fully devoted to submarine producing, and their output during 1942-1945 was 1033 items totally [8], that is to say - 2, 5 times less than the quantity of Liberties, produced for same period. We can also note, that the beginning of the Liberty project may be marked , as the September of 1940, when the J. L. Thompson ship building company brought to USA plans for freighter lased on this company - designed prototype ship built in 1939 [20]. 119 Liberty ships were produced with modified designs - colliers, tankers and aircraft and tank transportation [3].

Was the American help to the USSR only 4% of the Soviet Union national gross product [16] or more? It is not important now. The most important that progressive countries fruitful cooperated in their struggle against fascism and they have won! It is the best lesson of our common history where the significant role belonged to welding. The remarkable welding step was made more than 66 years ago by American, Soviet and British workers, engineers, scientists, welders, and we have to remember and be proud of this, mentioned above, important event.
Talking about scientific welding potential of the Allies during the Second World War, we have to point out that in October 1942 the membership roll only of the British Welding Institute was of the order of 2,100 [21], while the mentioned above Electric Welding Institute with the all USSR other welding specialists had all together much less collaborators. Nonetheless, their achievements in welding were also very impressive.

Epilogue:

Nearly 14 years ago the author of this text spent a lot of time at the side of he Liberty ship - JEREMIAH O'BRIEN, located in San Francisco Sea Terminal, and he was at once impressed by the ship large dimensions (length - 135 m, beam - 17,3 m). Indeed, this ship looks substantially even now. That is why while shooting the Titanic (1997 film) ship tragedy (which happened in 1914) this film Director - James Cameron - used the reciprocating steam engine of the named above ship for some this film dramatic pictures. "For scenes set in the ship's engines, footage of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien's engines were composited with miniature support frames and actors shot against greenscreen " [22]. Being more than 60 years old, this ship excellent, shining engine looks like a perfect two-storey building and permits to legendary JEREMIAH O'BRIEN to make sometimes small voyages in the area of San Francisco Bay. However, the most impression on this site author was produced by visual investigations of this Liberty ship welded joints, including multipass welds, which main part has been made by submerged arc (welding under flux). This text author was many years a collaborator of the Paton Electric Welding Institute and knows the history of this method development in the USSR, especially for the T-34 tank producing. So, he decided to collect various materials on this reason, which is briefly given above.

A Liberty ship cost under $2,000,000 [23]. A tank T-34 cost 135,000 - 270,000 rubles [13]. However, it is very difficult to overestimate their cost and role in the victory as well as welding participation in this extremely important event for the mankind existence.

If somebody has interested in these materials widening, we would be glad to write the corresponding large article in any authoritative welding or industrial journal, basing on these and any other reliable additional materials.

References:

  1. "The Lessons of the Liberties" by Robert T. Young, Chairman and President of American Bureau of Shipping, 1974, New York.
  2. Liberty ship - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  3. www.fiu.edu/~thompsop/liberty/photos/liberty_summary.html
  4. "By the Sources of the "Electrogephest" by A.N. Kornienko, Collaborator of the Paton Electric Welding Institute, 1987, Moscow.
  5. "Welded Problems and Progress" - Presidential address by Sir William Larke, K.B.E., "The Institute of Welding Quarterly Transactions", vol.1, October, N.4, 1938.
  6. "Hobart Marks 75 Years of Welder Education" by Howard M. Woodward, "Welding Journal", July, N.7, 2005.
  7. "A History of Soviet Russia" by George von Ranch, 1957, New York
  8. "Requiem to Convoy PQ17" by Valentine Pikul, 1987, Kaliningrad.
  9. "Two Stories of the Demagnetization of Ships" by V.Sem’enov, "The Questions of History of Natural Sciences and Technique", N.1, 2005, Moscow.
  10. "Transactions of the Institute of Welding", vol.10, N.4, August, 1947.
  11. "Welding Journal", N.8, August, p. 33-38, 2004.
  12. "Now It Can Be Told" by Leslie R. Groves, 1962, New York.
  13. T-34 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  14. "The USSR Economics Has Withstood" by P.Vezchikov, "Military-Historical Journal", N.1, 2006, Moscow.
  15. "Military-Economical Factor in The Battle under Moscow" by A.Mirenkov, "Military-Historical Journal", N.5, 2006, Moscow.
  16. "Welding Technology in the Years of The Second World War. Part1 - Welding in Weapons Industry of the USSR" by A.N. Kornienko, "The Paton Welding Journal, 1997, N.6, 1997, Kiev.
  17. "Welding Technology in the Years of The Second World War. Part 2 - Welding in Manufacture of Weapons Abroad" by A.N. Kornienko, "The Paton Welding Journal, N.7, 1997, Kiev.
  18. "The First Welded Constructions Creation. Part 1 - Ships, Air and Land Transport." by A.N. Kornienko, "The Paton Welding Journal, N.11, 1996, Kiev.
  19. "The First Welded Constructions Creation. Part 2 - Bridges, Building, Towers, Reservoirs, Pipelines." by A.N. Kornienko, "The Paton Welding Journal, N.12, 1996, Kiev.
  20. "Professional Mariner" # 74 - August/September 2003, Posted On: 8/1/2003.
  21. "The Institute of Welding Quarterly Transections", October, 1942, vol.5, N.4, London.
  22. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_%281997_film%29
  23. Liberty Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission in ...- (www.usmm.org/libertyships.html)
  24. https://www.proza.ru/2011/12/01/1677




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