Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Wilmington built victory ships

When Wilmington built victory ships
North Carolina has a long tradition of boat-building experts, going back to the earliest days when Native Americans built log canoes, during Colonial times when the live oaks in our coastal area were prized for their strong, tough limbs from which shipwrights cut knees and other parts of sailing vessels, and in more recent days when Harkers Island craftsmen built beautifully flared bows without a set of plans – by “rack of the eye,” as they called it. The Carolina Flare is still an important part of many sports fishing boats because of its ability to throw ocean spray to the side and keep anglers aboard relatively dry.
I’ve read a lot about those boat builders over the years, but not much about the World War II victory ships – Liberty Ships, they were called – built at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. on the banks of the Cape Fear River in Wilmington.
You can’t see much of those shipyards anymore, but at one time the place teemed with 20,000 workers who put out hundreds of Liberty Ships and other vessels during its relatively short operating life of five years.
But you can read about it in a new book – “The Wilmington Shipyard” – by Ralph Scott, rare books curator at East Carolina University. I haven’t seen the book, but here’s a link to an interesting review by Ben Steelman in Sunday’s Wilmington Star-News. If you’re interested in boats, World War II or coastal N.C. history, don’t miss it.

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