Brunswick and Savannah Shipyards


The natural harbor of Brunswick, located 70 miles south of Savannah, had a long maritime history before the outbreak of World War II.  Located at the confluence of three rivers, the harbor was used as an exportation port for goods such as cotton and rice.  Throughout the decades before the war, Brunswick’s harbor was mainly used for trade purposes.

When the Emergency Shipbuilding Program was announced by President Franklin Roosevelt in January of 1941, Brunswick was one of sixteen ports chosen to construct cargo vessels that would aid Allied forces in Europe.  After the U.S. declared war, these cargo vessels, called “Liberty Ships,” were churned out at incredible speed.  The 16,000 workers at the Brunswick shipyards built 99 ships, 85 of them Liberty Ships, from 1941-1945.  They were capable of hauling thousands of tons of cargo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The company responsible for building the Liberty Ships in Brunswick was J.A. Jones Construction, a North Carolina-based company known for implementing large construction projects.  There was a great deal of pride among the shipyard workers, since these efficient ships were built at a tremendous pace.  On average, it took 89 days to construct a single liberty ship. The christening of a Liberty Ships was a major event at the Brunswick shipyards, as it would attract politicians and other well-known personalities from around Georgia.  It was also a testimony of their sacrifice and hard work.

Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall at Liberty Ship Christening, 1944


Savannah was the other site in Georgia chosen for Liberty Ship construction.  The contract here was awarded to Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, and construction was done on a Savannah River site just east of the city.  Although the contract originally called for the building of 36 ships, the shipyard workers ended up churning out 88 ships for the war effort from 1942-1945.

Like many other war production factories across the nation, both shipyards in Georgia also hired a great number of women, since much of the male workforce was overseas.  Large numbers of African Americans were also employed, many of whom organized into small labor unions.

Below is a preview of a documentary about the Liberty Ships built in Brunswick and Savannah during the war years. Source: YouTube


Photo Sources: New Georgia Encyclopedia