Flying the Greek flag, the Hellas Liberty, formerly known as the Arthur M. Huddell, has safely reached the port of Piraeus in Greece after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, on December 6, 2008. Until July 2008, the World War II-era Huddell was the last Liberty ship in the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve Fleet., and was moored in the James River Reserve Fleet site at Fort Eustis. The ship was cleaned at a Norfolk shipyard before being towed to Greece.
American shipyards built 2,751 Liberty ships during World War II, in the largest shipbuilding effort in history. Liberty ships crewed by merchant mariners carried troops and military cargo all over the world. The building and sailing of the Liberty ships, and their successors, the Victory ships, were overseen by the U.S. Maritime Commission and the War Shipping Agency, both predecessor agencies of today’s Maritime Administration. After World War II, Greek shipowners purchased many Liberty ships to build up their fleet. The Greek merchant fleet is now the largest in the world. The Hellas Liberty will be refurbished and used as a museum.
Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton said, “We are extremely pleased that the vessel arrived safely in Greece. Once refurbished and opened to the public, the vessel will be a reminder to future generations of the close relationship between Greece and the United States.”
Two other Liberty ships formerly in the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve Fleet, the John W. Brown and the Jeremiah O’Brien, are currently operating as museum ships. While other redesigned and repurposed Liberty ships remain in service, none remain in service in the form they had in World War II. Nonetheless, their use was once so common that the term “Liberty-size cargo,” meaning 10,000 tons, may still be heard in the shipping business.