In 1967, the Liberty ship SS Robert Louis Stevenson,
having served the nation during World War II, was recalled from retirement to aid her country a final time in a very different manner.
This time it was the Cold War, and the loss of the ship was not a concern, but a goal.
On 10 August 1967, the Stevenson, loaded with more than 2,000 tons of explosives, sank off the Aleutian Islands.
Lest we get ahead of ourselves with the story, let’s start at the beginning.
Liberty Ships of World War II The outbreak of World War II in Europe caught the American merchant fleet unprepared to meet the huge demand for sealift capacity.
To meet this need, assembly-line production of a standardized cargo ship-the Liberty ship-began in the United States in 1941.
“EXPLOSIVES (see note C) Between 1941 and 1945, eighteen American shipyards built 2,751 Liberty ships.
It was the largest number of ships of a single design produced during the war.
Despite being built as a “five-year vessel,” more than 2,400 Liberty ships survived the war; of these, 835 made up the post-war cargo fleet.
Designed for carrying cargo (10,800 tons), ease of construction, and price, little thought was given to the aesthetics. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, known for his love of navy vessels and an eye for design, called the Liberty ship “a real ugly duckling.”
14 by Kathleen Ciolfi and Geoffrey Carton The Liberty ship Robert Louis Stevenson was built at the Richmond Shipyard #1 on San Francisco Bay and launched in November 1943.
Like her sister ships, she was built in an astonishingly short period of time and headed out on her first wartime mission to the Far East just a month after her launch.
Her last mission ended in April 1945, ending a very short career. Or so it appeared.
Operation CHASE In the early 1960s, the military surveyed its munitions stores, and although most were in good condition, some dated to World War II and required immediate disposal.
The closing of several ammunition depots in the United States also generated a large quantity of ammunition requiring disposal.
“EXPLOSIVES (see note C) Faced with the rapid buildup of thousands of tons of deteriorated and defective munitions,
the US armed services needed a way to quickly, safely, efficiently and economically dispose of sizeable quantities.
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