Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Merchant Ships

In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act was passed, establishing the Maritime Commission and was led by Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, USN, (Retired).  As war seemed to be inevitable by mid-1941, the transfer from peace to war in ship production came with the passing of the Ship Warrants Act of July 14, 1941.  This act gave the Maritime Commission the ability to allot ship-construction priorities for national defense requirements.   Additionally, the War Shipping Administration was established in February 1942 as a wartime agency and was also led by Rear Admiral Land.   The sections below pertain to the men and ships who served in the Merchant Marines. 

Image:  Lot-3452-6:  First Liberty ship being launched, SS Patrick Henry, on September 27, 1941, at Bethlehem-Fairfield Yards, Baltimore, Maryland.  U.S. Office of Emergency Photograph.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.