Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Monday, June 6, 2011

06/05/2011 - Handy Billy, twenty three and a half days

Pretty nice day. Not hot, unfortunately not very busy. I gave two small tours of the USS Slater, and I stated the day with one walking tour of Albany.

On one of the tours someone donated a Handy Billy. We got into a discussion about Handy Billy as a emergency naval fire pump or a block and tackle. It appears that it's both. A couple of interesting links:

We also discussed American Public opinion leading to WWII. I noted the startling contrast of two important speeches both delivered on September 11, 1941 (3 months before America's entry into WWII). One speech was by Charles Lindbergh, delivered to an American First Group in Des Moines, Iowa. The other was Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chat to the Nation, regarding the USS Greer Incident (A Destroyer in the North Atlantic).

Often on tours I discuss the productivity of the American Shipbuilding Industry in World War II. One extreme case is the Liberty Ship, the SS Robert E Perry, which was built in 4 and a half days. This was done for publicity. The high volume standard for Liberty Ships was a month (detailed on this web site). The Kaiser Richmond Shipyard wasn't the only yard producing Liberty Ships. Other yards took a little longer. As noted in this excellent article:
"...The Liberty ships were built to a standardized, mass produced design the 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days. 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, a 3cylinder, reciprocating steam engine, fed by two oil-burning boilers produced 2,500 hp and a speed of 11 knots. the 5 holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks, and locomotives lashed to its deck. Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition. ..."

The shipbuilding record for a Destroyer Escort is the USS Fieberling (DE-640), built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco (Union Iron Works). It took nine days from laying the keel to launch, and 23.5 days for complete delivery (reference Hull #5407 for details). The National Register of Historic Places application for the Union Iron Works shipyard noted that: "....C. C. Bloch, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Chairman of the Navy Board for Production Awards specifically cited the destroyer-escort USS Fieberling, delivered by UIW on April 11, 1944, only 23.5 days after keel laying, as “one of the country’s outstanding production records and a world record for this type of ship.....”

This is a little off topic, but I wanted to pass a few references along. On one tour a visitor noted that he volunteered at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The museum holds the records of the Lake Champlain Transport Company and I noted during the tour that I did a little research on a past president of the company, Le Grand B. Cannon (bio is available here). He was also a Colonel during the Civil War and published two very interesting books: Personal reminiscences of the rebellion, 1861-1866; and Recollections of the ironclads: Monitor and Merrimack. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

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