The cargo ship Ocean Faith on the day of her launch in March 1942. South Portland Historical Society photo

This week’s Window on the Past is made possible by South Portland resident Ron Strout. Ron recently donated a number of items which will be preserved by the South Portland Historical Society. This particular photograph really stood out to me.

It is an amazing image that captures activities on a launch day at the Todd-Bath Iron Shipbuilding Yard in South Portland. The day was March 23, 1942, and our workers had just completed the hulls of three ocean ships that we had made for Great Britain.

Ocean ships were cargo ships, nearly identical in design to the Liberty ships that we made for the United States. The Ocean Honour, Ocean Faith and Ocean Hope were all christened and launched on that same day.

One of the reasons why I love this image is the majestic look of the Ocean Faith with the bunting adorning the bow. Look at the people standing up on the bow to help understand the scale of the ship.

Liberty and Ocean ships were often referred to as “ugly ducklings” as some people felt that their plain and utilitarian design was not attractive. Perhaps I’ve been working on South Portland history long enough that I find these ships beautiful, especially as they represent the success of the Allies in World War II.

When I look at a photo like this, it makes me feel proud of our people and fills me with hope for our future. We accomplished an amazing feat here in South Portland during the war. Our people came together, learned new skills, and produced 274 Liberty and Ocean ships from 1941 to 1945. When you look at the size of the Ocean Faith in this photo, and imagine being able to build that many ships in that short a time, I think it helps to give an appreciation for the workers who accomplished so much. Their work affected the outcome of the war.

A note for Veterans Day

Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, is observed on Nov. 11 each year, in honor of the armistice that took place in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the end of the Great War (World War I). Let us all be united this week in our appreciation for all veterans, past and present – those who have fought and ensured that we have the freedoms that we enjoy in America today, and those who stand ready to serve today to ensure that we have those freedoms in the future. Thank you for your service, veterans.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director for the South Portland Historical Society.

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