Sea History 175 - Summer 2021

Page 46

Ship was escorted by the fireboat St. Francis. The ship’s home pier suffered a devastating fire on 23 May of last year; flames were spotted around 4:00 am and firefighters fought the blaze until the afternoon. Fireboats Phoenix and St. Francis contributed to the effort, pouring water on the pier and surrounding areas, preventing spread of the fire to the ship. Five crew members had been staying overnight on the ship; one crewmember heard glass shattering and alerted the rest of the crew of the danger, and they all escaped to safety. The ship’s lines were damaged, the vangs (support rigging for the booms) were compromised, and four starboard portholes suffered cracked glass. On the pier, the concrete shed C was lost, and the O’Brien’s ticketing shed was irreparably damaged. The ship was towed to nearby Pier 35 while the city cleaned up the site and repaired the wharf. The O’Brien was launched in June 1943 at the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland, Maine, named for the first American to capture a British naval vessel in the Revolutionary War. She made seven voyages in the Second World Vice President Kamala Harris conducts business at the USS Constitution desk. 44

she is fully seaworthy and USCG certified. She is one of only two surviving Liberty Ships in the US and the only one on the West Coast. (National Liberty Ship Memorial, Pier 45, San Francisco, CA; Ph. 415 544-0100; …

The new centerpiece of Vice President Kamala Harris’s office is a desk modeled after the Resolute desk in the White House. A team from the US Naval Construction Battalion—or Seabees— constructed the new desk, with assistance from historic shipwrights from the Naval History Heritage Command (NHHC). The wood used for the project was recovered from USS Constitution as part of restoration projects carried out in 2007 and 2017. The desk is decorated with eagle and star motifs, reflecting the carving on Constitution’s stern. The Seabees were indeed busy this season; they created a second desk of this fashion for the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. It was presented to Acting Secretary Thomas Harker. This desk incorporated wood, copper, and nails from Constitution, as well as material from the frigate Chesapeake, and steel plating from the battleships Texas, New Jersey, and Arizona. The building of the desks was commissioned by Naval History Heritage Command director Rear Adm. Sam Cox (USN, Ret.). Cox said, “With the example of the Resolute desk in the President’s Oval Office, I wanted to provide our civilian leaders with similar, tangible reminders of more than 200 years of outstanding service from American sailors. These desks honor our

official white house photo by lawrence jackson

War, and eleven crossings of the English Channel supporting the D-Day invasion. She entered the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay after the war, until her retrieval in 1979, when she was restored and entered service as a museum ship in San Francisco. Today,

national liberty ship memorial

On 23 March, the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien was towed back to its home berth at Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Assisted by two tugs donated from Foss Maritime, Alta June and Jamie Renea, the historic WWII Liberty