Ahoy! Touring the SS Jeremiah O’Brien navy ship

SS Jeremiah O’Brien docked in San Francisco

I decided to expand on my exploration of San Francisco by continuing to play the role of tourist (so fun!). After visiting Alcatraz Island (read about my trip), I wanted to check out the navy ship docked at Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf. I had seen this massive ship on my previous visit to the city and thought it deserved a visit after serving our country.

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is a living museum, a historically accurate Liberty ship, built seven decades ago to help protect our country. A Liberty ship is a class of cargo ship, built during World War II for its simple, low cost construction. They were designed to carry more than 10,000 tons of cargo.

Retired military and volunteers provide great facts and back stories of the ship’s journeys and crews. I enjoyed meeting these men and learning so much. It was fascinating to walk about the ship. There are many tight spaces and narrow hallways, and I honestly don’t know how the crew didn’t get turned around walking through the various halls and door ways! Despite being so large, the ship’s rooms, halls and general space feel small when onboard.

Anchors away!

Visitors can walk almost anywhere on the ship. You can view the crew’s rooms, kitchen, dining area, navigation area and engine rooms. If you’re claustrophobic or have physical limitations going up. and down ladders, you might want to skip the engine room tour. I made it down one level before deciding I’d seen enough. Bonus is that the engine room appeared in scenes from the movie Titanic so check that out if you really want to see it.

I liked walking along the many levels of decks to see the various vantage points that the crew had so many years ago, and take in the gorgeous sites from way up on the ship! Downtown San Francisco, Cit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and beyond can be seen from here.

What’s your speed?

I learned some fun facts while onboard the ship:

  • Built in 56 days to serve in World War II, the SS Jeremiah O’Brien was one of the primary cargo vessels during the war. Women played a major role in building many of these ships during the war.
  • Built in Portland, Maine in 1943, the ship’s wartime voyages included four transatlantic crossings and seven voyages. The ship made 11 trips in 1944 to deliver supplies to U.S. and Allied troops.
  • The O’Brien is only one of two Liberty type ships still operational (out of 2,710 ships built).
  • The O’Brien is one of the 6,939-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day in 1944. She and a volunteer crew sailed from San Francisco to France in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the only ship from the original Normandy armada to return for the anniversary.

The O’Brien is still operational so maintained by a dedicated crew of volunteers. While the ship is docked at Pier 45 as a museum to tour, it also cruises the bay and beyond for special events and rentals.

To donate and/or to volunteer (no ship experience necessary), visit ssjeremiahobrien.org

Amazing view of the city from atop the O’Brien.


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