The U.S. Liberty Ship Building Program in World War II set a record—a total of 2700 Liberty Ships were built in 6 years, in order to support the battle against Nazi-Germany. However, numerous vessels suffered sudden fracture, some of them being split in half. This paper demonstrates and investigation of the Liberty Ships failure and problems, which reveals that the failures are caused by a combination of three factors. The welds produced by largely unskilled work force contain crack type flaws. Beyond these cracks, another important reason for failure associated with welding is the hydrogen embitterment; most of the fractures initiate at deck square hatch corners where there is a stress concentration; and the ship steel has fairly poor Charpy-Impact tested fracture toughness. It has been admitted that, although the numerous catastrophic failures were a painful experience, the failures of the Liberty Ships caused significant progress in the study of fracture mechanics. Considering their effect, the Liberty Ships are still a success.
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