15. Action in the North Atlantic
During the Second World War, Hollywood produced films featuring several roles in the armed services as an enticement for recruiting. Films featuring motor torpedo boats, Air Force bombardiers, submarine service, and many others all aimed at recruiting young men to sign up for the duty. In 1943, service in Liberty ships received a similar treatment in the film Action in the North Atlantic, starring Raymond Massey and Humphrey Bogart. In the film, an oil tanker is torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-boat. The survivors spent several days adrift on a raft before being located and rescued. Returned to the United States, the survivors recuperate from their ordeal briefly before gathering at the union hall to find themselves another berth. When they do it is an assignment to one of the new Liberty ships, under the same officers with whom they previously served.
The ship deploys on the Murmansk run, one of the most dangerous of the North Atlantic. It is forced to defend itself against German U-boat and air attacks, supported by its Naval Armed Guard. Despite being bombed, strafed, and torpedoed, the ship succeeds in reaching Soviet air cover, and eventually Murmansk. The film depicted Liberty ships so effectively that Henry J. Kaiser arranged for it to be shown at each of his shipyards, to increase morale among his employees. Copies of the film were provided to Merchant Marine training centers to be included in the training programs, and to the Navy schools where members of the Armed Guards were trained. Popular in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, the film provided a glimpse at the dangers imperiling the Merchant Marine. It also offered a glimpse of the enormity of the work being accomplished by the Liberty ships at the time.