17. Liberty ships continued to be lost following the end of hostilities in European waters
When World War II in Europe ended in May, 1945, the work of the Liberty ships did not come to an end. The huge Allied armies still required sustenance, which the shattered European economy could not begin to meet. Refugees required repatriation, troops clamored to go home, and replacement troops continued to arrive to occupy Germany and Italy. Although some Liberty ships transferred to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, others continued to serve in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. There they continued to encounter hazards from naval mines placed during the war. Though many of the waters surrounding the approaches to European ports had been “cleared” in numerous incidents it became evident the job had been poorly done.
The Liberty ship SS Pierre Gibault struck a mine off Greece in June, 1945. Badly damaged, the ship could not be repaired and went to the scrapyard. Within days, another struck a mine near the port of Ostend, Belgium and sank. In August, 1945, a Liberty ship bound for Trieste struck a mine and sank. The ship was less than two hours from its destination when it suffered the misfortune. All of its crew were saved, though most of its cargo – horses – were not. Another lost to mines in December 1945 broke in two off the coast of Italy after its Master ran the crippled vessel aground. Enterprising Italians removed the aft section of the wreck, welded it to the fore section of another, and created a “new” Liberty ship which they named Boccadasse. At least nine Liberty ships were lost to mines in European waters following the cessation of hostilities.