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Story of USAT Liberty

Updated: May 18, 2019

General characteristics:

Displacement:13,130 tons

Length:411 ft 6 in (125.43 m)

Beam:55 ft (17 m)

Draft:26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)

Speed:11 knots (20 km/h)


Armament:1 × 6" gun, 1 × 3" gun


The Liberty was built by the Federal Shipbuilding Company in Kearny, New Jersey and launched on 19 june 1918. It was then acquired by the United States Navy on 7 October 1918 . It made several transatlantic cruises to France carrying horses and other general cargo until 7 may 1919 when it was decommissioned and returned to the United States Shipping Board .

Two importants events happened between the two world wars. The first one was a collision with the french tug boat Dogue on 20 october 1929 at Le Havre , France which resulted with the wreckage of the Dogue and the loss of two crew members.

The second one was another collision on 23 november 1933 with the american cargo ship Ohioan in the Ambrose channel. The ship was beached and refloaded three days later.

In november 1940 the us army took the boat for defense service. The United states entered in world war II in december 1941 , the Liberty was then sailing in the Pacific.

In january 1942 it left Australia to the Philippines with a cargo of railway parts and rubber.

On 11 january , the Liberty was torpedoed by the japanese submarine I-166 about 10 nautical miles (19 km) southwest of the Lombok strait. US destroyer Paul Jones and Dutch destroyer Van Ghent took the damaged ship in tow attempting to reach the harbour dutch in Singaraja on the north coast of Bali. The boat was taking too much water and they managed to beach it in Tulamben in the eastern part of Bali so that the cargo and fittings could be salvaged. The damage and presence of japanese left the ship on the beach and there it sat for 20 years.

In 1963 ,after 120 years asleep the mount Agung volcano awaked. The tremors associated to the eruption made the shipwreck to slip off the beach and resulted with the vessel lying on its side between 5 and 30 meters depth about 20 meters offshore making it one of the most accessible wreck in the world.

HIJMS Submarine I-166: Tabular Record of Movement

11 January 1942: Java Sea, 10 miles SW of the Lombok Strait. At 0415, I-66 torpedoes the 6,211-ton U.S. Army Transport LIBERTY, en route from Tanjong Priok (Batavia), carrying rubber from the NEI in her holds, and explosives originating from the Philippines as deck cargo. The heavily damaged freighter goes dead in the water at 08-54S, 115-28E. USS PAUL JONES (DD-230) and the Dutch destroyer Hr.Ms. VAN GHENT attempt to tow her to Singaraya, N Bali, but due to the steadily increasing flooding USAT LIBERTY is finally beached off Tulamben, NE Bali. She capsizes on 14 January.

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