SHIPPING: Ugly Ducklings

World War I caught the U. S. with a miserable little merchant fleet of 430 cargo and passenger ships. Foreign bottoms carried over 90% of U. S. overseas trade. When the Allies set up a cry for ships to offset U-boat sinkings in early 1917, the U. S. responded with its Bridge of Ships. The program, carried out by the U. S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corp., built 2,316 ships—the biggest, fastest shipbuilding program ever undertaken.

Nub of the emergency program was Hog Island, on the Delaware River just below Philadelphia. There rose the world's largest shipyard: 250 buildings, 80...

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