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Give Me Liberty ... That Ship Docked at Pier 45

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeremiah was a bullfrog, in the song. And Jeremiah was a mountain man surnamed Johnson portrayed by Robert Redford. And Jeremiah was also an O'Brien, whose service as a naval captain in the Revolutionary War earned him the honor of having a World War II Liberty ship carry his name. That vessel, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, is permanently berthed at Pier 45 in San Francisco near Fisherman's Wharf, where it welcomes visitors on board.

Stepping on deck, visitors can get a sense of the expansive teamwork and mechanical engineering that went into its operation. Taking an approximately 90-minute self-guided tour allows visitors to view virtually every area of the ship from the flying bridge control station to the engine room. The National Liberty Ship Memorial S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien engages visitors with even more adventure when it hosts its steaming weekends. The next is scheduled for Saturday and Sept. 16, when the boilers will be "lit off" and the 2,500-horsepower main steam engine will hum along in complete operation. With all that power, the sounds of "full speed ahead" add another aspect of life on the seas, even as the massive ship remains permanently anchored.

The tour allows for a peek into the lives of the sailors whose days on this floating home were spent aiding the World War II effort by delivering supplies and troops to the shores of Normandy. Tourists can reflect on the war days and see where the men ate, take a look at where they slept and where they performed their daily jobs.

As one of only two operational Liberty ships left from the 2,751 built during the war (the other is the S.S. John W. Brown, berthed in Baltimore), the Jeremiah O'Brien is the sole survivor of the 6,939-ship armada that stormed the beaches of France at Normandy on D-Day, 1944. Liberty ships were usually manned by quickly-trained merchant seamen. The standard Liberty ship, including the Jeremiah O'Brien, was 441 feet 6 inches in length. Named for the first American to capture a British naval vessel during the Revolutionary War, the O'Brien made seven World War II voyages, ranging from England and Northern Ireland to South America, to India and Australia. The vessel also made 11 crossings of the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies. After the war, the O'Brien was "mothballed" and laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, near Benicia.

The Jeremiah O'Brien is highly aquatic like a bullfrog, at one time housed a mountain of men and is a great tour for any shipmate.

WHERE: Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

WHEN: Open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m., except for special event cruise days and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

COST: Adults $8; seniors (62 and older) $5; juniors (6-14) $4; children under 6 and Military personnel with identification are admitted free. The national memorial offers a family admission of $20.

GETTING THERE: Take Highway 580 over the Altamont Pass and continue through Oakland. Cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Take the Fremont Street exit off the bridge (right) and turn left onto Fremont. Turn right onto Howard Street and then turn left onto the Embarcadero. Continue to the Fisherman's Wharf area (Embarcadero at Taylor) and Pier 45.

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 40 minutes (MapQuest)

MORE INFORMATION: 415-544-0100, www.ssjeremiahobrien.org

Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at kaiello@modbee.com or 578-2392.

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