Zebulon B. Vance, USS
The USS Zebulon B. Vance was launched in Wilmington  on 6 Dec. 1941, one day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At the ceremony, North Carolina governor J. Melville Broughton  proclaimed, "As we salute this ship and launch it today, we shall have a proud part in the overthrow of the aggressor who seeks to dominate the entire world." A few minutes later he and 13,000 other North Carolinians watched the ship splash into the Cape Fear River .
Named for the state's legendary Civil War  and Reconstruction  governor , the Vance represented the first of 125 Liberty ships  built in Wilmington during World War II . The North Carolina Shipbuilding Company , a subsidiary of Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company , began constructing a shipyard on the Cape Fear River's east side in February 1941. In 1944 the Truman Committee (created to study defense-related contracts) reported that the North Carolina yard produced vessels at "the lowest average cost per ship . . . of any of the 16 yards building Liberty ships in 1943."
The Vance measured 441.5 feet long and was 56 feet wide at the beam. Its gross tonnage of 7,177 drew 27 feet of water; powered by a 2,500-HP engine, the Vance could reach a running speed of 11 to 14 knots. The ship had quarters for 44 officers and enlisted men but "none for passengers." Construction costs were estimated at $1.5 million.
For most of the war the Vance served as a freighter. It survived floating mines and a near miss by a torpedo and took part in the invasion of North Africa. Near the war's end the Vance was converted into a hospital ship and renamed the USS John J. Meany. After the war it was transferred to the Army Transportation Corps and once again named the Zebulon B. Vance. The vessel was used to convey British and other war brides to the United States.
North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Five Years of North Carolina Shipbuilding (1946).
Alan D. Watson, Wilmington: Port of North Carolina (1992).
Eugene, Chris. Historic Wilmington & Lower Cape Fear. San Antonio, Texas: Historical Publishing Network Books. 2007. p 54. http://books.google.com/books?id=vj0nzrKg0QMC&lpg=PA54&ots=SJnsrvXrYP&dq=%22USS%20Zebulon%20B.%20Vance%22&pg=PA54#v=onepage&q=%22USS%20Zebulon%20B.%20Vance%22&f=false 
Vonstrahl, Joyce Bryan. "Horrors on board the Zebulon B. Vance." The American War Bride Experience. http://uswarbrides.com/bride_stories/jvonstrahl.html 
Crabtree, Beth G. "The Zebulon B. Vance: A United States Liberty Ship ." Raleigh, N.C.: State Department of Archives and History. 1956.
Pennington, James C. ("Skinny"). "Launching of the Zebulon B. Vance by Pennington's Flying Service December 6, 1941." Wilmington, N.C. December 6, 1941. University of North Carolina Wilmington's William M. Randall Library and the Cape Fear Museum. http://library.uncw.edu/capefearww2/veWebDailyLife/exhibit5/e50004a.htm  (accessed October 11, 2012).
1 January 2006 | Warren, Harry S.