Bookmark and Share

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

Zebulon B. Vance, USS

by Harry S. Warren, 2006

The USS Zebulon B. Vance being launched on December 6, 1941. Image from the Cape Fear Museum.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.

References:

North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Five Years of North Carolina Shipbuilding (1946).

Alan D. Watson, Wilmington: Port of North Carolina (1992).

Additional Resources:

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.

Image Credits:

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).

Comments

Comment: 

The _ZB Vance_ was also used to transport US dependents back to the States. I was on it in Sept. 1948. Sixteen and one-half days from Bemerhaven to NCY! But our experience on the ZBV was nothing like the account in the "War Bride Experience" on line. We had four to a cabin (yes, cabins) usually two fathers and two sons or two mothers and two daughters, waiter service in the dining room. No complaints except for the ship's slowness; old reciprocating engines. But happy memories!

Stanley Sandler

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. Complete guidelines are available at http://ncpedia.org/comments.

Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Grey Squirrel - Click me to return to the top of the page