A Liberty Ship Museum Near Athens Greece
I admit I have a special fondness for these WWII antiques having spent over two years at sea on one. So I was really surprised and pleased to find one set up as a museum in Piraeus harbor.
During World War II American shipyards launched almost three thousand Liberty Ships. These amazing cargo ships played a major role in winning the war by shipping ammunition, troops, food and military equipment across the Atlantic. This class of cargo ship was built in the United States from a British design for its simple, low-cost construction. Mass-produced on an unprecedented scale, the Liberty Ships came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial might.
When the job was done and the war ended all those cargo ships were seen by some as a huge business opportunity. Put up for auction nobody took better advantage of them than Greek shipping companies and a number of Greek families became very rich as a result.
One Liberty Ship built by the California Shipbuilding Corporation in 1943 was bought at auction in January 1947 and registered in Piraeus, Greece. This ship, one of almost one hundred bought by Greek companies remained in service until 1967 when it was retired. Restored it now it sits tied up to a pier in Piraeus harbor as a floating maritime museum.
A few other of these ships still survive restored as floating museums. Today in the United States, only three remain intact, the John W. Brown, docked at Baltimore, the Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco and the American Freedom in Tampa Bay.
If you find yourself in the Athen’s port city with some free time, pay a visit to the fourth, the Hellas Liberty. She’s well maintained, has a number of historic exhibits and admission is free. A great way to spend an hour going back in time.
Hellenic Maritime Museum In Piraeus, Greece
Another museum worth a visit while in Piraeus is next to the Marina Zeas (the Piraeus small boat harbor). Another jewel of a museum, the Hellenic Maritime Museum celebrates Greece’s impressive naval past from antiquity to the 20th century. This modern building sitting at the mouth of the marina has exhibits that include miniature vessels, naval instruments, weapons, furniture, and wonderful paintings, maps and engravings. One section of the museum is devoted to the private collection of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, a trove of sea-related treasures that once adorned his extravagant yacht, the Christina.