Ugly Ducklings: Japan's WW II Liberty Type Standard Ships


180 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55125-057-8
DDC 387.2'45'095209044






Reviewed by Gordon C. Shaw

Gordon C. Shaw is professor emeritus in the Faculty of Administrative
Studies at York University.


Ugly Ducklings tells the story of the “Type A” cargo ships that were
built by the Japanese government in and after 1943 as an emergency
measure to replace World War II losses. These ships, even more basic
than the U.S.-built Liberty ships (which were cheap to build and
notoriously unstable in high seas), were designed for fast, mass
production at minimal cost. They were strictly work horses, lacking any
refinements of naval architecture.

The Japanese merchant marine suffered the heaviest losses of any of the
World War II belligerents: only 43 of the 140 Type A ships survived by
1945. After the war, these 43 ships were used to bring food and other
essential supplies to the devastated Japanese people. The ships were
later replaced by new tonnage of specialized and efficient designs.

In addition to providing the history of each of the 140 ships and
describing their role in the broader history of the pre- and post-war
Japanese merchant marine, the author relates his personal memories of
ending the war in Japan and of his subsequent dealing with the surviving
“Ugly Ducklings” The book is well written and includes a good
bibliography and index.


Heal, S.C., “Ugly Ducklings: Japan's WW II Liberty Type Standard Ships,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,