‘In the tradition of Studs Terkel, Tony Cope has written of the men and women who came to Savannah to build Liberty Ships as part of the war effort. Carrying their lunch pails, and, God forbid, women wearing overalls, they waited at bus stops and corners for rides to take them on the swing shift and into history. A highly enjoyable read and valuable contribution to Savannah’s proud literary legacy.’
—Julius “Boo” Hornstein, author of Sites and Sounds of Savannah Jazz
‘Tony Cope has awakened a sleeping giant of Savannah history. This book fills a literary gap and memorializes the City’s contribution to victory in World War II. It is a fascinating collection of memories from men and women who at the start participated in a project they knew nothing about. Tony Cope has indeed done his homework and I commend it highly.’
—Frank W. Seiler, Attorney and author of Damn Good Dogs! The Real Story of UGA, the University of Georgia’s Bulldog Mascots
‘In less than four years our grandparents learned how to build ships to deliver the necessary supplies to our troops to defeat Nazi Germany. On the Swing Shift is a great tribute to the workers in Savannah, Georgia, and tells the story of the men and women who worked tirelessly when the nation was in need—bringing to light the vital importance of the Liberty Ships and the role they played in the United States winning the war.’
—Congressman Jack Kingston, 1st District of Georgia
Review (excerpt) from The Nautilus: A Maritime Journal of Literature, History and Culture, 2010:
On The Swing Shift is a worthy memorial to the significant role that Liberty shops and the people who built them played in the war effort. In a vibrant and colorful compilation of personal anecdotes and historical information from letters and legal documents, Tony Cope has manged to bring back to life Savannah’s contribution to World War II.
Cope digs deeply into the social fabric of the shipyard workforce. The hight demand for workers resulted in active recruitment of women, African American, people from rural communities, and the elderly. Interviews portray a variety of viewpoints about the new social scenario where woment took on tasks not only as secretaries and clerks, but also as welders, shipfitters, crane operators, burners and pipefitters.
Unlike women, the experience of African Amerians in the shipyard was a mirror image of the segregated South, and they were not allowed to rise above the role of custodians or menial laborers. Cope comments insightfully on the irony of a segregated workplace, yet it seemed as if workers of different creeds, colors and genders came together enthusiastically to cheer ship launchings and express strong sentiments about defeating the enemy.
The book provides an encyclopedic wealth of useful and etailed information for the maritime scholar. [It] is enjoyable and easy to read, filled with local information about Savannah and the city’s contributions to Europe’s wartime needs. It is is well organized and referenced, and the writing style is appealing and down to earth.
The author’s sincerity and insider knowledge of the topic, as a resident of the city and product of the World War II era, are clearly evident. This is a highly recommended book for history scholars and the general public, especially those interested in the social history of the southeast during the 1940s.
Lynn Harris, Assistant Professor in the Program in Maritime Studies of the History Department as East Carolina University, has a research interest in the southeastern shipyards from colonial times onwards.
Review from Military Officer Magazine, August 2010:
‘Tony Cope gives us a bird’s eye view of a sprawling WWII shipyard with all its complexities and color from the assembly to launching to war. A great read for the layman or professional.’
—Joseph O. Saseen, former shipyard worker and past member of the Savannah Port Authority
‘With this meticulously researched account, Tony Cope has made a significant contribution to local and regional history. This book gives an accurate, readable account of a major contribution to the winning of World War II by the people who built Liberty Ships in Savannah.’
—Walter C. Hartridge, Lawyer and Preservationist
Building the ‘Victory Fleet’.. Weapons win battles and, ultimately, wars. Or so we are led to believe. The Welsh longbow at Agincourt destroyed the flower of French Chivalry. British broadsides brought naval supremacy while the machine gun made up for inferior numbers in Europe’s colonial wars. As Hilaire Belloc observed: “Whatever happens we have got the Maxim gun and they have not.” The Spitfire helped win the Battle of Britain and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan to surrender in World War II. But there’s more to winning wars than weapon systems. As Field Marshall Rommel may or may not have observed: “good generals study tactics; great ones study logistics.” Men must be maneuvered and materiel moved–often over vast distances. Armies that outrun their baggage trains risk being overrun themselves. Tony Cope’s splendid account of Savannah’s contribution to the construction of Liberty Ships is a reminder that a nation’s war-winning capability is not just about weaponry. Depth charges and bombs may have played their part in destroying Hitler’s U-boat packs and winning the Battle of the Atlantic, but it was the Liberty Ships–built in prodigious numbers in record time–that allowed the Allies to assemble and equip the armies that would land successfully in Normandy on D-Day and go on to win the war in Europe. “On the Swing Shift” is not the definitive history of the Liberty Ship, but it is a meticulously researched account of how one corner of Georgia contributed to the maritime war effort, bringing to life the people who helped build the “victory fleet” that made victory possible. As Cope points out, today there is no monument in Savannah to the shipyard and people who built the ships or the men who sailed in them, even though the city saw proportionately more of its sons killed in the merchant marine than any other seaport. Perhaps this book can go some way to filling that gap. It’s also a great read.
- Christopher Redman (London, UK), September 24, 2009
Your wonderful book arrived today and the information in it is both exciting and welcome to this old historian. I am delighted that you chose to write about the human side of a wartime shipyard. I love the book and it will occupy a place of pride in my library. I wish you great success as anyone interested in ships should have a copy in their library.- Bill Hultgren, Maritime Historian
What a book! A sleepy coastal city in Georgia, a shipyard yet to be built, workers with little experience in building anything – let alone large steel-hulled ships – all caught up in a high-stakes struggle against time and Nazi U-boats. It’s a story about the early days of World War II and the cargo fleet the nation needs but doesn’t have; a history of the men and women who undertake a miracle and make it happen – told in their own words. Set against the social background of a nation still staggering from the Depression, still uncertain about women in the workplace – still segregated, black from white, it’s a terrific tale and it’s all there – all true – in “On the Swing Shift”. In Cope’s skillful reconstruction, it’s a compelling, heartening read. Highly recommended. -Wilton Buckley
Review from The Nautical Magazine (Glasgow), March 2010
[extract] “…I really did enjoy this book, as it combines more than your normal book on this subject. It not only includes all the ships, but involves the people who built them, and also the crew who sailed them and, most importantly, names all of the vessels built. An excellent publication and second to none! I have come across books on Liberty ships before, but never one that contains all the vessels from one specific yard. Thoroughly recommended and a great read.”