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The Ghost Ships of the National Defense Reserve Fleet

1950s | December 10, 2017

After World War II, the US established the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) – a fleet of vessels that serve as a reserve of ships for national defense and national emergency purposes.

The fleet was mostly merchant vessels that can be activated within 20 to 120 days to provide shipping during military or non-military national emergencies. At its height in 1950, the NDRF consisted of 2,277 ships at eight anchorage sites: James River, Virginia; Beaumont, Texas; Suisun Bay, California; Stony Point, New York; Wilmington, North Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; Astoria, Oregon; and Olympia, Washington.

Out of the original eight, only the first three remains today. Years of neglect and disuse have turned these ships into near wrecks. As of April 30, 2014, only 122 vessels are left in the NDRF, and their numbers are reducing still.

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