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Preserving History: The SS Jeremiah O’Brien and USS Pampanito at San Francisco’s Waterfront


The SS Jeremiah O’Brien and USS Pampanito stand as proud remnants of the United States’ naval efforts during World War II. The Jeremiah O’Brien is one of the last functional Liberty ships out of the 2,710 launched during the war, serving as a living museum at Pier 35. Meanwhile, the USS Pampanito, a diesel-electric powered submarine, rests at Historic Pier 45, offering insights into the life of submariners during the conflict.


The SS Jeremiah O’Brien remains historically accurate, offering visitors a chance to explore nearly the entire ship, from the engine room to the flying bridge. On Steaming Weekends, the ship’s boilers are lit, and its main engine operates, providing a rare glimpse into maritime technology of the past. The O’Brien is open for dockside tours, allowing the public to step back in time and experience naval life during WWII.

The USS Pampanito, meticulously restored to its wartime condition, serves as both a museum and a memorial. Having sunk six enemy ships and damaged four others during her six patrols in the Pacific, Pampanito’s tours offer a profound perspective on the Silent Service’s critical role in the war.

Not to be Missed

    • Engine Demonstrations on the O’Brien: Witness the power of the O’Brien’s triple-expansion steam engine in action during Steaming Weekends.
    • Audio Tours of the Pampanito: Engage with the submarine’s rich history through self-guided audio tours, offering insights into the life and achievements of its crew.
    • Historic Pier 45: Beyond the Pampanito, Pier 45 is a vibrant part of Fisherman’s Wharf, full of history and maritime heritage to explore.

Location and Visiting Information

Why You Should Visit

Visiting the SS Jeremiah O’Brien and USS Pampanito offers more than just a history lesson; it’s an immersive experience into the courage, innovation, and spirit of those who served during World War II. These vessels not only highlight the strategic importance of naval power but also honor the memory of the Silent Service. Their preservation as living museums ensures that future generations can appreciate the sacrifices made for freedom.

Did You Know?

    • The SS Jeremiah O’Brien made voyages to Normandy for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, demonstrating its operational legacy.
    • The USS Pampanito hosts a “sleepover” program, allowing visitors to experience life aboard a WWII submarine firsthand.
    • Liberty ships like the O’Brien were constructed in an assembly-line fashion, a revolutionary process that significantly sped up shipbuilding during the war.

Exploring the decks of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien and the narrow confines of the USS Pampanito offers a tangible connection to the past. These vessels are not just static displays; they are vibrant testimonies to the resilience and ingenuity of those who fought at sea. Their presence on San Francisco’s waterfront is a tribute to the city’s maritime heritage and a compelling reason for anyone interested in history, naval warfare, or the spirit of adventure to visit.


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