The answer was the Liberty Ship. Using automobile assembly line practices, the ships were easy to construct and gave the United States the merchant shipping it so sorely needed. As the United States had embarked upon a two ocean war, shipping would be needed in hitherto un-dreamt of numbers. The USA had barely enough shipping to sustain peacetime operations, let alone Pacific island hopping and European support. Technology in the form of code breaking and advances in SONAR rendered the German submarine effort "contained" but the USA and her allies still needed many more ships. The Libertys and follow on Victory Class ships provided the bulk of freight movement for the allies. Reasonably armed with theatre-specific weaponry, they enabled the allies to carry the war to the axis and keep the supply chain moving. Official records vary as to how many were built. A huge glut of them were turned over to the Merchant Marine and thus escaped the normal Department Of Defense accounting, naming, etc.
Long before Liberty Ships became the most famous flavor of the month with Trumpeter and Dragon and others, Skywave produced two Liberty Ship kits. They were (and still are) expensive as the shrewd builders figured not many people would want a supply - or unarmed - ship. The Skywave kits contain virtually every armament configuration carried by the Liberty and Victory ships. This makes it easy to do the kit - RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX - as any of the Liberty Ships. The weapon sprue even contains items not used/carried by Liberty Ships so your spares box will be happy. The kit boxing portrays one of the Liberty Ships that were taken directly from the merchant organization and converted to be a troop support ship (AK). The AK's were a combination troop ship, spares, armor ship. They landed armor/weapons, their crews and support personnel and had spares and extra ammunition to keep them supplied for a set number of days. The USS Bootes (AK 99) served with distinction in the Pacific theatre.
The Bootes kit builds very quickly with no fit problems and has tons of molded-on detail which is a trademark of Skywave (and what keeps people coming back to them despite their high price tag). There are several supply ship/merchant ship aftermarket photo etch frets available from people like Tom's Modelworks and Gold Medal Models but I chose to use scraps from the spares box. I happened to have purchased one of the cargo/merchant ship photo etch sets from Gold Medal Models and had a lot of it left over. So I was able to use that sets' pullies and tackle to make the ship look pretty realistic. For my colors I used all-over US Navy World War 2 Haze Grey which is kind of a bluey grey compared to modern Haze Grey. I used the Tamiya rattle can by the way. The decals are from the kit's decal sheet which has numbers to do pretty much all of the ships. A ton of flags are included as well so that you could conceivably build a Liberty Ship from any allied operator. A large funnel is included so you could even technically do a post-war merchant ship.
This kit fills a niche that most ship modelers had been requesting for some time. Those building 1/1200th scale ships have had Liberty and Victory Ship kits for some time but nothing outside of that scale. A large handful of Liberty and Victory Ships were taken in hand and converted by the Navy to be used as ammunition (AE) and troop ships (AP and APA) so you could fullfill most of your World War two Pacific campaign diorama needs with one kit. Post war (Cold War) you can also do the civilian FBM Support Ships and remote base support ships that filled up the Navy prior to the 1970's. None (including the FBM Support Ship) would receive modern (post war) weapons. One or two Victory Ships carried the twin 20mm gun mount but most adhered to the schemes found in the box's instruction sheet. Forgot to put my ruler in the photo but the ships are a nice modest display size. Should you desire a full-hull Liberty Ship, the Trumpeter Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty Ship kit has the option pieces to do a full-hull ship.