The armament carried aboard the JOHN W. BROWN in World War II included:
3-inch/50 caliber gun in the bow;
5-inch/38 caliber gun and two 3-inch/50 caliber guns in the stern; and
20mm anti-aircraft guns, two of which flanked the 3-inch/50 bow gun, four
more were in gun tubs at the corners of the flying bridge, and two were in elevated gun
platforms on the port and starboard after deck.
The number and power of the defensive weapons aboard JOHN W. BROWN are greater
than that found on most Liberty ships. Because the BROWN carried troops as well as
cargo, she was equipped with additional weapons compared with merchant ships that
carried cargo only. A cargo-carrying Liberty ship would typically have had one
5-inch/38 caliber gun in the stern, one 3-inch/50 caliber gun in the bow, and eight
20mm guns positioned at several places around the ship.
The guns on the JOHN W. BROWN, and on other U.S. and Allied merchant ships during
World War II, were manned by a detachment of men of the
U.S. Navy Armed Guard. In some cases members of the merchant marine crews
assisted the Armed Guard gun crews. A typical Armed Guard detachment on most merchant
ships would have included one officer and about 26 enlisted men, most of whom served
as gunners. (Others would have been radio operators and signalmen.) The Armed Guard
detachment on JOHN W. BROWN was somewhat larger due to the additional weaponry on the
vessel due to its service as a troop transport.
The guns on JOHN W. BROWN are not original to the ship. Project Liberty Ship
obtained the guns as surplus from the Navy during the restoration of the ship beginning
in 1988. Several of the guns can be mock-fired using propane during
Living History Cruises.