Victory Ship Production
In 1943, the US Maritime Commission embarked on a program to design new types of emergency fleet ships, most importantly fast cargo vessels, to replace the slower Liberty ships. The standardized design adopted by the Commission called for a ship 445 feet long by 63 feet wide and made of steel. On April 28, 1943, the new ships were given the name "Victory" and designated the VC2 type (V for Victory type, C for cargo, and 2 for a medium sized ship between 400 and 450 feet long at the waterline).
In spring 1943 Richmond Shipyards #1 and #2 were awarded contracts for construction of AP1s. It was still not known if turbines would be available. There was some opposition to building Victorys in yards that were already building Liberty ships. Objections had to do with the unresolved engine situation and fear that discontinuing Libertys would decrease production rates. Contracts to build Victory ships were held up while members of the War Production Board and Maritime Commission argued over engines. Meanwhile, representatives of the turbine manufacturers met to work out a standardized design for turbines. General characteristics of a standardized "Victory" turbine were agreed upon in early May 1943, and plans for using other engines were dropped.
The War Production Board continued to oppose shipyard conversion to Victorys as Libertys were easiest to produce in quantity. The Maritime Commission, proponent of the Victory ship, argued that due to its faster speed, Victorys would be able to make more round trips per year and thus have a greater annual cargo-carrying capacity. These differing points of view were complicated by personal rivalries within the highest ranks of the shipbuilding agencies. In August 1943 the Joint Chiefs of Staff stepped in with a decision in favor of building faster ships over more, slower ships. The controversy had, however, resulted in delay of the delivery of the first Victory ships until 1944.
The first Victory ship completed was the SS United Victory (built at Oregon Shipbuilding, Portland, OR), launched on January 12, 1944 and delivered February 28. The next 33 ships were named after member countries of the United Nations (e.g., SS Brazil Victory and SS U.S.S.R. Victory [both built by California Shipbuilding Corporation, Los Angeles, CA], and SS Haiti Victory [built by Permanente Metals Corporation, yard 1, Richmond, CA]). The ships that followed were named for cities and towns in the United States (e.g., SS Ames Victory [built by Oregon Shipbuilding], SS Las Vegas Victory [built by Permanente Metals Corporation, yard 1] and SS Zanesville Victory [built by Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards, Inc., Baltimore, MD]) and for American colleges and universities (e.g., SS Adelphi Victory and SS Yale Victory [both built by Permanente Metals Corporation, yard 2]). All of the ships' names ended with the suffix "Victory" with the exception of the 117 Victory Attack Transports that were named after state counties.
In all, during the war years, the Maritime Commission built 414 Victory cargo ships and 117 Victory attack transports, designated as VC2-S-AP5 ships, for a total of 531 vessels. The majority of the 531 built, 272 vessels, were VC2-S-AP2, with 6,000-hp., followed by 141 VC-S-AP3, 8,500-hp vessels and one of the VC2-M-AP4, diesel-powered type. As the war ended in August 1945, the Commission canceled contracts for an additional 132 vessels. Three Victory ships, two AP3s and one AP5, were completed in 1946 as VC2-S1-AP7 ships, modified as post-war passenger and cargo carriers by the Alcoa Steamship Co. of New York. The total number of Victory hulls built in the United States was 534.
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