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Victory Ships

The 1944 Victory Ship RED OAK VICTORY is one of 414 Victories built during World War II, and the only remaining Victory ship built in Richmond outside the Reserve Fleets. Two other Victory ships are afloat outside Reserve Fleets, the SS Lane Victory in San Pedro, California, and the SS American Victory, in Tampa, Florida. The Lane Victory is a National Historic Landmark.

Victory Ship SS American Victory

The SS American Victory was launched on June 20, 1945 at the California Shipbuilding Corporation yards in Los Angeles, California. The ship was named after American University in Washington, D.C. in honor of the school's contribution to war training and weapons research in both World War I and World War II. The ship's first voyage was in July 1945 carrying military supplies to Manila, Philippines.

After the war, the ship was used by the American Export Lines carrying cargo in support of the Marshall Plan, a U.S. economic diplomacy plan to help rebuild Western Europe after the war. On one of its many voyages, the American Victory was caught by ice in Odessa, Russia. Rather than wait for an ice breaker to clear the shipping lanes, the captain of the American Victory used her to break the ice!

In 1947, the American Victory was put into the reserve fleet. In 1952, the ship was brought out of "mothballs" to carry military supplies in support of the Korean conflict. After the Korean War, she was again sent to the reserve fleet. In 1963, the Navy planned to convert 15 Victory ships, among them the American Victory, as forward depot ships. These ships would be loaded with supplies and ammunition and placed around the world to support American troops if needed. However, the Navy canceled the plan in 1966 and that same year, the American Victory was again brought out of "mothballs" to support the Vietnam War. She carried military vehicles, telephone poles, explosives, and bombs.

In 1969, she was again put in the reserve fleet. In 1999, the American Victory was acquired by a preservation group and turned into a museum in Tampa, FL.

Victory Ship SS Lane Victory

The SS Lane Victory was built by the California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles. She was launched on May 31, 1945. The ship was named for Lane College, which was established as a high school for black youths in 1882 by Isaac Lane, a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Jackson, Tennessee. The school grew into a prominent liberal arts college. On her first voyage, June 27, 1945, the ship carried supplies in the Pacific. She was operated by American President Lines.

In 1950, the Lane Victory was used to evacuate Korean civilians and U.N. personnel at Wonsan, South Korea during the Korean War. The ship also saw duty during the Vietnam War. In 1970, the ship was placed in the reserve fleet. Because of her excellent condition, the Maritime Administration decided to set aside the Lane Victory for preservation. In 1988, the Lane Victory was acquired by the U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II and turned into a museum in San Pedro, CA. In 1990, the ship was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Victory Ship SS Red Oak Victory

The SS Red Oak Victory was built by the Permanente Metals Corporation, Shipbuilding Division Yard 1 in Richmond, California, across the bay from San Francisco. Her keel was laid August 15, 1944 and she was launched November 9, 1944. She is one of the last ships built by the Richmond Shipyard during World War II. The ship was named after the community of Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered the highest per capita casualty rate of any American community during World War II. On December 5, 1944, she was commissioned as the USS Red Oak Victory (AK-235) for the the U.S. Navy to be used as an ammunition carrier.

RED OAK VICTORY was built in Kaiser's Richmond Shipyard Number One, and launched on November 9, 1944. She was named for the town of Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered the highest per capita casualty rate of any American community during World War II. RED OAK VICTORY is unique in having served as a navy ship as well as a merchant ship. She is the last remaining of only ten ships ordered by the US Maritime Commission to be built for use of the US Navy as an ammunition ship. She was commissioned as the USS RED OAK VICTORY, AK235, on December 5, 1944.

Following a fitting out period, after sea trials, she was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on January 10, 1945. She loaded over 10,000 tons of ammunition from the Port Chicago Ammunition Depot, Concord, California and departed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She then began her career as an ammunition ship and departed Hawaii on February 10 loaded with munitions needed in the Marshall and Caroline Islands. She steamed to a remote area of the South Pacific called Ulithi Atoll where the world's largest formation of Allied forces had amassed for the invasion of Japan. Sent onward from Eniwetoc, she arrived in Ulithi on February 28, 1945 and then began operating under Commander Service Squadron Ten. From March to May 1945, the USS Red Oak Victory (AK-235) replenished numerous vessels of the Pacific fleet. From June to October 1945, she supported the liberation of the Philippine Islands. Operating out of the Philippines, she issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During her hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, USS RED OAK VICTORY handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty. She was decommissioned on May 21, 1946 and returned to the US Maritime Commission.

SS RED OAK VICTORY operated in 1947, and again between 1950 and 1953, for the Luckenback Steamship Company. She made two 1947 voyages, one from Portland, Oregon, to Anchorage, Alaska, early in the year, and another voyage that began on September 1. In 1951 the ship made one trip to Japan and Korea. In 1952, she departed San Francisco for several trips to the Gulf ports of Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, and Havana, Cuba. The last of these voyages was in November 1953.

The ship's official log shows a 1957 voyage to Pakistan, India, Singapore and Japan. According to cargo records, RED OAK VICTORY was operated by American Mail Lines for the Military Sea Transport Service from December 1965 until December 1968. She made a dozen voyages to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines carrying military supplies loaded at West Coast ports. From 1968 until 1998, she was laid up in the Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, California. RED OAK VICTORY was preserved in the "mothball" fleet at Suisun Bay, thus its integrity of material is exceptionally high.

Doomed to be scrapped, the RED OAK VICTORY came to the attention of the Richmond Museum Association in 1993. They recognized that the vessel provided a unique opportunity to return a potent symbol of Richmond's past to the waterfront. Congressman George Miller was approached, and in 1996 Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the ship to the Museum Association. It has been designated a National Memorial Ship by the Maritime Commission. She was turned over to the Richmond Museum of History and returned to her new home in Richmond on September 20, 1998.

The Richmond Museum Association worked to restore her original operational launch condition. The City of Richmond granted the RED OAK VICTORY a temporary berth at Terminal One in the Port of Richmond, where restoration efforts are proceeded. The Museum Board of Directors worked with the City toward establishing a permanent home for the ship on the City's shoreline. The rehabilitation efforts primarily involved surface improvements and cleaning and overhauling of equipment, which also retains integrity of workmanship. The excellent condition of the RED OAK VICTORY insureds that the vessel conveys a superb sense of the past and will provide an invaluable site for interpreting the period of significance.

Today, the Red Oak Victory is an integral part and a primary center of interpretation of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. She features fully restored elements from the period of significance as well as museum space and event facilities for public use where the public can experience as well as see this historic artifact. Regarding integrity of design, modifications to the interior and exterior space have been minimal, consisting mainly of removal of wartime guns, conversion of crew quarters from metal pipe bunks of six per room to wooden berths of two per room, and addition of radar and radio equipment over 22 years' post-war service as a merchant ship.

Also nationally significant and associated with the RED OAK VICTORY are the employee welfare practices instituted by Kaiser Corporation in the management of its shipyards. These include extension of union jobs to African Americans, development of a diverse workforce to include women, Asians, and Mexican Americans, provision of transportation to and from work, and 24-hour child care. Most notable is the pre-paid Kaiser Permanente Health Plan for workers, precursor to today's HMOs.

The S.S. RED OAK VICTORY retains all major distinctive characteristics of a Victory class vessel constructed to serve in WWII. The vessel has national significance and meets NHL Criterion 1 (and National Register Criterion A), because of her association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history. The RED OAK VICTORY story contributes to the NHL "WWII in the Pacific" theme as a warship and as a site. She was one of ten "Boulder Class" Victory ships specially designed and commissioned by the US Navy to serve as an ammunition vessel during WWII.

The RED OAK VICTORY was built and will be permanently berthed in Richmond, California, near the site of the Kaiser Corporation's massive shipyard complex. Construction and operation of these shipyards, where 747 vessels were built from 1941-1945, transformed the community of Richmond, California. Richmond's story mirrors that of the nation as it mobilized to fight WWII on the home front.

The vessel meets NHL Criterion 4 (National Register Criterion C), embodying distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction. It is a product of the revolutionary innovations in shipbuilding techniques developed by the US Maritime Commission to meet wartime production necessities of the Emergency Shipbuilding Program and realized in Kaiser's West Coast shipyards.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:43:28 ZULU