SS Red Oak Victory

One of the first activities undertaken by the War Shipping Administration, called to live in United States in the year 1942, was to design a modern-type transport vessel.

The project arose in the construction company Bethlehem Steel, a giant of the steel industry, one of the symbols of American leadership in the field of industry. Only during the World War II, the company built more than 1,100 vessels and warships. The constructors documented the service of cargo ships in the first half of the war and in 1943 they prepared a project of mass transport ship. The designers already thought about the end of the war and the exploitation of ships after the end of the world conflict, so they based their design on the Liberty type vessels. After improving the mentioned construction, the Victory class cargo ships were born. Initially, they were designed as type EC2-S-AP1 (Emergency Cargo, type 2, S = steam propulsion, with AP1 = one propeller). From the 28th of April, 1943, it began to be known as the Victory Ship.

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The ships were designed to allow their mass production. It was necessary due to a heavy loss in the trade tonnage suffered as a result of the German U-Boots. Victory type vessels were more than four meters longer and almost two meters wider than their ancestors; also their capacity was a 1,000 tons greater. The hull was welded, not riveted. They also received more powerful power plant which improved the maximum by six knots. Thanks to this, they were able to sail in fast convoys and were harder to hunt for U-Boots. Higher speed was achieved by application of steam turbines, high-pressure engines or Lentz steam engines with power from 6,000 to 8,500 KM. The theoretical lines of the hull were improved too. Although the project was completed in May 1943, the mass production began few months later. The industry had to have time to prepare for the large-scale production of turbines, which were mainly produced for navy warships. To avoid cracks of the hull on a large oceanic waves, the distances between the hull frames were enlarged by 15 cm.

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Thanks to that the hull was less rigid and the ship’s viability significantly increased. The Victory type ships had a characteristic silhouette: forecastle, high funnel and three masts. The hull consisted of five cargo holds: No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 with the capacity of 2,000 m3 each, No. 3 with a capacity of 3,855 m3 and No. 4 with a capacity of 2,800 m3. The ship was equipped with a rich set of hoists: masts, transloading booms, davits and electric cargo winches and was able to load and unload cargo without the help of port facilities.

 

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The armament, standard for military transport vessels, consisted of one 5-inch gun (cal. 127 mm/38) located on the stern, one 3-inch gun (cal. 76.2 mm/50) located on the bow, and eight Oerlikon AA guns caliber 20 mm, distributed per four on each side. The crew consisted of 62 trade fleet sailors and 28 navy sailors to operate the armament.
Victory type ships were built in six shipyards (five on the West Coast and one on the East – Baltimore) under the Emergency Shipbuilding Program. The use of sectional technology allowed to shorten the construction time of one ship to 40 days. The first ship of the series was the SS “United Victory”, the keel of which was laid on November 19, 1943, at the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation. She was launched on January 12, 1944, and on February 28, 1944, the ship was completed. She started its service in March the same year. During the first six months, 15 ships of this type were produced. The main batch of the ships was created when the war in Europe was over and the Allies won the Battle of the Atlantic, so none of the new transporters fell victim to the U-Boots. In the Pacific, they were used as fast landing craft and amphibious vehicle transporters. Three ships were sunk as a result of the Japanese kamikaze attacks in April 1945. Another 117 ships served as Haskell type transports (APA – Auxiliary Personnel, Attack). They were classic US Navy combat transporters, in addition to vehicles and soldiers, they carried various types of amphibious vehicles. Each ship could carry 1,500 soldiers with weapons, vehicles and equipment. Two such transporters could carry an entire regiment of marines from the World War II period. They were named after the counties of the United States with the exception of one USS “Marvin H. McIntyre” (in honour of President Roosevelt’s deceased personal adviser).

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The first Victory ship was named “United Victory”, and the next 34 units were named after the countries of the anti-Nazi coalition, incl. “Poland Victory”, “Norway Victory”, “American Victory”). Two hundred eighteen ships were named after American cities, e.g.: “Red Oak Victory”, “Las Vegas Victory”, “Kodiak Victory”, “Baton Rouge Victory”, which suffered the greatest losses among American cities per capita during the war. Another 150 ships were named after colleges and universities. The rest were given fairly random names, but all contained the word “Victory”. A number of ships were built in Canadian and British shipyards. Instead of Victory, they had the addition “park” or “fort” at the end of the name.

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Immediately after the victory, the US Navy carried out the last major operation of World War II, the “Magic Carpet”, which brought millions of American soldiers home from the West Pacific. In addition to all Haskell ships, 97 Victory type transporters took part in the operation, and their holds were rebuilt for the needs of transported soldiers. Each of these ships carried 1,600 soldiers in appropriately adapted holds, where bunk beds and hammocks were installed, and wardrobes and exercise rooms were added.
Soon the “Cold War” began and the Victory ships were needed again. Thirty six transporters of this type were mobilized for service during the Korean War. One of them – “Meredith Victory” – took aboard 14,000 Korean refugees and delivered them to Geoje Island, saving them from the enemy. One hundred Victory ships returned to service during the Vietnam War. One of these – the “Baton Rouge Victory” – hit a mine in the Mekong Delta in August 1966.

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A large number (approximately 170) of the ships were sold to private shipowners. Designed for 5-year service, they turned out to be quite long-lived. Good quality of workmanship meant that they were used for many years for various purposes. Primarily as freighters, but a few were converted into passenger or hydrographic ships. One of the latter, “Dutton”, helped locate the lost hydrogen bomb after the 1966 B-52 strategic bomber crash over Palomares. The SS “Kingsport Victory” has been converted into the world’s first satellite communications vessel. Six units of this type were converted into supply ships for strategic nuclear submarines. The last ship of this type was withdrawn from the Reserve Fleet only in 2010.

 

 

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