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SS Red Oak Victory, now a museum ship.
Class overview
Name: Victory ship
Builders: 6 shipyards in the US
Planned: 615
Completed: 534
Cancelled: 81
Preserved: 3
General characteristics
Class and type: Cargo ship
Displacement: 15,200 tons[2] (at 28-foot draft)[1]
Length: 455 ft (138.7 m)[1]
Beam: 62 ft (18.9 m)[1]
Draft: 28 ft (8.5 m)[1]
Depth of hold: 38 ft (11.6 m)[1]
  • oil-fired boilers
  • steam engine
  • single screw
Speed: 15–17 knots (28–31 km/h)

The Victory ship was a class of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace losses caused by German submarines. They were a more modern design compared to the earlier Liberty ship, were slightly larger and had more powerful steam turbine engines giving higher speed to allow participation in high speed convoys and make them more difficult targets for German U-boats. A total of 531 Victory ships were built.[3][4]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • How A Cargo Ship Helped Win WW2: The Liberty Ship Story
  • SS Lane Victory Engine Room Tour


In the frigid autumn of 1940, hundreds of cargo ships travel across the Atlantic. It's a desperate effort to keep Britain supplied in its war effort against Nazi Germany. But they're being decimated by enemy ships and submarines. In 1940 alone, Germany will sink over 1,000 Allied ships. Britain is at risk of being starved of supplies. The Allies response is brutally simple. Find a way to build thousands of cargo ships and build them faster than Germany can ever hope to sink them. In just four years, America will construct over 2,700 Liberty class cargo ships and each will be built not in months, but mere weeks. Some in a matter of days. These ugly and hastily built ships will be loaded to the brim and sent overseas. And they're going to help the Allies win the war. By late 1940, much of Europe had fallen to Nazi Germany and the British Commonwealth now stood alone in its fight. But the island nation was being starved of much-needed supplies for its war effort. German U-boats,warships and aircraft were inflicting heavy losses to incoming shipping traffic, sinking ships faster than Britain could replace them. The United States, although not yet at war, was playing a vital role in supplying Britain in its war effort. And its enormous industrial capacity was critical to helping Britain stay in the fight. But with Germany sinking ships daily, Britain and America desperately needed a way to keep all that war material moving. The problem was, in the entire decade prior, America had only built a couple dozen ships. So at the start of 1941, US President Franklin Roosevelt announces the emergency shipbuilding program. It'll be an enormous effort to produce ships on an unprecedented scale. But to do that, they'll need to build a special kind of ship. Dreadful looking objects. That's how President Roosevelt described Liberty ships when he first saw their design. Time magazine nicknamed them ugly ducklings.They're not much to look at and from a design standpoint there's also really nothing remarkable about them. With 10,000 tons of cargo capacity, they are a large ship for the day, but they're also obsolete. Their design is 60 years old. Based off a British ship built in the 19th century, they're powered by an antiquated compound steam engine. They're under powered. If the Atlantic seas are rough enough and moving in the wrong direction, a Liberty might not be able to move forward at all. Most liberties were given like defenses a 3-inch bow gun and a four or five inch stern gun along with anti-aircraft weaponry. They were crewed by 45 volunteer Merchant Mariner and one or two dozen Navy armed guard. But in reality, the heroic men who served aboard these ships were vulnerable and paid a heavy price. But Liberty ships aren't remarkable for their capabilities out at sea. The history they made was in how they were built. Their design is deliberately basic. Because that's what's going to allow for thousands to be built, with most being constructed in just a few weeks. Liberty ships aren't expected to last. They're engineered lifespan is only five years. But if a Liberty Ship can make just one single trip across the ocean with cargo, well that's a success worth the two million dollar price tag. That's how desperate the situation was. The task of constructing Liberty ships will be assigned to 18 shipyards to spread across the coastal United States and they'll soon be producing Liberty ships at an incredible rate. By 1943, these shipyards will launch a new ship on average every eight hours. There's two revolutionary changes in shipbuilding that'll make this enormous feed possible. The first is welding. Up until this point, almost all ships were built by riveting pieces together, a slow process requiring skill and physical strength. but Liberty ships workforce would not be skilled. Most would be plucked off farms and nearly a third would be women. Welding would drastically speed up the assembly process. The second revolutionary step will bring assembly line logic to the shipbuilding industry. Instead of building a ship from start to finish, thousands of components will be manufactured at the same time, at different locations and then brought to the shipyard for final assembly. Where it used to take six months to construct a Liberty sized ship, by 1944 it was taking on average only 42 days. And shipyards would compete to see how fast they could build them. One yard would finish a Liberty in a month and another would break this record, doing it in just three weeks. Then in November of 1942, the Richmond shipyards in California managed to build a Liberty in just four days and fifteen hours. And then it broke in two. Okay, so not that particular Liberty ship, but some early liberties did literally break in half. These ships were notorious for developing serious structural cracks. You see, welding instead of riveting meant that cracks could easily spread throughout the hall. Revolutionary changes in shipbuilding meant there were some kinks to work out. Out at sea, Liberty ships were vulnerable not because they lacked serious defensive weaponry, but because they were slow. Convoys of Liberty ships numbering 50 or 60 would lumber along at just 10 miles per hour. At full emergency speed, a Liberty Ship could push 13 miles per hour. Maybe. But a surfaced German U-boat could do 20 miles per hour. And that made Liberty's easy prey, especially at night. To improve the odds, Liberty ships were guarded by escorts. More vulnerable liberties, those loaded with munitions or fuel, would travel at the center of the formation. But serving on a Liberty was dangerous and stressful and hundreds were sunk or critically damaged throughout the war. But by mid 1941, the sheer number of Liberty's out at sea along with an increase in their armed escorts, overwhelmed German forces. Advances in anti-submarine technologies also started stamping out the U-boat threat. By mid 1944, the United States began to focus on producing a new type of wartime cargo vessel: the Victory Ship, which would never be produced on the scale that Liberty's were, but there were larger and faster making them far less vulnerable. After the war, many liberties were put into the reserve fleet or sold off to post-war merchant cargo fleets. By the 1960s their ancient design made them far too expensive to operate and most were sold off for scrap. Today only three remaining liberties of 2,710 survived to remind us of their enormous contribution to winning the Second World War.


VC2 design

Victory cargo ships are lined up at California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles, California.
Victory cargo ships are lined up at California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles, California.
USS Sarasota (APA-204), at Lingayen Gulf, 8 January 1945
USS Sarasota (APA-204), at Lingayen Gulf, 8 January 1945

One of the first acts of the United States War Shipping Administration upon its formation in February 1942 was to commission the design of what came to be known as the Victory class. Initially designated EC2-S-AP1, where EC2 = Emergency Cargo, type 2 (Load Waterline Length between 400 and 450 feet (120 and 140 m)), S = steam propulsion with one propeller (EC2-S-C1 had been the designation of the Liberty ship design), it was changed to VC2-S-AP1 before the name "Victory Ship" was officially adopted on 28 April 1943. The ships were built under the Emergency Shipbuilding program. [1]

The design was an enhancement of the Liberty ship, which had been successfully produced in extraordinary numbers. Victory ships were slightly larger than Liberty ships, 14 feet (4.3 m) longer at 455 feet (139 m), 6 feet (1.8 m) wider at 62 ft (19 m), and drawing one foot more at 28 feet (8.5 m) loaded.[1] Displacement was up just under 1,000 tons, to 15,200. With a raised forecastle and a more sophisticated hull shape to help achieve the higher speed, they had a quite different appearance from Liberty ships.

To make them less vulnerable to U-boat attacks, Victory ships made 15 to 17 knots (28 to 31 km/h), 4 to 6 knots (7.4 to 11.1 km/h) faster than the Libertys, and had longer range. The extra speed was achieved through more modern, efficient engines. Rather than the Libertys' 2,500 horsepower (1,900 kW) triple expansion steam engines, Victory ships were designed to use either Lentz type reciprocating steam engines, steam turbines or Diesel engines, variously putting out between 6,000 and 8,500 hp (4,500 and 6,300 kW). Most used steam turbines, which had been in short supply earlier in the war and reserved for warships. All were oil-fired, but for a handful of Canadian vessels completed with both coal bunkers and oil tanks. Another improvement was electrically powered auxiliary equipment, rather than steam-driven machinery.

To prevent the hull fractures that a few Liberty ships developed, the spacing between frames was widened by 6 inches (150 mm), to 36 inches (910 mm), making the ships less stiff. The hull was welded not riveted.[5]

The VC2-S-AP2, VC2-S-AP3, and VC2-M-AP4 were armed with a 5-inch (127 mm)/38 caliber stern gun for use against submarines and surface ships, and a bow-mounted 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber gun and eight 20 mm cannon for use against aircraft. These were manned by United States Navy Armed Guard personnel. The VC2-S-AP5 Haskell-class attack transports were armed with the 5-inch stern gun, one quad 40 mm Bofors cannon, four dual 40 mm Bofors cannon, and ten single 20 mm cannon. The Haskells were operated and crewed exclusively by U.S. Navy personnel.

The Victory ship was noted for good proportion of cubic between holds for a cargo ship of its day. A Victory ship's cargo hold one, two and five hatches are a single rigged with a capacity of 70,400, 76,700, and 69,500 bale cubic feet respectively. Victory ship's hold three and four hatches are double rigged with a capacity of 136,100 and 100,300 bale cubic feet respectively.[6] Victory ships have built in mast, booms and derrick cranes and can load and unload their own cargo without dock side cranes or gantry if needed..[7]

Model of a Victory ship's superstructure and center cranes. The engine room is located below the superstructure.  This model is on display at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point, NY.
Model of a Victory ship's superstructure and center cranes. The engine room is located below the superstructure. This model is on display at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point, NY.


The first vessel was SS United Victory launched at Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation on 12 January 1944 and completed on 28 February 1944, making her maiden voyage a month later. American vessels frequently had a name incorporating the word "Victory". The British and Canadians used "Fort" and "Park" respectively. After United Victory, the next 34 vessels were named after allied countries, the following 218 after American cities, the next 150 after educational institutions and the remainder given miscellaneous names. The AP5 type attack transports were named after United States counties, without "Victory" in their name, with the exception of USS Marvin H. McIntyre, which was named after President Roosevelt's late personal secretary.

Although initial deliveries were slow—only 15 had been delivered by May 1944—by the end of the war 531 had been constructed. The Commission cancelled orders for a further 132 vessels, although three were completed in 1946 for the Alcoa Steamship Company, making a total built in the United States of 534, made up of:

War Shipping Administration photo showing early 1944 Victory ship construction at California Shipbuilding Corporation with a May 1945 war tonnage production chart
War Shipping Administration photo showing early 1944 Victory ship construction at California Shipbuilding Corporation with a May 1945 war tonnage production chart
Victory ship Engine room
Victory ship Engine room
US Victory ship production
Type Notes
272 VC2-S-AP2 6,000 hp (4.5 MW) general cargo vessels
141 VC2-S-AP3 8,500 hp (6.3 MW) vessels
1 VC2-M-AP4 Diesel
117 VC2-S-AP5 Haskell-class attack transports
3 VC2-S-AP7 Post war completion

Of the wartime construction, 414 were of the standard cargo variant and 117 were attack transports.[1] Because the Atlantic battle had been won by the time that the first of the Victory ships appeared none were sunk by U-boats. Three were sunk by Japanese kamikaze attack in April 1945.

Many Victory ships were converted to troopships to bring US soldiers home at the end of World War II as part of Operation Magic Carpet. A total of 97 Victory ships were converted to carry up to 1,600 soldiers. To convert the ships the cargo hold were converted to bunk beds and hammocks stacked three high for hot bunking, Mess halls and exercise places were also added. [8] Some examples of Victory troopship are: SS Aiken Victory, SS Chanute Victory, SS Cody Victory, SS Colby Victory, SS Cranston Victory, SS Gustavus Victory, SS Hagerstown Victory, SS Maritime Victory, and SS U.S.S.R. Victory.[9][10][11][12][13]

Some 36 Victory ships continued in service and served in the Korean War and a 100 Victory ships served in the Vietnam War. Many were sold and became commercial cargo ships and a few commercial passenger ship. Some were laid up the United States Navy reserve fleets and then scrapped or reused. Many saw postwar conversion and various uses for years afterward. The single VC2-M-AP4 Diesel-powered Emory Victory operated in Alaskan waters for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as North Star III.[1] AP3 types South Bend Victory and Tuskegee Victory were converted in 1957–58 to ocean hydrographic surveying ships USNS Bowditch and Dutton, respectively.[1] Dutton aided in locating the lost hydrogen bomb following the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash.[14]

Starting in 1959, several were removed from the reserve fleet and refitted for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. One such ship was SS Kingsport Victory, which was renamed USNS Kingsport and converted into the world's first satellite communications ship. Another was the former Haiti Victory, which recovered the first man-made object to return from orbit, the nose cone of Discoverer 13, on 11 August 1960. USS Sherburne was converted in 1969–1970 to the range instrumentation ship USNS Range Sentinel for downrange tracking of ballistic missile tests.[1]

Four Victory ships became fleet ballistic missile cargo ships transporting torpedoes, Poseidon missiles, packaged petroleum, and spare parts to deployed submarine tenders:[1]

  • USNS <i>Norwalk</i>, built as SS <i>Norwalk Victory</i>
  • USNS <i>Furman</i>, built as SS <i>Furman Victory</i>
  • USNS <i>Victoria</i>, built as SS <i>Ethiopia Victory</i>
  • USNS <i>Marshfield</i>, built as SS <i>Marshfield Victory</i>

In the 1960s two Victory ships were reactivated and converted to technical research ships by the U.S. Navy with the hull type AGTR. SS Iran Victory became USS Belmont and SS Simmons Victory became USS Liberty. Liberty was attacked and severely damaged by Israeli forces in June 1967 and subsequently decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register. Belmont was decommissioned and stricken in 1970. Baton Rouge Victory was sunk in the Mekong delta by a Viet Cong mine in August 1966 and temporarily blocked the channel to Saigon.[1]


Most Victory ships were constructed in six West Coast and one Baltimore emergency shipyards that were set up in World War II to build Liberty, Victory, and other ships. The Victory ship was designed to be able to be assembled by the smallest capacity crane at these shipyards.[1] Some ships were built in Britain and Canada.

US shipyard production of Victory ships[15][16]
Shipyard Location Quantity
Type Quantity
MCV Hull Numbers Notes
Bethlehem Fairfield Baltimore, Maryland 94   VC2-S-AP2 93   602–653, 816–856 23 more cancelled
VC2-M-AP4 1   654 Diesel engine variant
California Shipbuilding Wilmington, California 131   VC2-S-AP3 32   1–24, 27, 29, 31–33, 37, 41, 42
VC2-S-AP5 30   25, 26, 28, 30, 34–36, 38–40, 43–62 63–66 Transferred to Vancouver as 812–815
VC2-S-AP2 69   67–84, 767–811, 885–890 10 more cancelled
Kaiser Shipbuilding Vancouver, Washington 31   VC2-S-AP5 31   655–681, 812–815 17 more cancelled
Oregon Shipbuilding Portland, Oregon 136   VC2-S-AP3 99   85–116, 147–189, 682–701, 872–875 19 more cancelled
VC2-S-AP5 34   117–146, 860–863 12 more cancelled
VC2-S-AP7 1   866 Originally AP5
VC2-S1-AP7 2   876, 877 Originally AP3
Permanente/Kaiser Yard #1 (See Richmond Shipyards) Richmond, California 53   VC2-S-AP3 10   525–534
VC2-S-AP2 43   535–550, 581–596, 702–711
Permanente/Kaiser Yard #2 89   VC2-S-AP5 22   552–573
VC2-S-AP2 67   574–580, 597–601, 712–766
SS American Victory in Tampa, Florida
SS American Victory in Tampa, Florida

Ships in class

Status of remaining Victory ships

SS American Victory ship docked starboard superstructure
SS American Victory ship docked starboard superstructure

Three are open for tours as museum ships:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Culver, John A., CAPT USNR "A time for Victories" United States Naval Institute Proceedings February 1977 pp. 50–56
  2. ^ What kind of tons? Liberty ship article specifies long tons.
  3. ^ Jaffee, Capt. Walter W., The Lane Victory: The Last Victory Ship in War and in Peace, 2nd ed., p. 14, The Glencannon Press, Palo Alto, CA, 1997.
  4. ^ MARAD, Victory Ship, U.S. Maritime Commission design type VC2-S-AP2
  5. ^ "Victory Ship Design".
  6. ^ An Analysis of General Cargo Handing Problems, Developments, and Proffered Solutions, BY L. H. QUACKENBUSH, ASSOCIATE
  7. ^ "Cargo hold tour, SS Lane". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  8. ^ Chapter 2 After ASTP, Across the Atlantic to England Under Siege, By Lester Segarnick 
  9. ^ crossings in 1945
  10. ^ Troop Ship of World War II, April 1947, Page 356-357
  11. ^ 69th infantry division, newsletter, 1986
  12. ^ The Nebraska State Journal from Lincoln, Nebraska, December 26, 1945, Page 4
  13. ^ Binghamton NY Press Grayscale 1945 – Fulton History, Oct. 15, 1945
  14. ^ Melson, Lewis B., CAPT USN "Contact 261" United States Naval Institute Proceedings June 1967
  15. ^ "WWII Construction Records – Private-Sector Shipyards that Built Ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission". Archived from the original on 2006-10-23. Retrieved 2006-11-03.
  16. ^ "Victory Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II – Listed by Shipyard". Retrieved 2006-11-04.
  17. ^ The Sian Yung, by: Charles W. Hummer, Jr., BHS '55
  18. ^ Sian Yung Sinks in the Canal by C. W. “Chuck” Hummer, Jr.
  19. ^ Sian Yung sunk in the Culebra Cut


External links

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