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. Based on the earlier Liberty ship, they were slightly larger and had more powerful engines for better evading U-boats. A total of 531 Victory ships were built.
The first vessel was SS United Victory launched at Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation on 12 January 1944 and completed on 28 February 1944, and had 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 (APA-129), which was named after President Roosevelt's late personal secretary.
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 longer at 455 feet (139 m), 6 wider at 62 feet (19 m), and drawing one foot more at 28 feet (7.6 m) loaded. Displacement was up just under 1,000 tons, to 15,200. With a fine raked bow and a cruiser stern, to help achieve the higher speed, they had a quite different appearance from Liberty ships.
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), 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.
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 faster than the Libertys, and had longer range. The extra speed was achieved through improved engines. Rather than the Libertys' 2,500 horsepower 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 6000 and 8500 horsepower (4.5 and 6 MW). 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.
Of the wartime construction, 414 of these were of the standard cargo variant and 117 were attack transports. Because the Atlantic battle had been won by the time that the first ships appeared, only two were sunk by U-boats. These were Fort Bellingham and Fort St. Nicholas. Three more were sunk by Japanese Kamikaze attack in April 1945, Logan Victory, Hobbs Victory and Canada Victory.
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. AP3 types South Bend Victory and Tuskegee Victory were converted in 1957-58 to ocean hydrographic surveying ships USNS Bowditch (T-AGS-21) and Dutton (T-AGS-22), respectively. Dutton aided in locating the lost hydrogen bomb following the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash.
The Victory ships performed their duties in World War II and beyond. Some served in Korea and Vietnam after. Others had Canadian or British careers. Some became artificial reefs. Out of the 531 constructed, a small handful remain.
SS Victory Lane
Located in San Pedro, California
SS American Victory
Located in Tampa, Florida
SS Red Oak Victory
Located in Richmond, California
National Defense Reserve Fleet
One is laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Status indicated is, as of 31 March 2010, in MARAD inventory.