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SS Red Oak Victory
Photo courtesy of National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Victory ship SS Red Oak Victory was built in Richmond Kaiser Shipyard # 1, and launched on November 9, 1944. It was one of 414 Victories built during World War II, but one of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant Marine to the U.S. Navy. The Red Oak Victory served as an ammunition ship in the South Pacific during WWII. The ship was named for the town of Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered the highest per capita causality rate of any American community during World War II. Following a fitting out period, the Red Oak Victory was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on January 10, 1945. Red Oak Victory departed Hawaii on February 10 loaded with munitions needed in the Marshall and Caroline islands. Sent onward from Eniwetok, she arrived in Ulithi on February 28, 1945, and then began operating under Commander Service Squadron Ten. Operating out of the Philippines, the vessel issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During a hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, SS Red Oak Victory handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.

[photo] SS Red Oak Victory ready for launch at the Kaiser Richmond Shipyard # 1, November, 1944
Photo courtesy of Richmond Museum of History Collection

Many Rosies recounted how important their jobs were in welding these ships and how careful they were in doing it. They realized the lives of their husbands, brothers and sons depended on the cargoes delivered by these ships. Victory ships were not supposed to last long--but the welds of the Red Oak Victory are still intact after 60 years. The Red Oak Victory is 455 feet in length, and armed with one five-inch/38 caliber gun; one three-inch/50 caliber gun, and eight 20 mm guns. The vessel was decommissioned in 1946 and returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission. Red Oak Victory was used by the Luckenback Steamship Company from 1947 through the 1950s, during which time the vessel went to Japan, Korea, Cuba, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Japan. Red Oak Victory was operated by American Mail Lines for the Military Sea Transport Service from 1966 to 1968, making a dozen voyages to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines carrying military supplies loaded at West Coast ports. From 1968 until 1998, the vessel was laid up in the Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, California.

SS Red Oak Victory is presently open to the public while undergoing restoration at Point Richmond
NPS Photo

Doomed to be scrapped, the Red Oak Victory came to the attention of the Richmond Museum Association in 1993. In 1996 Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the ship to the Museum Association. Red Oak Victory was turned over to the Richmond Museum of History and returned to a new home in Richmond on September 20, 1998.

The SS Red Oak Victory, part of the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, is located at 1500 Dornan Dr., Terminal One, Point of Richmond, in Richmond. The ship is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association, which is restoring the ship with volunteer help. The ship is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm, Tuesday-Sunday; there is a suggested donation. To schedule a guided tour, please call 510-237-2933. For further information, visit the ship's website.

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