The Victory ship was a type of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace shipping losses caused by German submarines. Based on an earlier design, the Liberty ship, 534 Victory ships were built.
One of the first acts of the United States War Shipping Administration when it was formed in February 1942 was to commission the design of the 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, and the title Victory Ship officially adopted on 28 April 1943.
They were an enhancement of the previous Liberty ship design that was produced in much greater numbers; in particular, they had a higher speed of 15 to 17 knots (28 to 31 km/h) compared to 11 knots (20 km/h) and longer range. The higher speed was particularly important because it made them less easy prey to U-boats, and was achieved by using improved engines over the Liberty's triple expansion reciprocating steam engine — Lenz type reciprocating steam engines, steam turbines or diesel engines with a power output between 6000 and 8500 horsepower (4.5 and 6 MW). It also had electrically powered auxiliary equipment rather than steam powered. They were oil fired, although some Canadian vessels were completed with both bunkers and oil tanks so that they could use coal or oil.
They also had strengthened hulls compared to Liberty ships since a few of the latter had suffered fractured hulls. To improve the hull flexibility (to reduce stresses), the frames were 36 inches (914 mm) apart as opposed to 30 inches (762 mm). Victory ships were slightly larger than Liberty ships, at 455 feet (139 m) long and 62 feet (19 m) wide with 28 feet (7.6 m) draft (loaded). With a fine raked bow and a 'cruiser' stern, to help achieve the higher speed, they had a quite different appearance to Liberty ships.
The VC2-S-AP2,VC2-S-AP3, and VC2-M-AP4 were armed with a 5 inch (127 mm) stern gun for use against submarines, a bow-mounted 3 inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun and eight 20 mm cannon, also for use against aircraft. These weapons were manned by United States Naval Armed Guard personnel, members of the United States Navy. The VC2-S-AP5 Haskell-class attack transports were armed with the 5 inch (127 mm) stern gun, one quad 40mm Bofors cannon, four dual 40mm Bofors cannon, and ten single 20mm cannon. The Haskells were operated and crewed exclusively by US Navy personnel.
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 3 were completed in 1946 for the Alcoa Steamship Company, making a total built in the United States of 534, made up of:
|272||VC2-S-AP2||6,000 hp (4.5 MW) general cargo vessels|
|141||VC2-S-AP3||8,500 hp (6.3 MW) vessels|
|117||VC2-S-AP5||Haskell-class attack transports|
|3||VC2-S-AP7||Post War Completion|
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. Baton Rouge Victory was sunk in the Mekong delta by a Viet Cong mine in August 1966 and temporarily blocked the channel to Saigon.
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 USNS Dutton (T-AGS-22), respectively. Dutton aided in locating the lost hydrogen bomb following the Palomares hydrogen bombs incident.
Starting in 1959, several were removed from the reserve fleet and refitted for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. One such ship was the 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 space, the nose cone of Discoverer 13, on 11 August 1960. USS Sherburne (APA-205) was converted in 1969-70 to the range instrumentation ship USNS Range Sentinel (T-AGM-22) for downrange tracking of ballistic missile tests.
Four Victory ships became fleet ballistic missile cargo ships transporting torpedoes, Poseidon missiles, packaged petroleum, and spare parts to deployed submarine tenders:
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 the USS Belmont (AGTR-4) and SS Simmons Victory became the USS Liberty (AGTR-5). The Liberty was attacked and severely damaged by Israeli forces in June 1967 and subsequently decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register. The Belmont was decommissioned and stricken in 1970.
|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-S1-AP7||2||876, 877||Originally AP3|
|Permanente/Kaiser Yard #1||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|
A few are laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet.
At Suisun Bay:
A Great Fleet of Ships--the Canadian Forts and Park Victory ship. SC Heal. Vanwell, 1993.