TOUR OF SS RED OAK VICTORY (AK-235)
The Victory Ship was built as a replacement for the Liberty ship, which was produced in great numbers right up through the middle of 1944. Based on the venerable British "tramp steamer," the Liberty was already old-fashioned when World War II began. It was under-powered (with a reciprocating steam engine), slow, unsophisticated, and vulnerable. But it was simple, sturdy, reliable, and easy to build and maintain. During the war it became the workhorse of the cargo convoys plodding the sea lanes to the European and Pacific theatres of war.
The Victory Ship was simply an improvement of the Liberty model. Somewhat larger, it was also much faster than its older sister, utilizing a much more modern steam turbine engine. With its greater speed, the Victory could outrun the submarine wolf packs and could sail in relative safety outside of a convoy. It was also expected that the new Victory would be able to operate successfully in peacetime in the post-war period.
A total of 411 Victory ships were built during the war, 142 of them in Richmond. Most (110) of the ships built in Richmond were of the VC2-S-AP2 type (like the Red Oak Victory), equipped with 6000 hp engines. The remainder were either the AP3 type or the AP5 type, which were equipped with 8,500 hp engines. The first Victory launched in Richmond was the SS Ethiopia Victory, an AP3, sent down the ways on April 20, 1944. The U.S. Navy specifically designated 10 of the Richmond AP2 Victory ships as ammunition carriers, and the Red Oak Victory was one of this group. She was delivered to the Navy on December 5, 1944, as the USS Red Oak Victory, Cmdr John S. Sayers in command.
In February, the USS Red Oak Victory sailed (without a convoy) to Ulithi Atoll in the Philippines, the largest naval facility in the world at the time, and began its task of delivering its cargo of ammunition to warships. It then went on to Leyte Gulf, where it remained for the rest of the war, and continued to supply ammunition to combat vessels. Some damage was sustained in these dangerous operations. No damage was sustained by enemy action, but at Ulithi, the Red Oak Victory was in sight several kamikaze attacks on neighboring war vessels.
Following World War II, the USS Red Oak Victory was returned to the Maritime Commission and became officially the SS (Screw Steamer) Red Oak Victory. Several different steamship lines made use of her services in the following years. She was active during the Korean War, and during the later 1950s ferried emergency grain shipments to India, Pakistan, and other eastern ports. From 1965 to 1968, she was again active, carrying cargo to ports in Viet Nam. The last of 13 voyages to Viet Nam was completed on December 16, 1968. After this voyage, the SS Red Oak Victory was laid up in the Suisun Reserve Fleet, where she remained until 1998, when she was acquired by the Richmond Museum Association.
We hope this online tour will provide you with a glimpse of what life was like for the sailors aboard this remarkable ship. It will also enable you visit some compartments that are not safely accessible because of the vertical ladders and confined space. We hope you will be able to visit Red Oak Victory in person some day soon to experience life aboard a real Victory Ship.
Your virtual reality tour of the SS Red Oak Victory begins on the Main Deck. To provide the best experience possible without knowing what software is installed on your computer, or how fast your internet connection is, we have several viewing choices. (Fast photos works without Quicktime or Flash and is also best for visually impaired users with an Internet reader.)