SS Red Oak Victory, now a museum ship
Class overview
NameVictory ship
Builders6 shipyards in the US
CostUS$2,522,800 (1943)[1] per unit
General characteristics
Class and typeCargo ship
Displacement15,200 tons (at 28-foot draft)[2][clarification needed]
Length455 ft (138.7 m)[2]
Beam62 ft (18.9 m)[2]
Draft28 ft (8.5 m)[2]
Depth of hold38 ft (11.6 m)[2]
  • Oil-fired boilers
  • Steam engine
  • Single screw propeller
Speed15–17 knots (28–31 km/h; 17–20 mph)

The Victory ship was a class of cargo ship produced in large numbers by 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 in between 1944 and 1946.[3][4]

VC2 design

Victory cargo ships are lined up at California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles, California.
USS Sarasota at Lingayen Gulf on 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 AP1 = one aft 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.[2]

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.[2] 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 (one ship only, oil fired), Diesel engines (one ship) or steam turbines (the rest, all oil fired) (variously putting out between 6,000 and 8,500 hp (4,500 and 6,300 kW)). Another improvement was electrically powered auxiliary equipment, rather than steam-driven machinery.

To prevent the hull cracks that many Liberty ships developed—making some break in half—the spacing between frames was widened from 30 inches (760 mm) to 36 inches (910 mm), making the ships less stiff and more able to flex. Like Liberty ships, the hull was welded rather than 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 single rigged with a capacity of 70,400, 76,700, and 69,500 bale cubic feet respectively. Victory ships 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, New York.


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".[8] 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
Vic 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.[2] Because the Atlantic battle had been won by the time 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.[9] 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.[10][11][12][13][14]

Some 184 Victory ships served in the Korean War and a 100 Victory ships served in the Vietnam War.[15][16] Many were sold and became commercial cargo ships and a few commercial passenger ships. Some were laid up in 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 MV Emory Victory operated in Alaskan waters for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as North Star III.[2] AP3 types South Bend Victory and Tuskegee Victory were converted in 1957–58 to ocean hydrographic surveying ships USNS Bowditch and Dutton, respectively.[2] Dutton aided in locating the lost hydrogen bomb following the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash.[17]

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.[2]

Four Victory ships became fleet ballistic missile cargo ships transporting torpedoes, Poseidon missiles, packaged petroleum, and spare parts to deployed submarine tenders:[2]

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.[2]


According to the War Production Board minutes in 1943, the Victory Ship had a relative cost of $238 per deadweight ton (10,500 deadweight tonnage) [1] for $2,522,800, equivalent to $35,500,000 in 2023.


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.[2]

US shipyard production of Victory ships[18][19]
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
Kaiser Richmond No. 1 Yard Richmond, California 53   VC2-S-AP3 10   525–534
VC2-S-AP2 43   535–550, 581–596, 702–711
Kaiser Richmond No. 2 Yard 89   VC2-S-AP5 22   552–573
VC2-S-AP2 67   574–580, 597–601, 712–766

Ships in class

Main article: List of Victory ships

SS American Victory in Tampa, Florida


SS American Victory ship starboard superstructure

Three are preserved as museum ships:

See also


  1. ^ a b Civilian Production Administration Bureau of Demobilization (1946). Minutes of the War Production Board January 20, 1942 - October 9, 1945. Historical Reports on War Administration: War Production Board. Documentary Publication. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 234.
  2. ^ 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
  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". 22 July 2011. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012.
  6. ^ "An Analysis of General Cargo Handing Problems, Developments, and Proffered Solutions, BY L. H. QUACKENBUSH, ASSOCIATE". Archived from the original on 9 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Cargo hold tour, SS Lane". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  8. ^ This can be compared with British and Canadian practices, which respectively often used "Fort" and "Park" for their own ships.
  9. ^ Chapter 2 After ASTP, Across the Atlantic to England Under Siege, By Lester Segarnick
  10. ^ " crossings in 1945". Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Troop Ship of World War II, April 1947, pp. 356–357" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  12. ^ "69th infantry division, newsletter, 1986" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  13. ^ The Nebraska State Journal from Lincoln, Nebraska, 26 December 1945, p. 4
  14. ^ Binghamton NY Press Grayscale 1945 – Fulton History, Oct. 15, 1945
  15. ^ " Korean War ships". Archived from the original on 9 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  16. ^ " Vietnam War ships". Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  17. ^ Melson, Lewis B., CAPT USN "Contact 261" United States Naval Institute Proceedings June 1967
  18. ^ "WWII Construction Records – Private-Sector Shipyards that Built Ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission". Archived from the original on 23 October 2006. Retrieved 3 November 2006.
  19. ^ "Victory Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II – Listed by Shipyard". Archived from the original on 25 October 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2006.
  20. ^ Troopships
  21. ^ Looking for trouble, the Guinea Pig Squadron
  22. ^ Pratt Victory photo, mine Hunter