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 casualty 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.
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.
The SS Red Oak Victory Ship is the last surviving ship built in the Kaiser Shipyards, and is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association. Today, the Red Oak Victory remains a monument to the men and women who worked in war related industries as part of the World War II Home Front. In 1998, the ship was saved from the Naval Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay by a courageous group of men and women and has been under restoration since that time. When visiting, take the time to talk to the volunteers on boards the ship. If you are lucky enough to find one who actually served on Merchant Marine vessels during the war, find out what that life was like - ask them how they felt to be on board ships built by women.
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