SS RED OAK VICTORY HISTORY YOU CAN TOUCH
Red Oak Victory was one of 543 Victory ships built for World War II, 142 of them built at Kaiser’s Permanente Metals Corporation shipyard in Richmond, California, just a stone’s throw from where she lives today as a museum ship. The hull was laid down as a VC2-S-AP2 design on September 9, 1944. She was launched on November 7, and commissioned into the U.S. Navy as USS Red Oak Victory, AK-235, on December 5. She served as an ammunition ship in the Pacific Theater to the end of the war and was decommissioned as a Navy ship in 1946.
Still owned by the U.S. Maritime Commission, she started a new life in 1947 as the SS Red Oak Victory and was leased to various shipping companies though much of the 1950s before being laid up again in 1957. She last emerged from storage in the mid-1960s to be used by the Military Sea Transport Service from 1966 to ’68 ferrying military supplies from the West Coast to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines. In 1968 she was placed back in long-term storage at the National Defense Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, California, and never worked again.
By 1993, like many other obsolete ships in the Reserve Fleet, Red Oak Victory was facing a final voyage to the scrapper. The Richmond Museum Association understood her significance and sought to have her saved as a museum ship. In 1996, Congress passed legislation turning her over to the Richmond Museum of History. In 1998, she was moved to the Richmond waterfront and has been undergoing a gradual restoration ever since.
Red Oak Victory is 455 feet long, 62 feet wide, and draws 29 feet of water with a full 10,850-ton load. Power comes from a 6,000hp Westinghouse steam turbine fed by two Babcock & Wilcox boilers that produce 525 psi steam pressure at 750 degrees. Normal top speed was 15.5 knots (17.8 mph), but according to her current Chief Engineer she could be boosted to 17 knots with a few tweaks. When she carried weaponry, she had a 5-inch/38-caliber dual-purpose gun on the stern, a 3-inch/50-caliber dual-purpose gun on the bow, and eight 20mm anti-aircraft auto cannons in various mounts around the ship.
Because she spent a relatively short time in operation, according to Chief Engineer Greg Blasquez, Red Oak Victory is in great mechanical condition and is now near to being ready to sail again. Though there are no Victory ships known to still be in commercial service, some of Red Oak Victory’s sister ships are sailing as museum ships, including the Lane Victory in Los Angeles and the American Victory in Tampa, Florida. Red Oak Victory is open to visitors at her berth on Point Potrero at 1337 Canal Street, Richmond, California, very near the Rosie the Riveter Museum and the old Richmond Ford Factory.