Stop 15: The American Victory Story

What is the American Victory?

This is an odyssey of a ship. Not a famous one, but a venerable veteran of three wars. She has served her country well. The SS American Victory (official #248005) was built by California Shipbuilding Company in Los Angeles in 55 days. A Master Carpenter's certificate was filed with the Bureau of Customs on May 19, 1945, which authorized sea trials and began the process of registration. The ship was launched on May, 24 1945 and christened by Mrs. George J. Macmillan (See Below). It was named for the American University in Washington DC to honor that school's contribution to weapons research in World Wars I and II.

During her active career the American Victory more than 500,000 nautical miles. She visited thirty-one countries, eighteen U.S. territories, and transited the Panama Canal eighteen times and the Suez Canal three times. The ship made two round-the-world cruises and survived two typhoons in the Pacific and a hurricane in the Atlantic. (1)

(1) Charlie M. Fuss, SS American Victory Mariners Memorial & Museum Ship (St. Petersburg, FL: Southern Heritage Press, 2006) Pg. 2

American Victory Specifications

Launched: May 24, 1945

Sea Trials: June 18, 1945

Delivered to the War Shipping Administration:

June 20, 1945

Hull Number: Two numbers given. One possibly the USMC Hull Number, the other the Shipbuilder’s Hull Number. The numbers are 435 and 442.

Vessel Type: VC2-S-AP2

Victory Class, Cargo, Length at the water line between 400 and 500 feet, Steam, Auxiliary, Personnel, 2nd ship design in series.

Maximum Speed: 16.5 knots (Fastest vessel in the convoy was limited to the speed of the slowest ship in the convoy.)

  • A knot is a measure of nautical speed
  • A knot equals one nautical mile (6,076 feet) /hour
  • Turbines developed 6,000 (shaft) horsepower.

Length: 455’

Beam: 62’

Height: 109’ (Keel to top of Radar mast)

Tonnages: 7,612 gross and 4,555 net

Displacement Tonnage: (summer loadline) 15,200 tons

Deadweight Tonnage: 10,750 tons

Masters (Partial list): First two voyages, Stafford S. Harlow, 3rd voyage, Austin D. Cushman, Jr.

Hull Plating: Steel, 1” thick.

Fuel Consumption: 19,000 barrels of fuel (780,000 gallons)—maximum capacity burns 280- barrels per day (nearly 40 tons)


- 1945 – 1947

- 1951 – 1953

- 1966 – 1969

- 1985, Twenty-six hours


  • 29 Voyages Total
  • Visited five continents, North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
  • Visited 32 countries
  • Visited 18 states
  • Longest voyage: Voyage No. 1, 236 days (1945 – 1946)
  • Shortest Voyage: Voyage No. 29, 26 Hours, 1985
  • Longest time at sea: 36 Days, Voyage No. 28, Sunny Point, N.C., to Vayama, Thailand.
  • Longest Ocean Transit: Voyage No. 28, 12,668 nautical miles.
  • One Suez Canal transit.

American Victory Timeline

1945: American Victory Involvement in World War II

Crew: 62 Merchant Mariners and Naval Armed Guard           

The American Victory began to sail near the end of World War II. She carried cargo from Los Angeles and other West Coast cities to the Philippines. From July 25, 1945 to September 1, 1945 she delivered cargo to different ports in the Philippines. She arrived in Yokohama, Japan, two days after the Japanese surrendered aboard the USS Missouri.

1945-1947: After the war, the American Victory provided humanitarian aid under the Marshall Plan to India, Egypt, Russia, Italy, Turkey, Trieste, Greece, and Bulgaria. 

1947-1951: Hudson River Reserve Fleet

 American Victory and other ships were placed in reserve fleets after the war. The ships could be reactivated and put into use in case a war broke out. 

The Reserve Fleets were a critical part of our nations defense. If a war were to break out the ships could be ready to deliver cargo in thirty days. See Maritime Administration Website for more information on the National Defense Reserve Fleet.

1951-1954: American Victory in the Korean War  

Crew: 47 Merchant Mariners

The American Victory was reactivated in New York City, New York, in 1951, one of one hundred and thirty Victory ships reactivated for the Korean War. Shipyard re-activation work was done from February 18 to April 25, 1951. She was given a shipyard charter on March 19, 1951. She went on nine voyages during the Korean War where she transported cargo between the United States, Korea, Japan and Germany.

1954-1966: Sabine River Reserve Fleet

1966-1969: American Victory Involvement in the Vietnam War

Crew: as small as 25 members

The American Victory was reactivated for the Vietnam War on July 19, 1966, when her charter was awarded to Hudson Waterways Corporation. She was towed to New Orleans, Louisiana on July 30th. She departed on her first Vietnam War voyage on September 9, 1966. She transported everything from trunks and soda to household goods, pipes, refrigerators, air conditioners, mail bags, paint, and insecticide.


The ship currently has the radio logs from the Vietnam War. The radio logs are primary source documents showing the messages received and sent from onboard the American Victory. The radio logs note many different events onboard from necessary ship repairs to weather alerts. One radio log notes that “receive message that ports is under grey conditions—enemy action anticipated—vessel must be able to depart port on 2 hour notice—24 hour radio watch is required.” (Feburary 22, 1968, in NhaTrang, Vietnam). This reiterates the grave danger that the Merchant Mariners faced.

1969-1985 James River Reserve Fleet

1985: American Victory Reactivated as a part of MARAD (Maritime Administration) Activation Program

American Victory was one of two Victory Ships reactivated to test the readiness and usefulness of fifty year old Victory Ships. As a result Victory Ships were retained in the reserve fleet for another decade while modern replacements were being designed.

1985-1999 James River Reserve Fleet

1999-present: Docked in Tampa as a Mariners Memorial and Muse um Ship


Paul F Douglas


American University

Dear Mr. Douglas:

It is a pleasure to advise you that