Steamship Saturday – S.S. Red Oak Victory

Steamship Saturday

S.S. Red Oak Victory

ROV at sunrise

This beautiful photo of the Red Oak Victory was sent by “Chris-to-Fear” who volunteers on the ship each Tuesday working on her restoration. ROV is in Richmond (California) Harbor near where she was built in 1944 by the Kaiser Shipyards. In the background of the photo are the hills of the San Francisco East Bay. “Chris-to-Fear” frequently contributes both to “Jerry Mander” and to the “Friday Funnies.” We also met his ’55 Studebaker Champion, “Uncle Tilden,” HERE.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to several historic ships that are now museums. The National Maritime Association has the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha, the 1895 schooner C. A. Thayer, the 1890 steam ferryboat Eureka, the 1891 scow schooner Alma, the 1907 steam tug Hercules, the 1914 paddlewheel tug Appleton Hall, the 1890 (circa) San Francisco Bay Ark, and the 1915 steam schooner Wapama, and the World War II submarine U.S.S. Pampanito in its collection. In addition, the restored World War II Liberty ship, Jeremiah O’Brien shares Pier 45 in San Francisco with the Pampanito. Across the Bay in Alameda at the former U.S. Naval Air Station’s Pier 3 is the aircraft carrier Hornet, CV12. Also in the East Bay in Richmond Harbor is the subject of today’s post, S.S. Red Oak Victory.

S.S. Red Oak Victory is one of the Victory ships built (along with the Liberty ships) in World War II to haul supplies to the Allied troops in that vast, globe-spanning conflict. She was built in the Kaiser (Permanente Metals) Shipyards in Richmond, California in 1944, the 558th vessel to be constructed there. The Liberty ships came first, the Victory ships came later in the war. They were slightly larger and faster than the Liberty ships.


Henry J. Kaiser

The Kaiser Shipyards were founded by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Kaiser did a lot of construction work using concrete – building roads and the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams. His shipyards were among the pioneers of welded rather than riveted ship construction. Part of Kaiser’s genius was in figuring out how to mass produce ships. Thus Kaiser became one of the prime suppliers of both the Liberty and Victory ships of the Second World War. His shipyards also cranked out numerous escort carriers. Following World War II, Kaiser took the 1,000,000 square foot former B-29 bomber plant in Willow Run, Michigan and began building Kaiser and Frazer automobiles. Most Kaiser projects were successful, but he failed as a car builder. Much of the work in the Kaiser shipyards was done by women, and it was in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards that the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” originated. Today, there is a museum in Richmond in honor of the “Rosie Riveters.”


Richmond girl: “Rosie the Riveter” 

Red Oak Victory took its name from Red Oak, Iowa, a community which lost more of its sons per capita in battle than any other city in the U.S. Red Oak Victory served in three conflicts – World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. She was mothballed in the “ghost fleet” in Suisun Bay, California and was rescued and restored by the Richmond Museum Association. We give a big tip of the hat to “Chris-to-Fear” for serving as a volunteer on this historic ship. Work is underway to restore her engines with plans to sail her to Normandy in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.

ROV on the ways

Above: Red Oak Victory on the ways at Kaiser Shipyard, Richmond, California, Basin 3. Below: November 9th, 1944 – MCV-544 is christened SS RED OAK VICTORY and launched at 10:00 a.m. by Mrs. Edna Reiley, wife of W.S. Reiley, M.D., Mayor of Red Oak, Iowa. 

ROV christening

ROV launch

Down the ways she goes!

You can learn more about Red Oak Victory HERE


Add yours →

  1. Chris Houck 27/02/2016 — 10:29

    What a outstanding story! Please help yourself to TWO extra slices of pie!


  2. Marc Mansour 27/02/2016 — 12:54

    Correction to the article; Jeremiah O’Brien is a liberty ship, not a victory ship


    • You are quite right! I caught that error when I was proofreading, got distracted and failed to correct it – then I missed it when I did a second proof! Thank you for pointing out my error. I will correct the article.

      Best regards


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