Victory Ships

Photograph of SS Harvard Victory

U.S. Merchant Marine

Schematic diagram of Victory Ship

ONI 222


Tonnage 4442 light displacement tons
15,580 fully loaded displacement tons
7609 gross register tons
10,734 deadweight tons
Dimensions 445'3" by 62' by 28'
135.71m by 18.90m by 8.53m
Maximum speed       17 knots
Complement 99
Armament 5"/38 dual-purpose gun
1 3"/50 AA gun
8 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
1-shaft Westinghouse geared turbine (6000 shp)
2 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
2833 tons
453,210 cubic feet
12,833.5 cubic meters
7725 tons

The Victory Ships, officially Maritime Commission type VC2-S-AP2 ships, were built from 1944 on, when victory was in sight.  They were improved Liberty Ships designed to be faster and safer with a much longer lifetime, so that they would be suitable for regular commercial use after the war. Unlike the Liberty Ships, they were fast enough to be viable attack transports, and a large number were converted to this use as the Haskell class.

The design was controversial. There was some feeling among the shipbuilders that switching from Liberty to Victory Ships would slow production, but the Maritime Commission countered that the limited supply of steel favored construction of faster ships that could move more tonnage for a given investment of steel. The Army and Navy were also interested in faster shipping for use as auxiliaries. The British had already begun construction of fast cargo ships and it was feared the U.S. merchant marine would be put at a considerable disadvantage in the postwar world. On the other hand, Controller of Shipbuilding on the War Production Board, William F. Gibbs. Gibbs preferred to see construction of a single fast cargo ship, preferably the C2. The debate took long enough to resolve that the program was delayed by many months, and none of the ships were completed before early 1944.

The design was largely based on the Liberty Ship, and design changes were deliberately kept to an absolute minimum to reduce the disruption in production. However, modifications were accepted to allow greater deck loads, and the cargo handling facilities were improved, though the basic configuration of 14 5-ton, one 30-ton, and one 50-ton boom was retained. Decks for packaged goods were added to holds #1, #2, and #3. Because there was some uncertainty about the machinery that would be available, the design made compromises to permit efficient operation over a range of powers, and the Victory ended up using slightly less power than the C2 at 15 knots speed and slightly less at 16 knots or greater. Because of concerns over the quality of welding on Liberty ships, consideration was given to making more use of riveting on the Victories, but in the end the Victories were largely welded with carefully specified welding sequences to reduce locked-in stress.

A major cause of delay was the decision to use Lentz reciprocating engines as the principal power plant. Though a promising design, it was novel enough that few had ever been constructed in the United States, and the plan eventually had to be dropped. Those powered by the same 6000 shp machinery as the C2 were designated as VC2--S-AP2, while the EC2-S-AP3 used 8500 shp C3 machinery and the VC2-S-AP4 used diesel engines.

Because the ships were designed and constructed in wartime, virtually all were completed as armed merchantmen. The complement and armament shown are typically of those Victory Ships serving as armed merchantmen in forward areas of the Pacific.

The -AP2 units cost about $2.5 million apiece, while the -AP3 units with more powerful machinery cost about $2.9 million apiece.

Production schedule



Friedman (2002)
Lane (1951)
Leighton and Coakley (1955)
ONI 222 (1945-9-1) (accessed 2012-8-18)

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