After 54 Years and Three Wars, the Red Oak Victory is Home

by Toni Horodysky

As a fireboat sprayed festive plumes of water and World War II era biplanes and fighters swooped noisily overhead, the SS Red Oak Victory, bedecked in colorful flags and buntings, made her way slowly from the Suisun Mothball Fleet to her temporary berth at a ramshackle pier at Ferry Point in Richmond, California on the afternoon of September 20, 1998.

Red Oak Victory ship

The mayor of Red Oak, Iowa and other dignitaries were among the 400 passengers on board during the voyage for which two tugboats provided propulsion. A brass band and hundreds of wellwishers, including WWII shipyard workers, merchant marine veterans, and Richmond residents were ashore to greet her.

Red Oak Victory ship

A 1996 act of Congress transferred ownership to the Richmond Museum of History and saved her from the scrap heap. A chalkboard near the Captain's cabin attests to her previous voyage, ending a career which included WWII, Korea, and Vietnam: June 8, 1968, destination, San Francisco.

The SS Red Oak Victory was launched on November 9, 1944 at the Kaiser Shipyards, within a half mile of her temporary new home. She was named after the little town in Iowa which suffered the greatest rate of casualties during WWII.

Fifty volunteers plan to continue their labor of love, to restore her to her former glory and outfit her as a museum. They have a big job ahead of them, for although the crew quarters looked untouched by time, and her hull seemed in amazingly good condition, there were many areas where the elements had done plenty of damage.

Welcome Home SS Red Oak Victory!

Red Oak Victory website

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