Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Richmond Ramblings: S.S. Red Oak Victory

SS Red Oak Victory is a World War II Victory ship preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. It was one of 534 Victories built during World War II, but one of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant Marine to the United States Navy. It was named after Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered a disproportionate number of casualties in early World War II battles. Red Oak is a community firmly rooted with rich traditions of growing industry, embracing worthwhile projects, celebrating history and caring for fellow citizens. Organized in 1869 and named for the numerous oak trees that lined the banks of a small stream known as Red Oak Creek, the Red Oak of today boasts 6,000 residents and is nestled along the Nishnabotna River. The ship was active during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The Red Oak Victory was built by the Permanente Metals Corporation's Richmond Number 1 Yard in Richmond, California and launched on November 9, 1944. Many Rosies recounted how important their jobs were in welding these ships and how careful they were in doing it. They realized the lives of their husbands; brothers and sons depended on the cargoes delivered by these ships. Victory ships were not supposed to last long--but the welds of the Red Oak Victory are still intact after 60 years. The ship is 455 feet (138 m) in length, and armed with one five-inch/38 caliber gun; one three-inch/50 caliber gun, and eight 20 mm guns.

The ship was acquired by the United States Navy on December 5, 1944 and commissioned the same day as USS Red Oak Victory (AK-235). Following a fitting out period, the Red Oak Victory was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on January 10, 1945. Red Oak Victory departed Hawaii on February 10 loaded with munitions needed in the Marshall and Caroline islands. Sent onward from Enewetak, she arrived in Ulithi on February 28, 1945, and then began operating under Commander Service Squadron Ten. Operating out of the Philippines, the vessel issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During a hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, the USS Red Oak Victory handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.

The vessel was decommissioned in 1946 and returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission. Red Oak Victory was used by the Luckenbach Steamship Company from 1947 through the 1950s, during which time the vessel went to Japan, Korea, Cuba, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Japan again. Red Oak Victory was operated by American Mail Lines for the Military Sea Transport Service from 1966 to 1968, making a dozen voyages to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines carrying military supplies loaded at West Coast ports. From 1968 until 1998, the vessel was laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay.

Captain’s Cabin Cartographer's room

Richmond Museum Association

Doomed to be scrapped, the Red Oak Victory came to the attention of the Richmond Museum Association in 1993. In 1996 Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the ship to the Museum Association. Red Oak Victory was turned over to the Richmond Museum of History and returned to a new home in Richmond on September 20, 1998. It is being restored and operated by the Richmond Museum of History, and is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

The Richmond Museum Association has as its mission the preservation and restoration of the SS Red Oak Victory as an operational vessel. The SS Red Oak Victory, a National Memorial
Ship, will be developed into a maritime museum focused on the wartime contributions of the residents and workers of the City of Richmond and the shipbuilding ingenuity of Henry J. Kaiser.

As an operational museum the SS Red Oak Victory will provide a unique perspective on the history-making achievements of the City of Richmond and the Richmond Shipyard workers. As a community resource, the vessel will be a site for local events, service to the children and youth of the community and an intriguing family recreation and entertainment destination. Finally, the SS Red Oak Victory will be a ceremonial ship to recognize and honor those who served with valor in the armed forces, the merchant marine and home-front facilities such as the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards.

The SS Red Oak Victory is the site of many community events such as World War II film festivals; benefits and fundraisers for cultural groups and humanitarian causes; national and veteran ceremonial events; civic, professional and private organization meetings, parties, symposiums, and dinners; weddings and other events

The SS Red Oak Victory also provides services to children of the

community such as Grade school through high school camp and

educational programs (e.g., naval history, mechanical science,

marine engineering, navigation and leadership training); programs

involving sea cadets, boy and girl scout groups, church and other

youth groups; and teacher education, seminars and symposiums

SS Red Oak Victory as a Ceremonial Ship: Supports the activities of the Navy’s Fleet Week and Merchant Marine activities, and conducts special events on National and Patriotic Holidays including the 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Pancake Breakfast

SS Red Oak Victory www.ssredoakvictory.com

1337 Canal Blvd, Richmond, CA 94804 (510) 237-2933

The SS Red Oak Victory, part of the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter--World War II Home Front National Historical Park, is located at 1500 Dornan Dr., Terminal One, Point of Richmond, in Richmond. The ship is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association, which is restoring the ship with volunteer help. The ship is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm, Tuesday-Sunday; there is a suggested donation. To schedule a guided tour, please call 510-237-2933.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Radio Club Transmits History

Steve Hawkes, center, listens to Morse code, above, as Charles Jackson, left, Sharon Primbsch and Larry Fitzsimons talk Sunday in Richmond. About 30 members of the Red Oak Victory Amateur Radio Club demonstrated code transmission.

Vintage radio equipment from World War II crackled back to life Sunday as the Red Oak Victory Amateur Radio Club hosted a demonstration of the ship's original radio equipment, which included a Morse code transmission to historical maritime radio station KPH, west of the small Marin County town of Bolinas.

The demonstration was held in addition to regular guided tours of the Victory ship, which was built nearby at Kaiser shipyard number one.

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