The SS American Victory Merchant Marine vessel played a key role for the United States during World War II and beyond. The vessel now stands as a memorial to the men and women of that era.
The ship is now known as the SS American Victory Memorial and Museum. The Tampa-based ship is one of four operational Victory ships from World War II.
The SS American Victory was built as part of the Victory class of ships. Victory replaced Liberty ships. The Liberty vessels were smaller and slower. They were more apt to have structure issues. The Liberty ships were more vulnerable to German U-boats, as 200 ships sank during their use (not all by enemy torpedoes). The Victory ships suffered five ships being sank – two in the Atlantic and three by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean.
The SS American Victory – which was 455 feet long and could travel as fast as 17 knots (about 19 mph) – served in the Pacific Ocean Theater. It provided supplies to the American military.
Following World War II, The SS American was engaged to help transport supplied to Europe as part of the continent’s reconstruction under the Marshall Plan.
In later years, the ship was assigned to civilian customers, including a period of providing supplies during the Vietnam War.
The SS American Victory was destined to be mothballed by the government, unless someone was willing to use it as a museum. The ship was relocated to Tampa in 1999.
The museum is a cool place to visit. You get a great look into the ship’s operations, and exhibits around the boat highlight the importance of the Merchant Marine, Navy and the civilians who helped build and maintain the ships.
The museum pays tribute to “Rosie the Riveter.” That was the nickname given to the women who worked in the factories and shipyards to keep the war effort going strong at home.
The ship has a small exhibit on military equipment used by the Merchant Marines.
Other Victory ships are recognized with a wall of their names.
As you walk through the hull, you see life jackets and life boats that were important to the men on board.
The ship has a lot of open displays, with little to no Plexiglas obstructing views. That was much appreciated.
Our self-guided tour led us through several areas of the ship – the sleeping quarters, mess hall, etc.
One of the ship’s volunteers took us into the engine room for a closer look at what the boat run. He explained how everything worked and why the Victory was a better class of ship than the Liberty (no offense intended to the Liberty veterans).
We stopped by the Captain’s quarters.
Another room that had a volunteer available was the communication room. The radio system on the ship still works. The ship is taken out annually on a short cruise.
What tour of a ship would be complete without a visit to the Bridge? This is the room where the ship is piloted.
The SS American Victory has two gun ports still in position. One is at the front, and the other at the rear (lacking naval terms, I know). We checked out both. They were different sizes of guns.
The one in the aft (rear) looked like it was pointed at a cruise ship along the dock.
Life boats were located atop the deck, as well.
The thing I find really cool about the older ship displays is the equipment. There were ropes laid out, just like they would have been back in the day. I think they make for good photos (you may not agree after seeing my version).
We had a great visit aboard the SS American Victory. If you’re interested in military history, like old boats or enjoy living history museums, the SS American Victory should be on your list of must-see things in the Tampa area.
For more information on the SS American Victory, please visit www.americanvictory.org.