With Liberty Ship construction well established, designs for a new emergency cargo ship were being drawn up in early 1942. Despite the success of the Liberty program in quickly building the desperately needed tonnage to supply the war effort, commercial ship operators and the military recognized that a faster, more efficient design would be more competitive and useful after the war. By March 1943, initial plans for the new ship were complete and given the designator EC2-S-AP1. The "E" indicated it was a standardized emergency design optimized for rapid production. "C2" indicated a medium size cargo ship with a length between 450 and 500 ft. The "S" indicated single screw steam propulsion. "AP1" indicated the design and revision number. In late April '43 the "E" designator was changed to "V"
The new design was given the name "Victory Ship" by the Maritime Commission. With a design speed of 15-17 knots, and 5 cargo holds, the Victory Ship was similar to the pre-war C-2 ships in size, speed and cargo capacity. Other upgrades over the Liberty design included all electric winches, capstans and steering gear. The hull was designed to be more flexible to eliminate cracking problems encountered with some of the Liberties. The cargo holds were designed to be more versatile, including 'tween decks in the forward holds and multiuse deep-tanks in the rear holds. The new ship was designed to accommodate a wide range of engine types (turbine, diesel, or Lentz engine) due to uncertainty regarding available power plants.
- VC2-S-AP1 : was designed around a 5500 HP Lentz engine of German design with a projected speed of 15 knots
- VC2-S-AP2: was designed around a 6000 HP turbine identical to that used in the C-2 ships and had a projected speed of 16-17 knots
- VC2-S-AP3: was designed around an 8500 HP turbine used in the C-3 ships and had a projected speed of 17-18 knots
- VC2-M-AP4: was used to indicate diesel propulsion
- VC2-S-AP5: indicated an amphibious assault variant
Engine availability and conflict between the Maritime Commission and the War Production Board delayed production of the new class. The first Victory ship was not launched until February 28, 1944. Eventually, 5311 Victory ships were built (mostly AP2, AP3 and AP5 variants) by war's end.
California Shipbuilding Corporation (Calship) built a total of 69 AP2 types. The keel for Maritime Commission hull number V-794 laid on April 5, 1944 and was the 46th AP2 type built by CalShip. Named after Lane College2, hull no. V-794 was christened the S.S. Lane Victory and slid down the ways on May 31, 1945. With fitting out completed and a clean sweep of her sea trials, the S.S. Lane Victory was delivered to the Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration and American President Lines on June 27, 19453.
Thus began the S.S. Lane Victory's career as a merchant ship. She would spend her days carrying military cargo in 3 wars, carrying commercial cargo to ports all over the globe or being laid up in the reserve fleet during intervening years. During the Korean War, she would rescue over 7000 Korean refugees from Wonson. She would also evacuate over 3800 U.S. troops, 1100 vehicles, and 5 tons of supplies from Hungnam while under fire. She ferried ammunition and supplies to and from the warzone in Vietnam. During peace time, she tramped throughout the far-east Pacific ports, crossed the Atlantic several times and even circumnavigated the globe on one of her voyages. During her service she became known as a model ship and was the standard that other ships were judged by. As the Vietnam War wound down, she was the last operational Victory ship sent to the Suisan Bay reserve fleet on April 29, 1970; her career was seemingly over.
If it weren't for Joe Vernick, John Smith, and a feisty group of merchant marine veterans, The S.S. Lane Victory might have continued to silently sit and decay until finally being scrapped like her sisters. On October 18, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 2032 into law conveying the S.S. Lane Victory to the United States Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II. On June 7, 1989, the ship was officially transferred to the organization, and she was towed into Los Angeles harbor on June 12.
During the next 3 years, countless hours of volunteer labor and material donations went into restoring the ship. The cargo booms were re-rigged, the winches re-installed; water and electrical systems were restored and re-activated. The boilers and other machinery were overhauled and updated. Many upgrades were necessary to bring the ship up to modern Coast Guard standards. The ship was dry-docked in 1992 and her hull was given a clean bill-of-health. Finally, with most of the restoration and upgrades complete, her sea trials were held on Sept 10, 1992. As with her first set of trials in 1945, the S.S. Lane Victory once again returned to the harbor with a broom flying at the main mast indicating a clean-sweep! She embarked passengers for her inaugural "Victory At Sea" cruise on October 3, 1992.
Today the S.S. Lane Victory serves as a maritime museum and memorial honoring the achievements and sacrifices of the Merchant Marine sailors and Navy Armed Guardsmen in service to our nation. Her volunteer crew continues to keep her running and looking great. She is now a movie star, serving as a set for many feature films, television shows and commercials. She still sails on several "Victory At Sea" cruises every summer; giving chiseled veterans a chance to re-live past adventures and allowing, those of us too young to remember, a glimpse of what life was like during the war on the high seas.
1. Before WWII ended 531 Victory ships were constructed; 272 -AP2 types were built, 141 -AP3 types were built, 1 -AP4 type was built, and 117 -AP5 types were built. After the war, the Victory design was modified. A new variant was created that was a combination passenger and cargo ship and was given the designator VC2-S1-AP7. Three such ships were constructed and delivered to Alcoa Steamship Co. in 1947 bringing the total number of Victory-type hulls constructed to 534. Hence: When the question is asked "how many Victory Ships were built?", the answer might be 531 or 534. Both of which are technically correct depending on context.
2. The S.S. Lane Victory is often said to have been named for Isaac Lane, former slave who later became a Methodist Preacher and founded Lane College to educate other ministers their congregations. The Victory Ships were named after member countries of the United Nations, Cities and Towns of the United States, and after American colleges and universities. By no means does this diminish the achievements and honors Isaac Lane deserves. However, to be historically accurate, the Lane Victory is named after Lane College; and thus, is indirectly named for its founder.
3. During World War II, the ships built for Federal Maritime Commission were federally owned. The War Shipping Administration leased these federally owned ships to the commercial shipping lines who then crewed and operated the ships under contract with the government.