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Visting Red Oak Victory

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I had business in San Francisco last weekend and the cheapest place to stay was in Walnut Creek.  Since I was in the vicinity I spent Sunday visiting Red Oak Victory AK-235.  In some ways the visit was a bust.  I arrived about fifteen minutes after they were to be open and there was only one docent -- and no maintenance crew -- there.  I was a bit vague as to whether it was Coast Guard or National Park Service regulations but "Gregory" said that at least three docents had to be present in order for them to open up and several had called in sick.  I spent an hour or so wandering around on the main deck and up into the superstructure and Navy guard quarters at the stern but only one other docent showed up ("Doris" -- ex-USAF) so we sat and yakked until 1pm when they gave up and closed up shop.  Biggest disappointment was the engine room was off limits; Gregory unlocked the door so we could peer down at it from the main deck but not down into the space itself.  I gave them the $20 anyway.  I kept hoping one of the ship's cranes would plunk a red container down on the deck, but it didn't.

She is the only remaining ship of the 578 built at Kaiser's Richmond yard so she's pretty special.  Parked on the dock next to her is the last of some 68 whirley cranes Kaiser had on the west coast.  It's not on rails (the ones on the dock were the wrong distance apart) and I was wondering whether it was still usable when I spotted an Osprey nest on the A-frame for the boom.  Doris mentioned there is an osprey-cam set up but as yet, the nest hadn't been reclaimed for this season.  If you check Google maps, you'll notice she is at the end of the dock instead of in the (former) drydock where the barge is.  Gregory said that she was moved so that the tasting room in the former Kaiser paint shop could get a view of the bay.

All of the Victory ships were named after towns and small cities in the US.  Red Oak, Iowa was chosen because of its casualties during the war.  The Iowa National Guard was heavily involved in the Battle of Kasserine Pass and twenty of her sons were lost there.  By war's end the toll had risen to fifty, the highest ratio of any city in the US.  After ROV was completed, she was acquired directly and commissioned by the US Navy (unlike most Victory ships) on December 5, 1944.  After a fitting-out period she was loaded with general freight and munitions, then sent off to Pearl Harbor. There the freight was removed and replaced with more munitions and she sailed for Ulithi atoll.  There she spent the remainder of the war doling out her ammo to passing warships.

They have hopes of restoring her to operating condition, ala the Jeremiah O'Brien but it's been twenty years since she was rescued and they haven't had the money yet to do the first step, inspect the boilers.  After that is done she will have to be moved again to fire the furnaces up the first time because air pollution and also the Mazda importer is renting the parking space to the west to store their just-offloaded automobiles and would not care for 50 years worth of accumulated who-knows-what raining down on their stock.  I was thinking after Texas is secured, WG might work on that next as their NA charity (hint-hint).


Edited by CorvusBB39
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22 minutes ago, CorvusBB39 said:

I was thinking after Texas is secured, WG might work on that next as their NA charity (hint-hint).

Just like Texas and her historical significance, I'd support this endeavor as well.

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Actually Victory ships were named for Allied countries, then US cities and towns, then educational institutions.


I've been a bit luckier then you it seems. I am about 2-3 hours away from Tampa Bay, home to the SS American Victory. Like you on the Red Oak, I have walked her main deck, gone through the open areas of the superstructure including the bridge. I have gazed down from the catwalk to the only view of the engine room we can get, as well as I have sailed on her. I went on her a few years ago during a Living History cruise were her engines were fired up and she made her way down the shipping channel into Tampa Bay. It is a unique sound and feeling when she is underway.


I went on her about a year ago for a second Living History Cruise with my father, sadly, we were both disappointed as she was towed on her cruise and not under power. Apparently they are working towards sailing her to France for the D-Day celebrations in 2019.


When I get a chance to, I'll try and post pictures from the time I visited her. Eventually I'm going to try and get a video together to from the trips. 

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