On the Water

Ship Model, Victory Ship Type VC2-S-AP

By 1943, the outlook for an Allied victory in World War II was steadily improving. The reign of the U-boats that had plagued Allied convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic was coming to an end. And the Axis powers were finally losing the tonnage war, which aimed to sink Allied merchant ships faster than replacements could be built. While the mass-produced Liberty ships were faithfully carrying cargo and troops to war zones, these ships were relatively slow. In response, the War Shipping Administration commissioned a new class of emergency vessels called Victory ships. This model represents one of the 534 Victory ships that were built alongside the Liberty ships in seven shipyards around the country.

Speed was the key difference between the Victory and Liberty ships. When Liberty ships were designed, all of the new steam turbine engines were reserved for naval vessels, leaving the Liberty ships with reciprocating steam engines. While these engines were reliable, the ships could only reach 11 knots, leaving them vulnerable to attack. As the war progressed, more turbine engines became available and were installed in the Victory ships, giving them a speed of over 16 knots.

Another improvement of the Victory design was a stronger and larger hull. This meant that more cargo could be transported at once, and improved the odds of the vessels continuing to serve in the merchant fleet during times of peace. After World War II, 170 Victory ships were sold as commercial freighters. About 20 were loaned back to the military and used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Several Victory ships have been preserved as museum ships and are currently located in California and Florida.

ID Number:
early 1940s
approx: 6 x 57 x 8 in.; 15.24 x 144.78 x 20.32 cm
Gift of U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Maritime Commisison (through J. M. Winston)