Sunday, July 12, 2009

SS American Victory lives out her retirement years proudly flying the flag and welcoming visitors at the Port of Tampa

The SS American Victory is docked just behind the Florida Aquarium in Tampa’s Channel District. She was built in Los Angeles and delivered to the U.S. War Shipping Administration on May 24, 1945. She was named after American University in Washington, DC, to honor the school’s contributions to war training and weapons research during both World War I and World War II. As you can just barely see from the photo, she is 455 feet in length and 109 feet tall. (In her younger days she would do 17 knots.) The ship was assigned to the U.S. Army and sailed to cities on the West Coast to load military cargo. Her inaugural trip was to Manila in the Philippines and then on to Shanghai, China. During World War II, she sailed the world’s oceans and saw the ports in Calcutta, Port Said, Egypt, the Caribbean and South America, including Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following her service during the war, she sailed under the American Export Lines flag to Europe, Russia and the Near East in support of the American Marshall Plan. Over the years SS American Victory earned a reputation and very proud history which also included service during the Korean War and Vietnam. After being placed into our reserve fleet, she was facing the scrap yard. In 1996, one of Tampa illustrious harbor pilots, Captain John Timmel, first conceived the idea of snatching a ship away from the scrap yard and bringing it to Tampa as a museum. The entire history of the SS American Victory and how she finally got to Tampa is an amazing story. (Their website, here, is very well done and has tons of information, lots of historic photographs and the full tale of how the ship actually got to Tampa. It should be made into a movie.) In September 1999, the SS American Victory sailed under the Skyway Bridge into Tampa Bay and arrived at her new port. These ships were vitally important to our winning World War II and then they continued for decades to perform a major role in the U.S. merchant fleet. Tampa can be proud that she is at our dock and open today as a museum. It is a fun tour and only after walking and climbing all over the ship do you even begin to get a tiny inkling of what it must have been like to sail as a member of the crew. Incredible skills and heroism.

5 comments:

Jacob said...

Beautiful ship and fascinating story. Did you get aboard? You will show us some photos you took, right?

James said...

That's really nice picture.

Don and Krise said...

I'm with Jacob on this one. We'd like to see some "on board" shots if you have any that is.

Frank said...

I didn't take any pix when I toured. It was dim, very HOT inside (only a couple of smaller rooms were air conditioned) and I was paying attention to my guide, an original member of the Korean-era crew who was spending his retirement years reparing the engine. I may have to go back. It is really neat and BIG inside.

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