November 15, 2019
Written by: Emily Rose Clayton (GSAS ’20)
On May 8, 1945, Allied forces accepted the surrender of German forces, marking the end of hostilities in the European theater. A week later, New York University was honored with the launching of a new Naval vessel, as the SS NYU Victory launched at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, in Baltimore, Maryland. As the war continued in the Pacific, and the Allies in Europe began the work of rebuilding, the new transport ship joined the ranks of the U.S. Merchant Marines.
The Victory class ships began production in 1943, replacing the Liberty class ships used earlier in the war as cargo and troop transport ships. Designed to be strong and fast, with a large cargo capacity and short production time, these naval workhorses replaced ships lost during the war, as well as increasing transportation capabilities.
The NYU Victory took its place among 534 completed Victory ships, approximately 150 of which were named for colleges and universities across America, including Harvard, Yale, and other prestigious institutions. Built in six different shipyards, the Victory ships joined the U.S. Fleet in 1944 and 1945, continuing to serve immediately after the war in support capacities. A number of these vessels remained active military vessels, serving in Korea and Vietnam, while others were converted into research vessels for NASA or the U.S. Navy. Others were sold to become commercial cargo ships, or scrapped. Today, only three Victory ships survive, and have been designated as museum ships: the SS American Victory, located in Florida, and the SS Lane Victory and SS Red Oak Victory, both in California.
The keel was laid for the NYU Victory on March 26, 1945. At 456 feet long, with a speed of 15 knots and a cargo capacity of 10,000 tons, the newest addition to the Victory ranks was launched on May 16, 1945, as part of the U.S. Merchant Marines under the operation of the Shepard Steamship Company. Mrs. Otis N. Shepard acted as the ship’s sponsor and held the honor of performing the christening ceremony. NYU comptroller Dr. Leroy E. Kimball and his wife represented the university, and participated in the launching of the ship.
Following its launch, the ship was converted to a troopship, which involved the addition of a large galley, additional ventilation and sanitation systems, and the conversion of cargo holds into sleeping quarters.
The NYU Victory then underwent a multitude of tests to prove her seaworthiness, including a six-hour endurance run, a “crash” stop, anchor test, rudder steering tests, and full-speed astern performance. Commander Terence T. Bond was reported as being “very well impressed with the speed and maneuverability” of the new vessel.
In support of the NYU Victory and its crew, the NYU Society for the Libraries announced their intention to supply a shipboard library, a common undertaking for universities honored with Victory ships. The Society conducted an extended campaign to collect volumes and raise funds for continued maintenance of the library, resulting in over 500 books and $250. Titles ranged from literary classics to popular fiction, and included religious texts along with a selection of non-fiction. The Propeller Club of New York also contributed a number of volumes to supply a technical library.
Little is known of the service record of the NYU Victory, but she completed at least one voyage in August, 1945 to bring home members of the 1269th Engineer Combat Battalion, a unit instrumental in the capture of German atomic weapons facilities and personnel as part of Operation Big. Following the war, she was sold to an Argentinian shipping company, renamed the Cordoba, and eventually scrapped in Campana in 1972.