SS Red Oak Victory is a World War II Victory ship preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. It was one of 534 Victories built during World War II, but one of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant Marine to the United States Navy. It was named after Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered a disproportionate number of casualties in early World War II battles. The ship was active during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The Red Oak Victory was built by the Permanente Metals Corporation's Richmond Number 1 Yard in Richmond, California and launched on November 9, 1944. Victory ships were not supposed to last long, but the welds of the Red Oak Victory are still intact after 60 years. The ship is 455 feet (138 m) in length, and armed with one five-inch/38 caliber gun; one three-inch/50 caliber gun, and eight 20 mm guns.
The ship was acquired by the United States Navy on December 5, 1944 and commissioned the same day as USS Red Oak Victory (AK-235). Following a fitting out period, the Red Oak Victory was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor on January 10, 1945. Red Oak Victory departed Hawaii on February 10 loaded with munitions needed in the Marshall and Caroline islands. Sent onward from Enewetak, she arrived in Ulithi on February 28, 1945, and then began operating under Commander Service Squadron Ten. Operating out of the Philippines, the vessel issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During a hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, the USS Red Oak Victory handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.
The vessel was decommissioned in 1946 and returned to the U.S. Maritime Commission. Red Oak Victory was used by the Luckenbach Steamship Company from 1947 through the 1950s, during which time the vessel went to Japan, Korea, Cuba, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Japan again. Red Oak Victory was operated by American Mail Lines for the Military Sea Transport Service from 1966 to 1968, making a dozen voyages to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines carrying military supplies loaded at West Coast ports. From 1968 until 1998, the vessel was laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay.
Doomed to be scrapped, the Red Oak Victory came to the attention of the Richmond Museum Association in 1993. In 1996 Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the ship to the Museum Association. Red Oak Victory was turned over to the Richmond Museum of History and returned to a new home in Richmond on September 20, 1998. It is being restored and operated by the Richmond Museum of History, and is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.