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The SS Ouachita Victory was a Victory ship launched on May 8, 1945, from Wilmington, California and named for Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University). The title of SS stands for “steam ship” and should not be confused with USS, which signifies it as a “United States Ship.” Although it was used during World War II, the Ouachita was not associated with the United States Navy.
The California Shipbuilding Corporation built the SS Ouachita Victory. The ship was 455 feet long and was composed of three decks. It could travel at a speed of fifteen knots. Lightly armed with small guns, Victory ships were never meant for battle. Their primary function was to transport cargo and troops. Only three victory ships were sunk during World War II, and all of these occurred during the invasion of Okinawa.
The Ouachita was one of 534 ships built during World War II and the post-war period. Of these 534 vessels, 150 were named after colleges or universities, and the SS Ouachita Victory was the twenty-fourth Victory ship named after an educational institution and the only American ship named after an Arkansas educational institution. A former student of Ouachita sent a letter requesting that a Victory ship be named for the college, and with the support of Congressman Oren Harris and the Arkadelphia Lions Club, the ship was named.
Several companies operated the SS Ouachita Victory: the Mississippi Shipping Company, the Bull Steamship Company, and the States Marine Corporation.
The SS Ouachita Victory was placed under the command of Captain Henry C. Chase after it was launched. Unlike many other Victory ships, the SS Ouachita Victory was used primarily as a cargo-carrying vessel. Most other Victory ships transported troops back to the United States after the end of World War II. Records indicate that the ship docked at a number of ports around the world, including Calcutta, India; Stockholm, Sweden; Trieste, Italy; and a number of ports in Greece.
For additional information: Halliburton, W. H., and Lurline Stewart Birkhead. “S.S. Ouachita Victory.” Clark County Historical Journal, 1994, 101–7.
“Victory Ships built by the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II” http://www.usmm.org/victoryships.html (accessed September 20, 2005).
Ouachita Baptist University
Last Updated 10/16/2009
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