Posted on Friday, March 9, 2012 by Shawn Dake
S.S. LANE VICTORY On The Move
By Shawn J. Dake
After two decades in residence at Berth 94 in Los Angeles Harbor, the World War II vintage steamship LANE VICTORY has moved to a new location within the port. On February 6, 2012, at 9:37am, with the aid of tugs, the last fully manned, fully operational, sea-going “Victory Ship” made her way down the main channel and an hour and a half later was secured to her new home at Berth 46 in the outer harbor. Even that location may be temporary as tentative plans by port officials call for the ship to relocate to nearby Berth 50 or another location, although nothing is definite yet as to where a permanent dock will be.
The Port of Los Angeles plans to make some major changes which necessitated moving the ship. Berth 94, located just across the slip from the Los Angeles World Cruise Terminal, was an highly visible location once occupied by the former Canadian Pacific Railway cruise ship PRINCESS LOUISE during her many years serving as a restaurant. Beneath the iconic Vincent Thomas Bridge is the present location of the Catalina Cruise Terminal, the San Pedro home of Catalina Express boats and formerly the pier for the famous white steamer CATALINA in her later years up through 1975. Later this year, the current Catalina fleet will relocate to Berth 94 while the old terminal is demolished to make way for yet another container terminal for China Shipping.
I spoke with Anthony Broude, president of the United States Merchant Marine Veterans Of World War II (USMMVWII) about the move and how a World War II era ship is doing in the 21st century. He was optimistic on all fronts. “So far, everything is good. Right now, with signage in place, I think this [location] will work out a lot better.” He said, “We have three marinas with 2,000 boats nearby. I’ve introduced us as the new neighbors and am looking for good cooperation from them. The Holiday Harbor [yacht club] has already reserved 100 tickets on our first cruise.” Asked about relations with the Port Of Los Angeles, he went on to say, “there is good cooperation; no complaints. They have a tentative plan to move us to Berth 50, but that is not yet definite.” I asked if there could be any plans to eventually moor the LANE VICTORY with the battleship U.S.S. IOWA which is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles in the Spring of 2012. Mr. Broude stated “There are no plans and no joint efforts, however we’ll cooperate with them, but we are not joining the Pacific Battleship Center,” the group which controls the IOWA. “We like to stay independent. We are like two businesses but we’ll be helping each other.” The date for the IOWA to arrive in Los Angeles is still uncertain but the two ships could meet at sea before then. In the works is a plan to sail the LANE VICTORY on a very special cruise to rendezvous with the IOWA somewhere off the Southern California coast. “This will be a historical event that will probably never occur again,” said Broude. “We still need to hammer out the dates but we’ll be taking names and numbers for tickets for the rendezvous with the U.S.S. IOWA.” Even grander plans could eventually see the ship sailing across the Pacific again to commemorate the end of the Korean War and the major role the ship played in the evacuation of refugees.
Closer to home, the LANE VICTORY will operate four cruises that spend a full day at sea off the California coast. It is a fun-filled, historic voyage that provides scenic views of Catalina Island and the unique opportunity to experience every aspect of a Victory ship in operation. This year the departure dates are July 28th, August 25th, September 22nd, and October 20th. Anthony Broude enthusiastically described what one can expect onboard these cruises. “We provide a lot of bang at a very reasonable price. The day starts early with a continental breakfast followed by a catered lunch. After cruising past Catalina, we give them an air show. It takes guests back to the era of 1945. We would like to eventually go back to six cruises a year. It is a big treat for the price.” That price is $130.00 for adults and $80.00 for children age 15 or younger. As someone who has experienced it myself, I can attest that a cruise on the LANE VICTORY is worth every penny, and it is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. The ship holds a passenger certificate to carry 896 guests on these cruises.
The LANE VICTORY was built in Los Angeles. The keel for Maritime Commission hull number V-794 was laid on April 5, 1944 at the California Shipbuilding Corporation (CalShip) yard; one of 531 Victory ships constructed toward the end of World War II. A total of 69 of the VC2-S-AP2 class vessels were built by CalShip. The LANE VICTORY was launched on May 31, 1945 and less than a month later on June 27, 1945 it was delivered to the Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration, to be crewed and operated by American President Lines. Her maiden voyage took her from Port Hueneme, California carrying munitions to the Pacific. With the war winding down this first trip on July 2, 1945 would also be her last during the Second World War. One subsequent voyage took place after the end of hostilities. The guns were removed and in March, 1946 the LANE VICTORY was fully chartered to American President Lines for a two year period. On May 11, 1948, the relatively new ship was laid up in the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay, California. It would be the first of several lengthy visits there. The conflict in Korea saw the ship reactivated in October, 1950.
The LANE VICTORY played a major role in the rescue of thousands of Korean refugees from Wonson, North Korea and later the evacuation of troops, vehicles and supplies while under fire at Hungnam that December. After heroism in Far Eastern waters, the ship returned to Suisun Bay again in October, 1953. Another war in another Asian country brought the LANE VICTORY back to life in September, 1966. The Vietnam War found the ship transporting supplies across the Pacific for the next four years. Following duty in the third war of her career, the ship again returned to the Suisun Bay “Ghost Fleet” where along with many of her sister ships, she would await her fate. While the paint peeled and the metal rusted on these old “Victory Ships” a plan was afoot which would ultimately save the LANE VICTORY. On October 18, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 2032 which conveyed the ship to the United States Merchant Marine Veterans Of World War II. On June 12, 1989 the LANE VICTORY was towed into Los Angeles Harbor; her homeport once again. Three years of hard labor restored the ship to operational condition. After successful sea trials and the blessings of the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship embarked passengers for what would be the first of many “Victory At Sea” cruises on October 3, 1992.
The LANE VICTORY has gone through many things and witnessed much history in her nearly seven decades of existence. I asked Anthony Broude a final question about the future of the ship and any thoughts he would like to share with readers. He said, “The future of the LANE VICTORY is we’re still sound and in great shape. It is an all volunteer crew. We are a completely manned, sea-going ship, licensed to sail in waters anywhere in the world.” He mentioned the challenges involved in volunteer staffing; “It is hard because most of the crew that are younger have their regular jobs as well. We can always use crew for all jobs onboard… cooks, gift shop, K.P. – There’s no unemployment on the LANE VICTORY. We’re here. We’re planning on staying here and we’re open 9am to 3pm daily.” Admission to the ship is $5.00 for adults and only $2.00 for children.
The LANE VICTORY provides an amazing glimpse into what working life was like on a cargo ship from a much earlier era. It’s mission now is to serve as a living historical monument dedicated to the achievements and contributions made by U.S. Merchant Marine veterans. More information can be found on their excellent website at:
Thanks to Anthony Broude, Martin Cox, and Jim Shuttleworth.