From Special Collections/University Archives: The SS Bucknell Victory

Did you know that an armed cargo ship in service during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars was named after Bucknell University? Built in 1945 by the United States Government, the SS Bucknell Victory was one of 150 armed cargo ships named after outstanding American Universities. The SS Bucknell Victory was built by the Permanente Metals Cooperation at the Kaiser Yard in Richmond, California.

At 455 ft. long, 10,800 tons, with a speed of 15 knots, the SS Bucknell Victory was christened on February 10th by Mrs. H. F. Walker with six other Bucknell Alumni in attendance: Lt. Commander Howard L. Rosenberger (Class of 1918), Louise Rosenberger (Class of 1944), Mrs. C. Arlin Heydon, Jr. (Class of 1940), Willard Samuel (Class of 1915), Mrs. Jean Samuel Howard (Class of 1942), and Mrs. Charles Reed (Class of 1941). The ship’s first voyage was to deliver cargo for the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific.

Bucknell’s President Marts proposed the idea of installing a library on the SS Bucknell Victory. He asked that the women students donate 50 cents each, to which they responded with enthusiasm by raising $350.00 to purchase 150 books. The books were delivered by the American Merchant Marine Library Association to California where the SS Bucknell Victory was expected to dock after its first service mission.

The SS Bucknell Victory was damaged by a Kamikaze pilot on May 9th, 1945. Fortunately, the ship was salvageable and repaired to continue service for the United States Government. After World War II, the SS Bucknell Victory was converted to a livestock vessel, making five trips across the Atlantic. Eventually the SS Bucknell Victory was moved to the National Defense Reserve Fleet, but later became a merchant ship during the Korean War. During the Vietnam War, the SS Bucknell Victory was sent back to the National Defense Reserve Fleet, where it remained until the end of the war. In 1994, the SS Bucknell Victory ended its service career and was scrapped in China.

Salvaged from the scrapping was a life preserver from the SS Bucknell Victory, which now resides within the Special Collections/University Archives collection. With its orange and blue colors, looking at this artifact gives one a sense of how honored Bucknellians felt when the United States Government decided to name a ship after the University. As the last physical remnant of the SS Bucknell Victory, the life preserver is accessible to those interested in the University’s stories and history.

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