WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A World War II era 5-inch deck gun was recently transferred from the Naval Historical Center (NHC) repository at Cheatham Annex, Va., for installation onto the museum ship SS American Victory in Tampa, Fla.
This type of DP, or "dual-purpose," deck gun was used by Naval Armed Guard gun crews to protect merchant ships from enemy aircraft and surfaced submarines during World War II.
The SS American Victory is one of the last World War II "Victory" cargo ships built for the U.S. Merchant Marine between 1944 and 1946 still in existence. Launched in June 1945, the ship was named after American University in Washington, D.C. in honor of the school's contribution to war research. Although too late for WWII combat service, the ship transported food and goods to Europe in support of the Marshall Plan during the late 1940s. Later, it transported vital cargoes to American forces during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After many years in the Maritime Administration reserve fleet, the ship was transferred in 1999 to a Tampa nonprofit group, The Victory Ship, Inc., for use as a museum.
Like their slower and older siblings, the famous "Liberty" ships, World War II Victory ships carried deck guns manned by Naval Armed Guard Sailors, for protection. Typically, there was a 5-inch stern gun, a 3-inch bow gun, and 8 20mm anti-aircraft guns mounted on the ship. These guns were removed right after the war, and for the rest of its 30-year sailing career, the SS American Victory did not have them. To highlight the history of the ships World War II Naval Armed Guard detachment, the new museum wanted to locate and reinstall the same type of WWII deck guns.
But these types of guns have been out of the Navy's ordnance supply system for many years and are becoming increasingly difficult to locate.
"The 5-inch, 38 caliber gun was the last of the Armed Guard guns to go out of service, and that was in 1993," said Mark Wertheimer of the NHCs Curator Branch. "Fortunately for the SS American Victory, the NHC had a suitable 5-inch 38 caliber gun in its collection that could be supplied to the ship."
With the cooperative efforts of the NHC, the Naval Sea Systems Command, the Fleet Industrial Supply Center, CSX Transportation, International Ship Repair, Gulf Marine Repair, and museum volunteers, the gun was transported, lifted, and installed on the ships aft gun platform.
The gun is currently undergoing restoration by SS American Victory volunteers. The search for examples of the other types of guns continues.
(Jay Martin, The Victory Ship Inc., contributed to this article)
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