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Smith Victory Ship

On May 24, 1945, Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, Class of 1896, aimed for the bow of the 455-foot steel ship and swung with all her might. The ceremonial champagne bottle burst on the first swing and the SS Smith Victory slid down the ways into the Patapsco River near Baltimore, MD.

The Victory ships produced during World War II by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, MD were named for the oldest colleges and universities with 500 or more students. The shipyard employed 47,000 people and launched ships at an astonishing rate. Prior to the war, the construction of the Smith Victory would have required more than a year. During the height of war-time production they completed her in 43 days. Once in the water, the Smith Victory could carry 10,800 tons of supplies or 1,500 troops at a top speed of 15 knots.

The Smith Victory was originally slated to haul supplies to the fighting troops in Europe but Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, two weeks before the ship was launched. She was reassigned the more satisfying task of bringing those troops home. A daily newsletter called the “Sea Breeze” entertained the men during the trip. The following editorial was written for the October 31, 1945 issue and is a glimpse into the thoughts of those returning home.

And so it’s over – - this rotten, stinking, smelly mess that is inadequately called War. . . . Perhaps it is our soul that we have lost – - but lost something we have, and it was good and fine, and clean, and we doubt if we shall ever see it again. So we are headed home – - and the ship isn’t made that can take us there quickly enough.

The Smith Victory served her country by returning about 7,000 soldiers to their families. In 1947 she was sold to a company in Argentina and renamed the Buenos Aires. She served as a cargo and passenger ship until 1968 when she ran aground on the Grand Bahama Bank and was towed to Bilbao Spain. The former Smith Victory was broken up for scrap metal sometime later that year.

Karen Eberhart

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