By Nicolas Gatti
The American Victory is a local museum situated behind the Florida Marine Aquarium. Since 1999, the museum has been dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Merchant Marines. The Museum is run by a small, but dedicated group of people. From the docents in the museum to the engineers in the engine room all work very hard to keep the ship afloat. All of their hard work culminates in the preservation of one of the last operational World War II Victory ships in the country.
The S.S. American Victory was constructed in 1945, near the end of World War II. It was one of 534 victory ships built during World War II. Victory and Liberty ships were used to transfer food and supplies to Europe and Asia. The American Victory was used to transfer munitions and other supplies, mostly in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After World War II, the American Victory was sold to American Export Lines as a freighter. At the beginning of the Korean War, it was transferred back to the U.S. Maritime Commission for use in the war. After the Korean War, the ship went into storage until the beginning of the Vietnam War. After the Vietnam War ended, the ship went into lay-up until it was purchased from the Maritime Commission to become a museum in Tampa, Florida.
The American Victory is run by a dedicated group of volunteers and employees. They have worked tirelessly to restore the ship and make it functional again. Volunteers come from all over the world and from every walk of life. Such as Nick Knowlton, the ships First Engineer, who is originally from England and can recount first seeing a Victory Ship on the River Themes in London when he was in the Merchant Navy. Having known them for almost half a year, they are truly a great group of people who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the ship.
The museum has a great feel to it. Not only is the museums content historical but the museum it’s self is historical. The museum has interesting and wide ranging content that even showcases some of the people that have worked there. A large portion of the ship is not available for viewing by the public due to safety and legal concerns. But the museum exhibits are always changing and should hopefully showcase those areas in the future. Still, the places you can see as a tourist are really cool. Such as the bridge, crew quarters, and the upper level of the engine room.
The American Victory Merchant Marine ship and museum is a fantastic local museum. The ship has great staff who are happy to help answer any questions you may have. As well as a great collection of historically relevant artifacts. All in all this museum is highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in historical places.