During World War II Valdosta’s population was only around 15,000 people. But the community was so active in contributing to the war effort that it was honored by having a ship named in its honor.
In the 1940s, during World War II, communities and organizations throughout the United States held numerous War Bond drives to raise money for financing America’s role in the conflict. Through War Bonds, home-front Americans could personally participate and invest in the war effort.
In 1944, shortly after the fourth War Bond drive in Valdosta and Lowndes County, the government announced that a ship would be named S.S. Valdosta Victory to honor the region for its generosity in purchasing the bonds.
The S.S. Valdosta Victory was built in 51 days by the Seas Shipping Company, according to a December 8, 1944 report by the Valdosta Daily Times. A cargo ship, the S.S. Valdosta Victory was designed for postwar operation and, as a Victory ship (VC2-S-AP3), was considered to be “a much finer vessel” than the previous Liberty ships. The ship was 455 feet, with a beam of 62 feet. The S.S. Valdosta Victory’s 8500 shaft horsepower steam-turbine could push the ship to 15 knots. It could hold 10,700 tons of cargo and carried a crew of 47. The S.S. Valdosta Victory was one of several Victory ships named after U.S. towns.
The Valdosta Victory under construction
The Chamber of Commerce Victory Ship Committee, the American Legion and Valdosta City Council selected two Valdosta women, Mrs. G.C. McCrary and Mrs. G.H. Tunison, for the honor of christening the S.S. Valdosta Victory. Both women had five sons each fighting in World War II. Mrs. Tunison was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness, but Mrs. McCrary traveled to the Bethlehem-Fairfield Ship Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. There, she christened the ship on December 11, 1944, in the “name of Valdosta, Georgia and servicemen everywhere.”
The S.S. Valdosta Victory survived World War II and served in the Korean War. It was last reported, in 1978, as being in “moth balls on the West Coast” in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisan Bay, California. Its fate since then is not immediately known.
In 1989 the McCrary family donated the christening bottle and its box, along with a launching photo album and related materials, to the Lowndes County Historical Society. The bottle, its box, and other contents are on display in our museum. Later examination of the box found that underneath a pull out panel were more hidden items, including bank notes, foreign currency, papers, letters and a war journal by Edwin L. McCrary, son of Mrs. G.C. McCrary.