American Victory: 1942-2018

The historic steamer American Victory departed Duluth on the morning of Sunday, June 17, under tow of the tug Tim McKeil. The ship is bound for a scrapyard at Aliaga, Turkey, where she will be broken up. The McKeil will tow the vessel, renamed Victo, as far as Montreal, where she will be picked up by an ocean-going tug and towed across the Atlantic to the scrapyard.

The vessel was originally constructed as a tanker for service in World War II,  and was launched on Halloween 1942 as the USS Neshanic. She was stuck by a Japanese bomb on June 18, 1944, while refueling a destroyer, however was repaired and returned to service. She was decommissioned in December of 1945.


The tanker entered commercial service in 1947 as Gulfoil for the Gulf Oil Company, and her career was mostly uneventful until August 7, 1958, when she collided with the tanker S. E. Graham off the coast of Rhode Island. The Graham exploded, and as a result, the Gulfoil was heavily damaged and most of her crew perished. The vessel was taken to Baltimore, where it was determined that the ship was repairable. She was converted to straight deck bulk carrier, her pilothouse and forward cabins were moved to the bow, and she was lengthened and widened to her current dimensions (730 feet long, 75 feet wide). She was purchased by the Pioneer Steamship Company, renamed Pioneer Challenger, and entered Great Lakes service on July 16, 1961.


The vessel only carried the name Pioneer Challenger for two seasons, as the Pioneer Steamship Company disbanded shortly after purchasing the vessel. She was sold to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton in 1962, and renamed Middletown. The vessel was converted to a self-unloader in 1982 at Bay Shipbuilding, further increasing her viability.


She served Oglebay Norton for nearly 50 years before the company sold its fleet to various buyers in 2006. Middletown, along with five other fleetmates, was purchased by the American Steamship Company and renamed American Victory. The vessel finished out the 2006 season and operated during both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.


American Victory arrived in Duluth on November 12, 2008, and laid up at Fraser Shipyards, never to run again. In December of 2017, it was announced that American Steamship had sold the Victory, along with fleetmates American Valor, Buffalo, and Adam E. Cornelius, to the Algoma Central Corp. Algoma initially stated that it was “exploring options” for the vessel, however they announced in March that they had ultimately decided to scrap the ship. (All photos above courtesy of


I took this photo a few winters back, showing American Victory laid up at Elevator M in Superior.

American Victory in Fraser Shipyards

The vessel was brought back to Fraser Shipyards a few weeks ago to have her self-unloading boom and other equipment removed before she was towed away for scrap. This shot was taken by Dennis O’Hara. He also put together a nice video from various harbor cameras showing the vessel’s final departure from Duluth.

American Victory departs Duluth for scrap

This photo was taken by Jeff Doty as American Victory was towed from the harbor and into Lake Superior.



One thought on “American Victory: 1942-2018

  1. thanks again Dan, I watched the live tow out of duluth this morning, sad to see a historic boat leave the lakes. Your info and insight are very much appreciated !


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