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SS Rensselaer Victory Ship Celebration

Nearly 40 alumni, guests, and members of the Rensselaer community met on Feb. 10 aboard the SS American Victory, docked in Tampa, Fla., for the SS Rensselaer Victory Ship Celebration, sponsored by the Rensselaer Alumni Association.

The SS Rensselaer was one of thousands of Victory Ships produced to meet the overwhelming demand for cargo and troop ships during World War II. Many of these ships were named for U.S. colleges and universities. Unfortunately, the SS Rensselaer, a troop ship built in 1945 at Terminal Island, Calif., was scrapped in 1970, meeting the same fate as the vast majority of the Victory Ship fleet. But aboard the American Victory Museum & Ship—one of only three fully functioning Victory Ships that remain — guests learned the history of the SS Rensselaer, and the connection of Rensselaer and its alumni to the crucial Victory Ship effort.

Carl Westerdahl, former Rensselaer director of alumni relations and former dean of students, shared a presentation called “WWII, Victory Ships, and Rensselaer.” He described how the majority of the ships were built by Kaiser Shipbuilding, which oversaw the Kaiser Shipyards — the largest shipbuilding program in the world at that time. The shipyards were managed by Clay P. Bedford ’24, a member of the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame. Bedford became a recognized efficiency expert when his idea to use prefabricated sections led to the building of a ship in four days, 15 hours, and 29 minutes. In five years, he oversaw the production of 727 ships, which directly contributed to the winning of the war—another example of how Rensselaer graduates are involved in the most important milestones of history.

The presentation was followed by lunch and docent-guided tours of the museum, where an exhibit honoring the SS Rensselaer was on display.

RPI TV has produced a short documentary about the event, available at http://alumni.rpi.edu/ondemand.

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 4, March 18, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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