Posts Tagged ‘Swan Island’

‘Song of the Victory Fleet’

posted on March 5, 2014

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer 

“Whenever and wherever Americans gather, there you hear Americans singing, because America is a singing nation.”

F&A 1944-05-26-3-det

“Our Merchant Ships Deliver the Goods” infographic, Fore ‘n’ Aft (Kaiser Richmond Shipyards newsletter) 5/26/1944

This is the stirring introduction to a recording of patriotic music from the Oct. 27, 1945, launching celebration of the SS Bent’s Fort, the last tanker built in the Kaiser Swan Island Shipyards in Portland, Oregon, under the wartime contract.

“Song of the Victory Fleet” is performed by “The Singing Sentinels,” four Oregon Shipbuilding Company security guards (Del Von Zuethen, Chuck Faris,   John “Ken” Rogers and Mel Gordon) who provided entertainment at ship launchings and other

After the war they continued as the “Kaiser-Frazer Singing Sentinels” at the Willow Run automobile plant in Michigan.[ii]

We’ll build and sail ‘em – We’ll never fail ‘em!
The Victory Fleet will be complete we know.

On every ocean, we’ll be in motion,
The Victory Fleet will soon defeat the foe.

We’ll have a bridge of ships beyond compare,
We’ll soon be able to walk from here to over there.

The world is cheering! The skies are clearing!
With the Victory Fleet – Let’s go.

“Song of the Victory Fleet”
words and music by
Leonard Whiteup, 1942 (1903-1979)


Employees open house, Richmond shipyard #2, part of 1945 Martime Day observances.
Click on graphic to hear the Singing Sentinels perform “Song of the Victory Fleet”

“Song of the Victory Fleet” was first performed May 22, 1942, at the initial wartime observance of National Maritime Day.

It was dedicated to the U.S. Maritime Commission, and immediately adopted as theirs.

Congress established National Maritime Day in 1933 to honor our country’s role in marine transportation; at the time the Merchant Marine was quite small. But that all changed with World War II .

Absent from this recording is the interlude:

In the fact’ries hear the hammers night and day.
In the shipyards everyone is on his way.

On the ocean every seaman joins the fray.
We heard the bugles blow! We answered our country’s call!

We’re ready one and all!

Journalist Peter Edson, writing his column for the Times Daily, had this to say when the song premiered:

“The song is one of those rousing sea chanteys that even a landlubber building lifeboats in Kokomo can limber up his larynx on and get a belt out of bellowing or barber shopping.

“And when you accompany the tune with full orchestration and sound effects of riveting hammers, clanking anchor chains and the blowing of full-lunged baritone and bass steamship whistles – matey, it does something to your morale.

“Morale building is the big idea behind observance of Maritime Day this year and this whole shipping program is something to give your spine a tingle. It isn’t just something to celebrate on salt water, either, with maybe the Great Lakes thrown in for good measure.

“There will be big celebrations in the 60 shipyards where, on some 300 ways, ocean-going ships are under construction.”

After the war, celebrations of service focused on those in the military, and merchant mariners were left out of the festivities. Maritime Day ceased, but in 1970 the Maritime Administration resurrected this observance of honoring veterans of the merchant marine and those who gave their lives in service to the United States. That observance has been held every year since then.

Hear the Singing Sentinels perform “Song of the Victory Fleet”

 Short link to this story:

[i] Article on the Singing Sentinels,

[ii] Article in Saline (MI) Observer 3/20/1947

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Launch of the S.S. Multnomah Tanker, One of Kaiser’s Last Ships, Was 65 Years Ago This 4th of July Weekend

posted on July 2, 2010

By Tom Debley
Director of Heritage Resources

Sixty-five years ago this 4th of July weekend, World War II was drawing to close and one of the last of the Kaiser-built ships for the war, the SS Multnomah, was launched in Portland, Oregon.

Henry J. Kaiser, who had witnessed his boyhood hero Teddy Roosevelt as the trust-busting President fighting monopolistic business practices, had lived through the Great Depression and he had a vision of a better post-war America.

“If we re-build a world of monopoly and special privilege, we will taste a defeat as bitter as a victory for the Axis powers,” he once said during World War II. “Our task and our hope is to release our energies for creative effort. …It is now our portion to be better-fed, better-housed, better-clothed, better-skilled in all the arts of production than at any time in the history of mankind. It is now our lot to enjoy better health…”

It was for visions like this that Kaiser, whose desire for better health for all Americans became Kaiser Permanente, led a heroic civilian production army of Kaiser employees who set records in shipbuilding never matched before or since.

So we thought it would be a good Fourth of July moment to let you relive those times by bringing you, from our Heritage Archive, a recording of the launch of the SS Multnomah, a tanker named for the county where the main city is Portland, on July 3, 1945 – 65 years ago Saturday.

The Multnomah was among the last of the Kaiser ships launched from his Oregon shipyards.

  Launch of the SS Multnomah

Click here to listen.


This photo is of the SS Multnomah under her second name, the Esso Worcester, sailing as a privately owned oil tanker.

Listen to the launch of the SS Multnomah from the Swan Island Shipyard by Mrs. Martin Pratt, who was the wife of the Multnomah County sheriff. You will hear the crack of the champagne bottle and a shipyard workers quartet, the Singing Sentinels, singing Anchor’s Away as the Multnomah slides into the Willamette River.

Typical launch of a Kaiser ship in Oregon during World War II is show, this being the Liberty Ship William Clark. The steel plate aloft is the keel plate for the next ship to be built, the plates being lowered into place as the just launched ship hit the water.

The SS Multnomah went into private shipping after the war as an oil tanker. It was renamed the Esso Worcester in 1947, the Hess Refiner in 1961 and the Pieces in 1976. The ship was scrapped in Taiwan in 1984 after 39 years service.


[Revised 1/15/2016, audio link updated]

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