South Dakota U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds recently announced the naming of an Independence-variant, Littoral Combat Ship, the “USS Pierre,” after South Dakota’s capital city. The ship is the third United States naval vessel named for Pierre. To celebrate this recent naming, the South Dakota State Historical Society offers the following background on the previous vessels named for Pierre.
During World War II, the “SS Pierre Victory” (VC2-S-AP3), the first ship named for Pierre, was a cargo vessel which saw active service during the war.
The second vessel named for Pierre was originally called “USS PC-1141,” which was a PC-461-class submarine chaser built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was renamed “USS Pierre” (PC-1141) in 1956. The ship was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy in October 1958 and transferred to the Indonesian Navy.
The Pierre Victory was a Victory-class merchant cargo ship built for the U.S. Maritime Commission (USMC). The Maritime Commission realized the need for a faster, more modern cargo ship to replace the older Liberty-class. Victory ships transported the same cargo tonnage as Liberty ships, but were 60 percent faster, were built stronger and were faster at loading and unloading cargo.
The length of the Victory-class ships was 455 feet, with a width of 62 feet. The vessel had a cruising range of 23,500 miles, held a crew of 62 men, had a top speed of 17 knots (about 20 mph) and cost $2.5 million in 1945 dollars.
Mrs. Emma S. Jassman of Pierre, who had five sons who served during World War II, was the sponsor of the ship and christened the “SS Pierre Victory” on Dec. 6, 1944. Mrs. Jassman was sent by the city of Pierre through the efforts of the Pierre Chamber of Commerce. Pierre Mayor John B. Griffin was also at the christening, along with other Pierre residents.
The Pierre Victory was built at the Oregon Shipbuilding Company shipyards in Portland, Ore. Emma’s husband, Emil Jassman, provided the Pierre Daily Capital Journal with a description of the yards: “It is here that one sees hundreds of welders, both young and old, men and women, moving up to start the welding of the seams of the various sections of steel … From a distance the ship yards look like a large lumber yard, but when one comes within a close range one discovers that it is steel sheets, steel beams, enormous stacks of large steel pipe, large drive (propeller) shafts and bearings.”
The Pierre Victory saw action in the Pacific Theater of war. In early April 1945, the Pierre Victory, two other Victory ships and one amphibious assault ship were stationed near Kerama Retto, a tiny group of islands strategically located 15 miles west of Okinawa, Japan. The convoy was attacked by kamikaze airplanes. The Pierre Victory was the only ship to service the assault and shot down one plane.
The Pierre Victory and other Victory-class cargo vessels were used during the post-war years to haul food and machinery to war-torn Europe, Russia and Asia. Victory ships were also used during the Korean War.
The Pierre Victory was destined to join the Navy’s mothball fleet at Astoria, Ore., in January of 1951. She did not go quietly. After being stripped of her armaments at Portland, the Pierre Victory was towed up the Columbia River. The hull of its first towboat, Henderson, was pierced and sank. A second sternwheel boat, Jean, came to tow the ship, but ran into a dock, damaging the paddle wheel. Finally, a fleet of four tugs — the Chinook, Panther, Tiger and Klickitat — escorted the Pierre Victory to the mothball fleet.
Editor’s Note I: SS Pierre Victory leaving the ways of the Oregon Shipbuilding Company (Portland, Ore.) on Dec. 6, 1944. (Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives)
Editor’s Note II: Mrs. Emma S. Jassman of Pierre, who had five sons who served during World War II, christened the SS Pierre Victory on Dec. 6, 1944. (Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives)