Celebrating the SS Red Oak Victory’s birthday on Veterans Day
on November 11, 2014
The year was 1944 when 19-year-old Robert DiChiara sat on the SS Red Oak Victory to have his photo taken.
Seventy years later, DiChiara said he has tremendous memories from that time and feels like he’s “in a candy store” because he’s so happy to be back aboard.
In honor of Veterans Day, the now 89-year-old DiChiara was the honorary guest speaker at the birthday celebration of the ship, which was built at Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond in 1944. Memorial rituals included remarks by other veterans and remembrances of those who died. More than 300 people watched as they laid a wreath and tossed flowers into the bay.
DiChiara said he is amazed at all the work volunteers have put in to restore the Red Oak Victory.
“I never thought I would see it in such great shape,” DiChiara said. “I hope to see it up and running and cruising down the bay one day.”
DiChiara was onboard the Red Oak from 1944 until it was decommissioned in 1946. He said he was one of 15 other crew members who were his age.
“There is no one else left,” DiChiara said.
When the Richmond shipyard was active, there were 747 ships built there. “It was the largest shipyard in the United States,” said Charlie Moran, a volunteer at the Red Oak. Now there are only three such ships left, and the SS Red Oak Victory is one of them.
“I volunteer at the Red Oak because its bigger than me, it will be here long after I’m gone,” Moran said.
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