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Three converted Victory class troop ships closely tied to mass transportation of Dutch immigrants

Ships symbols of successful resettlement

Tags: Immigration

A great number of Dutch immigrants have fond memories of one of the three Victory ships which were home to them for ten days in the late 1940s and the 1950s while crossing the Atlantic Ocean to a new future in North America. The ships - named after stars and constellations - Groote Beer, Waterman and Zuiderkruis are three of the better-known post- WWII Dutch immigrant ships. Particularly the Groote Beer took numerous Dutch immigrants to Canada and the U.S.A.

The three were built during WWII on America’s west coast at wharfs at Portland, Oregon, and belonged to the Victory class, a successor to the far more numerous Liberty class. The Victory ships were built with a multi-purpose design: to be used during as well as after the war.

The immediate purpose of the three ships (Model VC2-S-AP 5) was to transport troops (about 1,500-1,600 men). At the end of 1946 the ships were purchased by the Dutch government and in the summer of 1947 made their first voyage to and from the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. The Groote Beer then was managed by the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland.

In 1951, the Groote Beer was refitted for a civilian purpose: she became an emigrant ship able to accommodate approximately 850 passengers. The ship was placed under management of the Holland-America Line (HAL). In 1960, she again was transferred, this time to the Scheepvaart Maatschappij Trans Ocean. The Waterman and Zuiderkruis also became this company’s responsibility.

In the late fifties the great influx of immigrants was over and airline KLM became the carrier of choice of most emigrants. Therefore the ships were sold and in 1964, Greek shipping entrepreneur John S. Latvis became owner of the Groote Beer. He re-christened the ship Marianne IV and she was engaged as a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. From June 1965 to March 1967, she again sailed as Groote Beer for the Holland America Line. On October 2, 1968, the ship was retired and scrapped.

The Groote Beer originally was launched and christened Costa Rica Victory by the U.S. government at Portland’s Permanent Metals Corp. In 1944, she measured GRT 7630 and after refitting GRT 9140. Should anyone have written any memories of their voyage on the Groote Beer or possess a copy of their passenger list, they are requested to contact the office of the Windmill Herald.

The Groote Beer design in the Immigrant Ship plaque series - in 1978 produced by Vanderheide Publishing - was by far the most popular out of the list of 60. After two decades, the line was discontinued last year. Only customized designs for reunions (with a minimum run of 50) can still be ordered.