American Victory
IMO 5234395

St. Clair River, June 14, 2006.
(Wade P. Streeter)

The Middletown was probably the one vessel on the Great Lakes with the most involved history, both in terms of name or ownership changes as well as other incidents in which the vessel found herself involved.

Perhaps an unlucky omen, she was launched on Halloween 1942 as the tanker Marquette. She was built by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's yard in Sparrows Point, Maryland, as an oiler for the U.S. Navy. However the vessel was commissioned USS Neshanic (AO-71) and entered service in April 1943. During her first year, she was involved in several close encounters with enemy submarines and air attacks on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On June 18, 1944, her luck ran out, as she was hit with a bomb from a Japanese plane while refueling a destroyer. She tied up alongside a sister ship, the Saranac, and some of the Saranac's injured crew (she was also attacked) were treated aboard the Neshanic. The Neshanic was later repaired and was decommissioned in December 1945.

In 1947, she was sold to the Gulf Oil Co. and renamed Gulfoil. The years to follow were much less eventful than her war years until August 7, 1958, when she collided with the tanker S. E. Graham near Newport, Rhode Island. The Graham exploded, and the Gulfoil was heavily damaged, with 15 of her crew killed. After the collision, Gulfoil was taken to Baltimore, where it was determined that her engine spaces had not sustained unrepairable damage. The vessel was converted to a straight deck bulk carrier, her pilothouse and forward cabins were moved to the bow and, after lengthening and widening with the new midbody, she was purchased by the Pioneer Steamship Co. (Hutchinson & Co. mgrs.) and renamed Pioneer Challenger.

Pioneer Challenger entered service on July 16, 1961. The vessel was constructed as a maximum sized Seaway carrier, 730 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 39 feet 3 inches deep. With her steam turbine plant producing 7,700 horsepower, the Pioneer Challenger was capable of over 16 miles per hour under full load, and remained faster than most vessels on the Great Lakes. The Pioneer subsidiary of Hutchinson was disbanded at the end of 1961, and the vessels were sold to various other fleets. The Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company acquired the Pioneer Challenger and renamed her Middletown in 1962.

Over the next 20 years, the vessel would follow a steady trade route, often carrying taconite pellets from the Reserve Mining Company plant in Silver Bay down to the Torco dock in Toledo. As the steel industry and shipping on the Great Lakes entered a downturn in 1982, the Middletown received what was certainly the reprieve which kept her from a premature end to her Great Lakes career. The Middletown was converted to a self-unloader at Bay Shipbuilding Company in Sturgeon Bay, and this not only cut down her unloading time but also allowed her more flexibility in ports she could visit as well as being profitable in different types of cargoes. Because of the hull design of the vessel, including the old saltwater tanker parts, the deck apparatus of the Middletown's self-unloading system was built to a lower profile than Bay Shipbuilding Company's other conversions of the era and much lower than the Fraser Shipyard's conversions.

The vessel began carrying a greater number of coal cargoes, and on one of those trips, disaster again struck the ship. On September 15, 1986, while on her way to Port Washington, Wis., some methane gas (which can be a by-product of coal) gathered and ignited in her boiler room, causing an explosion. The vessel raced into port in an effort to treat injured crewmembers quickly. After this incident, all Great Lakes vessels began taking regular readings of gases in the cargo holds while carrying coal, in an effort to prevent a similar build-up of dangerous, invisible gases.

The 1990 season saw the Middletown involved in a pair of notable events exactly one month apart. On April 19, 1990, the Middletown took on the first cargo at the reactivated Silver Bay plant, which had closed in 1986 and was reopened by Cyprus Minerals. A month later, on May 19, the Middletown was being towed out of Fraser Shipyards in Superior by the tug New Jersey. In strong winds, the tug went aground, and was later pulled off by the tug Minnesota, undamaged. The Middletown was also undamaged in this incident.

Throughout the 1990s, the Middletown followed her own three-leg trade pattern for Oglebay Norton Company. A typical trip started at the Northshore Mining dock in Silver Bay to load pellets. The pellets were taken to the Pinney Dock in Ashtabula to be unloaded, and the Middletown usually shifted over to the coal dock. The vessel then took on a coal cargo, usually for Milwaukee Bulk Terminal, but sometimes for Port Washington. After unloading on Lake Michigan, the vessel returned to Silver Bay empty. The vessel made occasional departures from this route, including loads of iron ore at Duluth or Taconite Harbor, unloading ore in Toledo, and even some coal loads out of Superior Midwest Energy Terminal.

On June 6, 2006, in a joint announcement made with American Steamship Compamy of Williamsville, New York, Oglebay Norton Company announced the sale of the Middletown and five of her fleetmates to American Steamship for $120 million. With the sale came a new name: American Victory. The other vessels going to ASC were the Armco, Columbia Star, Courtney Burton, Fred R. White Jr. and Oglebay Norton.

American Victory entered long-term lay-up November 12, 2008, at Superior, Wisconsin, a victim of that year’s economic downturn. In late December 2017, she and three other American Steamship Company vessels (the others were Buffalo, Adam E. Cornelius and American Valor) were sold to the Algoma Central Corp. of St. Catharines, Ontario. Although the Canadian flag was hoisted on the stern, American Victory was never registered in Canada. She was sold for scrap in the spring of 2018.

With her name shortened to Victo, she was towed from Superior on June 17, 2018 by the tug Tim McKeil bound for Montreal, where they arrived June 27. Her name was further shortened to Icto at Montreal. She departed for the scrapyards of Aliaga, Turkey, on June 30, 2018, under tow of the deep sea tug V. B. Hispania.

Ship Particulars
Length 730' 00" (222.51m)
Beam 75' 00" (22.86m)
Depth 39' 00" (11.89m)
Midsummer Draft 29' 01" (8.86m)
Unloading Boom Conveyor Length 260' (79.25m)
Capacity 26,700 tons
Engine Power 7,700 shp steam turbine
Previous Names
Icto Turkey scrap tow
Victo Montreal scrap tow
American Victory 2006 - 2018
Middletown 1962 - 2006
Pioneer Challenger 1961 - 1962
Gulfoil 1947 - 1961
USS Neshanic (AO-71) 1943 - 1947
Marquette 1942 - 1943


USS Neshanic in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 26, 1945.
Click to read WWII history
(Paul J. McCarthy collection)

USS Neshanic (AO-71).
(Matt Miner collection)

As the Gulfoil.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

Newspaper article about the Gulfoil fire, Aug. 1958.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

15 die in collision & fire.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

Names of the crew.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

Coast Guard examining a burnt lifeboat.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

One of the crewmen that helped fight the fire.
(Roger LeLievre collection)


In the Baltimore shipyard.
(Fr. Dowling collection)

As the Pioneer Challenger.
(Peter Worden collection)

Pioneer Challenger being painted in Columbia colors.
(Rich Weiss collection)


Newspaper article on her history.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

Downbound in the St. Clair River, Oct. 1965.
(Emory Massman)

Spring fit out in Toledo as a straight decker.
(Jim Hoffman)

As a straight decker.
(Jim Hoffman)

Being unloaded by Hulett unloaders.
(Robert Klamerus)

Loading at night.
(Robert Klamerus)

Entering the MacArthur Lock downbound, June 25, 1976.
(Tom Manse)

Riding high up the river, 1978.
(Bill Hoey)

Loading ore in Marquette.
(Roger LeLievre collection)

Passing the Cliffs Victory on Lake St. Clair.
(Don Dube)

Cutting through the river ice, 1988.
(Bill Hoey)

Downbound in Lake St. Clair, May 19, 1992.
(Skip Meier)

Entering Ashtabula, Aug. 10, 2000.

On board looking forward.

Looking aft.

Close up of boom.

Passing the Ashtabula Light.

Close up of bow.

Close up of stern.

Life boat drill, March 4, 2001.
(Sharon Bouchonville)

Stern view, June 13, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

St. Marys River, July 2001.
(Jim Hoffman)

Engine room door, July 4, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

Close up of WWII ribbons.
(Mike Nicholls)

On the Detroit River, Oct. 9, 2001.
(Mike Nicholls)

St. Marys River. July, 2002.
(Mark Schumaker)

Aerial view, June 2003.
(Don Coles)

Laid up in Toledo for the winter, Jan. 30, 2004.
(Roger LeLievre)

Stern view, June 14, 2006.
(Wade P. Streeter)

Downbound near Marysville, April 29, 2007.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the bow.
(Matt Miner)

Close up of the stern.
(Matt Miner)

Stern veiw.
(Matt Miner)

Entering the MacArthur Lock May 12, 2007.
(Lee Rowe)

Downbound at Gros Cap, Aug. 29, 2007.
(Matt Miner)

Loading in Marquette, May 16, 2008.
(Rod Burdick)

Soo Engineer's Day 2008 upbound in the MacArthur Lock.
(Dave Christiansen)

Upbound Point Edward, July 13, 2008.
(Marc Dease)

Downbound Port Huron, August 22, 2008.
(Marc Dease)

American Victory laid up at Fraser Shipyards, May 2009.
(Michael Sipper)

At another dock to continue lay up, Dec. 20, 2014.
(Brad Jamison)


Scrap tow downbound at 6 Mile Pt. with the Tim McKeil leading, June 19, 2018.
(Roger LeLievre)

Close up of the stern with the Cheyenne keeping it inline.
(Roger LeLievre)

Tow proceeding through the Rock Cut.
(Roger LeLievre)

Close up of the Victo.
(Roger LeLievre)

Tim McKeil and Victo at Lock 7 on the Welland Canal, June 26, 2018.
(Barry Andersen)

Close up of the Victo.
(Barry Andersen)



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