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S.S. Lane Victory Armament
The VC2-S-AP2,VC2-S-AP3, and VC2-M-AP4 were armed with a 5 inch (127 mm) gun on the stern, a bow-mounted 3 inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun and eight 20 mm cannon. Merchant ships lacked automated fire control systems requiring the gun crews to manually aim their weapons at their targets. This limited the accuracy and effectiveness of the fire when compared to the similar weapon systems installations on U.S. warships. These weapons were manned by Naval Armed Guard personnel, members of the United States Navy. In the event that Armed Guard personnel were killed or wounded during action, merchant sailors were trained to operate the ship's weaponry whenever possible
5"/38 caliber Mark 12 gun mounted in the stern gun tub aboard the S.S. Lane Victory
The 5"/38 caliber1 Mark 12 gun is located on the aft gun deck, above and aft of the Armed Guard quarters. The 5" ammunition storage and handling room is located below the main deck; a service elevator is used to transfer shells and powder charges from the handling room to the gun mount. The 5"/38 gun is a dual-purpose gun, designed to be employed against both aerial and surface targets2. Widely recognized as one of the most successful dual-purpose gun designs of World War II, it was used on nearly every major US warship as well as on many auxiliaries, coast guard and merchant vessels between 1934 and 1945. The gun was used with a wide variety of mounts and fire-control systems. The mount used specifically on the S.S. Lane Victory is a Mark 30 Mod 38 single mount. The S.S. Lane Victory retained her aft gun tub throughout her career after the 5" gun mount was removed. It served as an open air storage space, was briefly used as the ship's swimming pool and was even used as a hiding place by stowaways. Today, the gun mount has been re-installed and is maintained in working order. The Armed Guard "fires" simulated 5" rounds defending the ship from those pesky air attacks that seem to happen on every summer cruise. More information on the 5"/38 Mark 12 gun can be found here.
3"/50 caliber gun mount on the bow aboard the S.S. Lane Victory.
The 3"/50 caliber1 gun is located in a gun-tub mounted above the foc'sle deck on the bow. The 3" ammunition storage and handling room was located below the foc'sle deck forward of cargo hold #1. Those spaces now have been converted to house the ship's auxiliary generators. Used extensively on smaller warships, destroyers and merchant ships, these guns were also intended to serve a dual purpose2 role. However, their effectiveness in either role was limited. This was primarily due to the fact that the light weight shells they fired were of limited use against most surface targets, and their manual pointing/aiming operation limited their success against aerial targets. Later in the war, when paired with VT (proximity) fused shells and an automated director system, these guns were considered equal to or better than the 40 mm Bofors mounts in the anti-aircraft role. Like many Victory Ships, the Lane Victory had both the 3"/50 gun mount and bow mounted gun tub removed after the conclusion of World War II. A new gun-tub had to be manufactured and installed before the 3"/50 mount could be restored. More information about the 3"/50 caliber gun can be found here.
20mm Oerlikon twin mount aboard the S.S. Lane Victory.
As built, Victory ships were equipped with 8 20mm/70 caliber Oerlikon Mark 4 cannons on single mounts located at various points on the ship for close-range anti-aircraft defense. Two mounts (one port, one starboard) were located on the aft gun deck just forward of the 5" gun tub. Two mounts were located on the foc'sle deck (one port, one starboard) just aft of the #1 cargo hatch. Four mounts were located on the mid-ship's house. Two were located on the aft of the bridge deck (one port, one starboard) and two mounts were located on the signal bridge (again, one port, one starboard). Designed by the Swiss firm Oerlikon, the gun was licensed and produced in both the United States and Great Britain incorporating improvements for manufacturability. Widely used on almost every type of allied naval vessel and merchant ship, the US alone produced 124,735 of these guns between 1941 and 1945. When the S.S. Lane Victory was restored to her wartime condition, twin mounts were used instead of single mounts. This was due to the fact that late in the war, the U.S. Navy had replaced many of the 20mm single mounts with half the number of twin mounts in an effort to reduce ships' weight and crew requirements while retaining the same number of guns. As a result, locating single mounts 50 years later was just too difficult. As a historical "compromise", twin mounts are used in place of the single mounts but with only one gun installed.. A few of the mounts actually have two guns installed, leaving the S.S. Lane Victory slightly up-gunned from her wartime condition. More information about the 20mm Oerlikon cannon can be found here.
Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun aboard the S.S. Lane Victory
Augmenting the Lane Victory's wartime armament complement, there is a twin 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft mount installed on the aft gun deck and two Browning M2 .50cal machine gun mounts have been installed on the signal bridge. Though not historically accurate for a Victory ship, these guns serve as examples of weaponry that may have been found on naval escort ships or other merchant ships during World War II. More information about the Bofors 40mm/56 caliber cannon can be found here.
Bofors twin 40mm/56 caliber anti-aircraft gun aboard the S.S. Lane Victory
1. . When used in the context of naval guns and cannon, the term "caliber" indicate the gun barrel's length. For instance, 5"/38 caliber indicates that the bore diameter is 5 inches and that the barrel length is 38 times the bore diameter (or 5 inches x 38 = 190 inches = 15.83 feet long) When used in the context of small arms (pistols, rifles, machineguns) the term "caliber" generally refers to the bore diameter. For instance .50 caliber machine gun (.50 cal) indicates the bore diameter is one-half inch.
2. Dual purpose gun mounts are designed to elevate the barrel to very high angles of elevation to engage aerial targets. Another distinction is the ability to be easily loaded while the barrel is at any elevation. Specialized ammunition is still needed to engage aerial vs. surface targets.