The SS Joplin Victory was built between February 24th and June 15th of 1944 by the California Shipbuilding Company under the Emergency Shipbuilding program. Like all the ships of her class completed around the same time, the Joplin served in the Pacific during World War II. Her actions during that campaign earned her Naval Armed Guard crews “Battle Stars”. However, her best results were registered during peacetime, as the SS Joplin Victory was one of the ships to pick up US refugees from China following the infamous Ward incident. This occurred in 1949, after the break of diplomatic relations between the US and the newly Communist country. The SS Joplin also supported the UN forces engaged in the Korean War until 1952, when she was laid up in Astoria, Oregon.
Hastily built during wartime, the SS Joplin Victory presented a danger to her crew because of the high quantities of asbestos onboard. Virtually, all the areas of her interior had some traces of this toxic mineral, but the highest concentrations could be found in the engine and propulsion rooms, boiler rooms, and fire control room. Due to exposure to this substance, many former Navy servicemen developed asbestos-related lung diseases.