USS Watchman (AGR-16)
|Namesake:||One who watches|
|Ordered:||as type (Z-EC2-S-C5) hull, MCE hull 2343|
|Builder:||J. A. Jones Construction Co. Inc., Panama City, Florida|
|Yard number:||Wainwright yard|
|Laid down:||17 January 1945, as Liberty ship SS Vernon S. Wood|
|Launched:||20 February 1945|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Inez Bulifant|
|Acquired:||by the U.S. Navy in 1958|
|Commissioned:||5 January 1959 as USS Watchman (AGR-16)|
|Decommissioned:||1 September 1965|
|Refit:||converted to a Radar Picket Ship at Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina|
|Struck:||1 September 1965|
|Homeport:||San Francisco, California|
|National Defense Service Medal|
|Fate:||scrapped, 3 October 1974|
|Type:||Guardian-class radar picket ship|
|Tons burthen:||11,365 tons|
|Installed power:||two electric generators|
|Propulsion:||Two 220 PSI boilers; Filer & Stowell Co., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, three cylinder triple-expansion reciprocating engine; Single 4 blade, 18' 6" propeller; Shaft Horsepower, 2,500|
|Capacity:||Fuel Oil, 443,646 gals; Diesel, 68,267 gals; Fresh Water, 15,082 gals; Ballast, 1,326,657 gals fresh water|
|Complement:||13 officers, 138 enlisted|
|Armament:||two 3"/50 guns|
USS Watchman (AGR-16/YAGR-16) was a Guardian-class radar picket ship acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1958 from the “mothballed” reserve fleet. She was reconfigured as a radar picket ship and assigned to radar picket duty in the North Pacific Ocean as part of the Distant Early Warning Line.
Liberty ship built in Florida
SS Vernon S. Hood was laid down under a U.S. Maritime Commission contract (MCE hull 2343) on 17 January 1945 at the Wainwright yard of the J. S. Jones Construction Co. in Panama City, Florida; launched on 20 February 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Inez Bulifant; and delivered to the Maritime Commission on 7 March 1945.
Following a shakedown cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, the freighter was turned over to the Overtakes Freight Corporation to be operated by that firm under a contract with the Maritime Commission. During her brief period of active operations with the Maritime Commission, 1945 to 1947, she also served under contract with the Moore-McCormack Lines. Later that year, she was placed out of service and was berthed with the National Defense Reserve Fleet at James River, Virginia.
Reconfigured as a radar picket
The ship remained there until mid-1958 when she was taken over by the Navy and converted to a radar picket ship at the Charleston Naval Shipyard (South Carolina). During conversion, she was renamed Watchman and received the designation YAGR-16. However, that designation was changed to AGR-16 before she completed her conversion late in the year. On 5 January 1958, Watchman was placed in commission at Charleston, Lt. Comdr. Irvin Boaz in command.
Watchman conducted shakedown training in the Guantanamo Bay operating area during February. Following post-shakedown availability at Charleston from 5 to 18 March, she completed repairs and got underway for the U.S. West Coast. After transiting the Panama Canal and visiting Acapulco, Mexico, she arrived in her new home port --San Francisco, California -- on 11 April.
Assigned to the Continental Air Defense Command, she served as one of several radar picket ships operating as seaborne extensions of the command's contiguous radar coverage system. She operated from her base at San Francisco during her entire naval career, spending an average of 200 days per year actually at sea engaged in picket patrols.
That routine continued until 1 September 1965, at which time she and the remaining AGR's were placed out of commission.
Her name was struck from the Navy list that same day, and she was returned to the Maritime Administration for lay up with the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California. She remained there until 3 October 1974 when she was sold to American Ship Dismantlers for scrapping.
Honors and awards
Watchman personnel qualified for the following medal:
- This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive - AGR-16 Watchman