USS Watchman (AGR-16)

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Name: USS Watchman
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
Honours and
National Defense Service Medal
Fate: scrapped, 3 October 1974
General characteristics
Type: Guardian-class radar picket ship
Tons burthen: 11,365 tons
Length: 441'
Beam: 59'
Draft: 22'
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
Speed: 11 knots
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.

World War II-related service

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:

See also