USS Tracer (AGR-15)

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Career (USA) Union Navy Jack
Name: USS Tracer
Ordered: as type (Z-EC2-S-C5) hull, MCE hull 2340
Builder: J. A. Jones Construction Co. Inc., Panama City, Florida
Laid down: 24 December 1944, as Liberty ship SS William J. Riddle
Launched: 31 January 1945
Sponsored by: Mrs. Marion Harders
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy, 21 May 1957
Commissioned: 16 October 1958 as USS Interrupter (AGR-15) at Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina
Decommissioned: 1 September 1965
Renamed: USS Tracer (AGR-15), 4 September 1959
Refit: converted to a Radar Picket Ship at Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina
Struck: 1 September 1965
Homeport: San Francisco, California
Honours and
awards:
National Defense Service Medal
Fate: sold, 15 July 1974; converted to a fish processing ship in Alaska; scrapped in China in 2000
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 Tracer (AGR-15) – also known as USS Interrupter (AGR-15) – was a Guardian-class radar picket ship acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1957 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.

Because of the closeness of the sound of names issued for radar picket ships at the time, Interrupter had her name changed by the Navy to Tracer so as not to confuse her with USS Interdictor (AGR-13) and USS Interpreter (AGR-14)

Liberty ship built in Florida[edit]

William J. Riddle -- a "Liberty ship"; -- was laid down under a U.S. Maritime Commission contract (MC hull E-2340) on 24 December 1944 at Panama City, Florida, by the J. A. Jones Construction Co., Inc.; launched on 31 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Marion Harders; and, upon completion in early 1945, was delivered to the War Shipping Administration, Maritime Commission.

World War II-related service[edit]

William J. Riddle operated with Moore-McCormack Lines and the Waterman Steamship Corporation from 1945 to 1947. When hostilities ended in the Par East in mid-August 1945, the "Liberty ship" was steaming from Hawaii to the Philippines.

Converted to a cattle carrier the following year, she operated as such through the end of 1946. Changed back to a dry cargo carrier by March 1947, she voyaged to European and Mediterranean ports until the summer of 1947 when she was laid up in the U.S. Maritime Commission's National Defense Reserve Fleet and berthed in the James River, Virginia. She remained there for 10 years.

Conversion to radar picket ship[edit]

The Navy selected William J. Riddle for conversion to a radar picket ship in May 1957. Towed to the Charleston Naval Shipyard (South Carolina) soon thereafter, conversion work began on 24 May 1957. Renamed Interrupter, and classified as AGR-15, the erstwhile "Liberty" was commissioned at Charleston, South Carolina, 16 October 1958, Lt. Comdr. George S. Harrison in command.

Following shakedown in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and post-shakedown availability at her conversion yard, Interrupter sailed for the Pacific Ocean. She transited the Panama Canal on 26 January 1959 and arrived at her home port, San Francisco, California, on 12 February, the sixth AGR to join newly formed Radar Picket Squadron 1.

Fitted out with the latest radar detection equipment, Interrupter and her seven Guardian-class sister ships were designed to serve as the seaborne eyes of the North American Air Defense Command -- the naval link in the chain of early-warning stations covering the Pacific approaches to the United States. Her mission was to "detect, report, and track enemy airborne threats approaching by overseas routes and to control the intercepts used to destroy such threats."

Before putting to sea for her first patrol, she conducted training evolutions with U.S. Air Force officers embarked on board for familiarization with the ship's mission. In addition, Interrupter's, officers and men familiarized themselves with the Air Force's part in this vital mission. On 6 March 1959, Interrupter sailed from San Francisco on her first barrier patrol.

Solving the name problem[edit]

On 4 September 1959, Interrupter was renamed Tracer to eliminate confusion with some of her sister ships with similarly sounding names.

Between 1959 and 1965, Tracer conducted patrols at sea, at various picket stations in the Western Contiguous Radar Line. The ship proved to be an efficient vessel and received awards for administrative and operational efficiency on several occasions. As more sophisticated early-warning systems came into operational use, the need for the AGR's diminished accordingly.

Deactivation[edit]

Deactivated in 1965, Tracer's name was struck from the Navy List on 1 September 1965. She was then transferred to the U.S. Maritime Commission and laid up at Suisun Bay, California, where she remained until sold, 15 July 1974. Before being scrapped in China in 2000, Tracer – renamed Unisea – served as a fish processing plant in Unalaska, Alaska.

Honors and awards[edit]

Tracer personnel qualified for the following medal:

See also[edit]

References[edit]