USS OBSERVATION ISLAND (AG-154)
Island (EAG-154) was laid down as a Mariner Class high
speed cargo ship 15 September 1952 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden,
N.J.; launched as Empire State Mariner 15
August 1953; sponsored by Mrs. Samuel C. Waugh; and delivered to the Maritime
Administration and the United States Lines for operation under General Agency
Agreement 24 February 1954.
State Mariner, Capt. V. R. Arkin, Master, made three
voyages for MSTS. The first two took her to Bremerhaven and Liverpool. The
third, commencing in May 1954, took her along both the east and west coasts, as
well as to the Canal Zone, Guam, Korea, and Japan. She returned to Mobile, Ala.
in September 1954, and entered the National Defense Reserve Fleet 9 November.
State Mariner transferred to the Navy 10 September 1956 with
three other Mariners. Her conversion to the first naval ship having a fully
integrated Fleet Ballistic Missile System was authorized 15 October 1957, and
partial completion of the project was accomplished at Norfolk Naval Shipyard,
Portsmouth, Va. before she commissioned 5 December 1958 as Observation Island (EAG-154), Captain Leslie M. Slack, USN, in
During the conversion there were no major
hull or engineering changes made other than installation of a roll
stabilization system. However, extensive alterations were accomplished in the
superstructure and hold areas so as to accomodate the FBM Weapons System. Observation Island departed her homeport
of Norfolk 3 January 1959, underwent shakedown at Guantanamo Bay, and then
operated on the Atlantic Missile Range off Cape Kennedy, conducting dummy
missile launches and communications tests.
In March 1959 Observation Island returned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for
installation of additional equipment, including the Ships Inertial Navigation
System (SINS). In June she steamed for her new homeport, Port Canaveral, Fla.,
and made preparations for the first at-sea launch of a Polaris missile.
Designated UGM-27, the missile was successfully launched from Observation Island 27 August.
Following this milestone, Observation Island returned to Norfolk
Naval Shipyard for installation of a fire control system to enable her to
launch more sophisticated guided versions of new generation Polaris missiles.
She also received a new launcher, the developmental prototype of those
installed in the FBM submarines.
This work was completed in January 1960
and Observation Island returned to
Port Canaveral to continue Polaris test launch operations. After a total of six
launchings, the ship commenced support of Polaris launchings from FBM
submarines. She provided optical and electronic data gathering services, and
acted as communications relay station between submerged submarines and the
supervisor of range operations at the Cape. The first successful fully guided
Polaris missile launching from a submerged submarine took place 20 July 1960
from George Washington (SSBN-598).
Through October Observation Island also
supported launches from Patrick Henry (SSBN-599).
Following further modifications at
Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the fall of 1960, Observation
Island returned to Port Canaveral in December to continue FBM support work
and systems test and evaluation. She received the Navy Unit Commendation 15
December; launched the new A-2 Polaris 1 March 1961; and supported the first
submerged A-2 launch from Ethan A lien (SSBN-608)
In late 1961 Obervation Island served as a survey ship on the Atlantic Missile
Range, and in January 1962 she again put in at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, this
time for modifications preparatory to launching the new A 3 Polaris. Returning
to Port Canaveral in March, she supported FBM submarines through the following
autumn, when she steamed for two months of operations on the Pacific Missile
Island was back at Port Canaveral by Christmas, and
until June 1963 she expanded her role of oceanographic survey in the Atlantic
Range. She conducted the first successful at-sea launches of the A-3 Polaris 17
and 21 June. President John F. Kennedy came on board 16 November to observe a
She has since continued to operate
essentially as a sea-going platform from which missile launches can closely
approximate conditions encountered in FBM submarine launches. Her equipment is
constantly being modified, allowing prototypes to be tested thoroughly before
missiles and associated components become operational with the Fleet. As a
mobile platform, she can conduct tests in any instumented range.
Island was redesignated AG-154 on 1 April 1968. She
commenced an extensive ten month conversion 24 June at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
in preparation for support of the Poseidon C-3 missile program. The summer of
1969 found her once again at Port Canaveral, ready to resume experimental
missile launchings, to assist in the training of FBM submarine crews, to assist
in FBM submarine shakedown operations at Cape Kennedy, and to support other
important phases of the development and deployment of FBM Weapons System. She
continues this significant work in 1970.
[Note: The above USS OBSERVATION ISLAND (AG-154) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS OBSERVATION ISLAND (AG-154), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]