USS SUNBIRD (ASR-15)
Sunbird (ASR-15) was laid down on 2
April 1945 by the Savannah Machine and Foundry Co., Savannah, Ga.;
launched on 3 April 1946; sponsored by Mrs. John H. Lassiter; and
commissioned on 23 June 1950, Lt. Comdr. A. R. Clark, Jr., in command.
accepted by the Navy, inactivated, and towed
to the Charleston Naval Shipyard on 15 January 1947. She was commissioned at New London, Conn., on 23 June 1950, and held sea trials there before moving to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for
modernization from August to October.
While holding refresher training off
Guantanamo Bay on 29 November, she
rescued two survivors of a plane crash.
Sunbird trained off New London from
December 1950 to May 1951 at which time she alternated two-week
training periods between there and Norfolk. Off Norfolk on 14 May, she
came to the rescue of Valcour (AVP-55) which had been in a
collision with a merchantman, badly holed and set on fire. She then returned
to New London until November, at which time she made a round trip recreational cruise to
Following an overhaul at Boston, from January to March
1952, Sunbird operated along the east coast from
Greenland to the Caribbean. In June 1954 she towed a disabled
submarine from Cape Hatteras to Norfolk. In March 1956, Sunbird assisted
Skylark (ASR-20) in removing Willis A. Lee (DL-4) from rocks
in Narragansett Bay where she had been driven by a blizzard. In
November of that year, she salvaged a torpedo retriever boat from
a ledge off Block Island. These local operations continued until November 1959.
Sunbird had some of her rescue equipment
removed in late November 1959 to enable the installation of two huge
wire parbuckling nets and large racks. This was LTV (Launch Test
Vehicle) recovery equipment which transformed her into the first dummy Polaris
missile recovery ship. In February 1960, Sunbird was called to aid two tugs that were towing the decommissioned
carrier Chenango (CVHE-28).
The carrier had grounded on the north
shore of Long Island and the recovery ship was successful in refloating her.
Later in the month, divers from Sunbird
aided in refloating Apollo (AS-24)
which had grounded at the mouth of the Thames
In March, Sunbird recovered 15 missiles that had been
fired from ballistic submarines. By 1 July 1960, the ship had greatly
contributed to the Polaris Program in recovering 46 of the seven and one-half
ton missiles. In August and September, she operated off Cape
Kennedy during Polaris test firings. In January 1961, the rescue ship was
ordered to Texas Tower No. 4 to search for survivors of the tower which had
collapsed. Her divers made 174 dives in searching the wreckage,
with many to depths of 180 feet. The ship then engaged in local
operations until mid-1962.
In July 1962, Sunbird towed YFNB-31 from
Philadelphia to Holy Loch, Scotland. From 1 August to 24 October
she served as flagship of Task Force (TF) 69 while operating with
the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. She returned to New London and
was in an upkeep status until the end of November. Local operations followed
until April 1963 when she was dispatched to the Thresher
(SSN-593) search area for a week, with negative results. She
returned to normal east coast fleet operations until 5 January 1965 when she got underway
for a four-month deployment with the 6th Fleet which ended on 1 May. In
October, she participated in Operation Springboard 65 in the Caribbean and
returned to New London on 12 November 1965.
Sunbird stood out of New London on 11
April 1966 en
route to Rota, Spain. Two days out of that port her orders were changed to proceed to Naples, Italy, and join the 6th
Fleet. While attached to the 6th Fleet, in addition
to routine duties, she was called upon to perform special operations. The ship
was detached on 20 May and proceeded
to Spain and thence, on 27 June, to Holy
Loch where she provided services for Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 16 until 22 July when she sailed for New London, arriving there on 1 August 1966.
The year 1967 was an uneventful year for Sunbird and,
from 11 September 1967 to 11 January 1968, she was being overhauled. On
27 May 1968, the ship was operating in the Narragansett Bay operating area when she
was ordered to proceed south and aid in the search for the missing nuclear
submarine Scorpion (SSN-589). Sunbird arrived at the scene and
began operating with Par go (SSN-650) in a search area along the
50-fathom curve. Scorpion was not found, but the two
ships did find three uncharted hulls, including a German World War II
submarine. The ASR was detached on 6 June to return to New London. Other than
normal operations and providing services to SubRon 2, the year 1969 was
highlighted by the rescue of five fishermen, on 27 May, from a fishing boat.
Sunbird was deployed to the 6th Fleet
from 6 April to 30 July 1970 and from 3 January to 4 May 1972. In 1971,
other than local operations, the ship was overhauled at Philadelphia
from 11 February to 18 May. She deployed to the Caribbean for two tours in 1974
which were a welcome break in her routine. Sunbird still
operated from her homeport of New London with the Atlantic Fleet into
[Note: The above USS SUNBIRD (ASR-15) history may, or may not, contain text provided by crew members of the USS SUNBIRD (ASR-15), or by other non-crew members, and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]