USS Searcher (AGR-4)

USS Searcher (YAGR/AGR-4) was a Guardian-class radar picket ship, converted from a Liberty Ship, acquired by the US Navy in 1954. She was obtained from the National Defense Reserve Fleet and reconfigured as a radar picket ship and assigned to radar picket duty in the North Atlantic Ocean as part of the Distant Early Warning Line.

USS Searcher (AGR-4), underway, 9 September 1960, location unknown.
United States
Name: James W. Wheeler
Namesake: James W. Wheeler
Owner: War Shipping Administration (WSA)
Operator: Calmar Steamship Co.
Ordered: as type (EC2-S-C5) hull, MC hull 2338
Builder: J.A. Jones Construction, Panama City, Florida[1]
Cost: $1,127,547[2]
Yard number: 79
Way number: 1
Laid down: 11 December 1944
Launched: 23 January 1945
Sponsored by: Mrs. R. D. Turnage
Completed: 5 February 1945
Fate: Placed in the, James River Reserve Fleet, Lee Hall, Virginia, 29 October 1945
Status: Withdrawn from reserve fleet and leased to Grace Lines Inc., 4 February 1947
Fate: Placed in the, National Defense Reserve Fleet, Wilmington, North Carolina, 1 October 1947
Status: Acquired by US Navy, 15 September 1954
United States
Name: Searcher
Commissioned: 2 April 1955
Decommissioned: 1 July 1965
Reclassified: Guardian-class radar picket ship
Refit: Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina
Struck: 1 July 1965
  • Hull symbol: YAGR-4 (1956–1958)
  • Hull symbol: AGR-4 (1958–1970)
Fate: Placed in National Defense Reserve Fleet, Hudson River Reserve Fleet, Jones Point, New York
Status: Sold for scrapping, delivered, 31 May 1970
General characteristics [3]
Class and type:
  • 441 feet 6 inches (135 m) oa
  • 416 feet (127 m) pp
  • 427 feet (130 m) lwl
Beam: 57 feet (17 m)
Draft: 27 ft 9.25 in (8.4646 m)
Installed power:
  • 2 × Oil fired 450 °F (232 °C) boilers, operating at 220 psi (1,500 kPa)
  • 2,500 hp (1,900 kW)
Speed: 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph)
Capacity: 490,000 cubic feet (13,875 m3) (bale)
General characteristics (US Navy refit)[4]
Class and type: Guardian-class radar picket ship
  • 443,646 US gallons (1,679,383 l; 369,413 imp gal) (fuel oil)
  • 68,267 US gallons (258,419 l; 56,844 imp gal) (diesel)
  • 15,082 US gallons (57,092 l; 12,558 imp gal) (fresh water)
  • 1,326,657 US gallons (5,021,943 l; 1,104,673 imp gal) (fresh water ballast)
  • 13 officers
  • 138 enlisted
Armament: 2 × 3 inches (76 mm)/50 caliber guns


Searcher (YAGR-4) was laid down on 11 December 1944, under a Maritime Commission (MARCOM) contract, MC hull 2338, as the Liberty Ship James W. Wheeler, by J.A. Jones Construction, Panama City, Florida. She was launched on 23 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. R. D. Turnage; and delivered on 5 February 1945 to the Calmar Steamship Company.[5][2]

Service history

She was acquired by the Navy from the Maritime Administration on 15 September 1954, and reclassified YAGR-4 in August 1954. She was converted to a radar picket ship at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, Charleston, South Carolina, and commissioned Searcher on 2 April 1955, Lieutenant Commander James Albert Paulick, in command.[5][4]

Searcher departed Charleston, 16 May 1955, for Newport, Rhode Island, where, after shakedown, she reported for duty with the seaward extension of America's early warning defense system. She reported on station for her first patrol on 5 July 1955.[5]

Fitted with sophisticated electronic search and tracking equipment, Searcher could locate, track, and report enemy aircraft at great distances, and control high-speed interceptor aircraft in event of attack. She also carried out weather reporting duties during her three-to-four-week-long cruises.[5]

On 13 November 1955, Searcher was damaged by an engine room fire which burned for six and a half hours before being extinguished with the aid of two other ships. Her patrols were otherwise uneventful. She was reclassified AGR-4 effective 28 September 1958; and, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, she operated at sea for 60 out of 67 days.[5]

On March 1964 she lost her screw at sea while steaming in a heavy gale 450 miles ESE of Cape Cod and was later taken in tow by a US Navy tug. []


On 1 July 1965, Searcher was decommissioned, struck from the Navy List and transferred to the Maritime Administration (MARAD). She was laid up in the Hudson River Reserve Fleet until sold for scrapping on 7 August 1970, to the North American Smelting Co., Wilmington, Delaware.[5]

Military awards and honors

Searcher's crew was eligible for the following medals:

See also



  • "Searcher". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  • "Jones Construction, Panama City FL". 13 October 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  • Davies, James (May 2004). "Specifications (As-Built)" (PDF). p. 23. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  • "SS James W. Wheeler". Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  • "USS Searcher (AGR-4)". 2 February 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2019.

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