A Ship that never sailed - USS Recruit (1949)

Oh, the memories.  Writing about the first USS Recruit got me to thinking about my time in boot camp in San Diego, and thus another USS Recruit.

TDE-1 USS Recruit was a landlocked dummy US Navy training ship.  Built to scale, she was roughly 2/3 the size of a WWII era Dealey Class Destroyer Escort she was based upon (thus the “TDE” – Training Destroyer Escort) and when completed, she was 225 long with a 24 foot 4 inch beam, and sported a 41 foot mast.

  USS Recruit was commissioned on 27 July 1949. 

USS Recruit was purpose-built as a training facility and considered a commissioned vessel - and traditional Navy shipboard procedures were observed just like all other Navy vessels.  She was also known (affectionately and otherwise) as USS Neversail*.

During her construction, NTC's seamanship division sailors supervised the rigging with standard Navy fittings obtained from salvaged and mothballed ships.   USS Recruit was built of a wooden frame covered with sheet metal, with four "decks" used for training.

USS Recruit served as a school for all recruits going through basic seamanship indoctrination. The ship's deck was an exact replica of what a Sailor could expect in the fleet. The Recruit had cleats, chocks and mooring lines and operated as any standard Navy ship – this was for most recruits their first “request permission to come aboard”. On board, sailors learned rnarlinspike seamanship, ground tackle operation, cargo booms, deck fittings, lift boat handling and signal equipment.

 Recruits were put through traditional shipboard drills and they learned to use all the standard ship deck and bridge gear like that found on all naval vessels, including lifelines, accommodation ladders, signal halyards, searchlights, the engine order telegraph and the helm (the exception being for engine-related practices, as there was no engine, boilers or screws).

  And in addition to the regular classrooms, a company of recruits would stay on board from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night to stand watch as if aboard an operational ship..

Training recruits is hard work, and USS Recruit started showing her “miles”, so in 1954, USS Recruit went into a 3-month "drydock" for an overhaul and minor repairs.

Time goes by, and technology progresses.  Which can cause some issues – after many years of service, USS Recruit ran up against computer technology.  In 1967, Navy civilian employees were making a card-index inventory of vessels in the San Diego area and found themselves baffled  and bewildered by one particular card, which, when placed through the computer for classification, was continually rejected.

The computer’s program had a problem in that the ship was neither afloat nor tied up ashore. It wasn’t in dry dock, nor undergoing repairs or overhauling.  It wasn’t in “mothball' and it had no crew!  Add to that the fact that the ship had no boilers, engines or screws and these hard-working folks discovered that the programming could not classify USS Recruit as a commissioned vessel.  Rather than get the computer program modified, USS Recruit was decommissioned on 7 March 1967.

  However, the facility was still used for training of recruits.

Fast forward a decade or so – in the early 1980s, it was decided that USS Recruit again needed renovation and upgrading, in order to reflect a more current look.  And so in 1982, she underwent a “yard period”, upgrading her to closely resemble the Oliver Hazard Perry class Guided Missile Fast Frigate – then becoming TFFG-1.  At this time, USS Recruit was re-commissioned (though I have no notes on how the computer issue was resolved).

More time passed, and Naval Training Center San Diego and Recruit Training Center, San Diego was closed in 1997 by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).  Consequently, USS Recruit was also decommissioned.

Recruit is included in the Naval Training Center's listing on the National Register of Historic Places and has gained both National Historic and State Historic designation.

  The former Naval Training Center is now Liberty Station, and the Recruit sits adjacent to the retail area.

Recruit still stands (though currently unused), with hopes that she will someday become a maritime museum.  Recently (2014), Corky McMillin Cos. - which developed Liberty Station after the base closed in 1997 - joined forces with the USS Midway Museum and active duty and retired Navy personnel to get the Recruit shipshape again.

Recruit seems to be the only surviving example of the Navy’s various landlocked ships – at one time the Navy also operated two other similar training "vessels":

USS Commodore  (401B) [also known as R.T.S. Commodore] at Naval Training Center Bainbridge, Maryland, which was dismantled in the 1970's when the base was closed.  *(The nickname, "USS Neversail, was used to refer to USS Commodore as well)

USS Blue Jacket at Naval Training Center Orlando, Florida, which was removed in 1990’s.


Note of interest

TDE-1 / TFFG-1 was actually the third commissioned vessel the Navy had with the name Recruit – the second one was an actual sailing vessel – AM-285 USS Recruit, an Admirable-class minesweeper built during World War II. Commissioned 8 November 1944, she saw action in the Pacific and was awarded 3 battle stars. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve in 1946, which allowed the name “Recruit” to be used for another commissioned Navy vessel.  AM-285 was sold to the Mexican Navy in 1963.