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  • "I salute -- from my space helmet -- the Range Rats,
    the unsung heroes of the space race to the future."

    Buzz Aldrin, Gemini XII, Apollo XI
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    This page was updated: 01 MARCH 2013
    Look for the RED highlights for MARCH Entrys.

    This is a working page for information about the ETR Range Tracking Ships, and I will be adding info received as time permits. You as a former Radio Corporation of America (RCA) rangerats can share information with me. If you have info. about your time on the ships please send it to me.

    Click on the yellow box below to go back to the main page of the Range Rat Introduction page where you will find information about downrange people, where they worked, where they are now, their email address (if they wanted it published), what stations/ships they worked on, and news about those who have died etc etc.

    I now have a Range Rat Sign-in book, to be used exclusively by Range Rats (and their famlies) that you can leave a comment of your experience on the range, where you worked, etc, etc. (See the other entrys in this book for examples, if you leave a comment or message not relating to the range the entry will eventually be deleted, for instance a "Howdy" does not qualify as an entry!). You can give your email address (its not required but its requested) so that other range rats can contact you.

    Please do NOT use my "GUEST BOOK" to sign in, that book is for collectors who visit my website, and that is why I made a seperate book for use by Range Rats, called the Range Rat Sign In Book.

    Perhaps you are looking for someone who you used to work with that you lost contact with, you could include it in your message in the sign-in book, or better yet send me an email and I can include it on this page.

    Range Rat Sign-in Book

    If you worked on the ETR Tracking Ships, I would like to hear from you.
    Send Email to Joe


    If I find something of interest in the Range Rat Sign-in Book about ships
    that I think will be of interest to other RRs I will add it to this page as info.

    USNS Arnold, 1974 (photo provided by Mike Beuster)


    • In Dec '12 I was seaching the internet for any info on the USNS Arnold and found a website that had 2 pictures of the Arnold, submitted by Mike Beuster in another guestbook with his comment "Project Pony Express" with the photos, which didnt mean much to me then. Coincidently a few days after I found his entry, Mike signed in to my Range Rat Sign-in Book on 12/06/2012. and made this comment: "Pony Express - 1974 - USNS Gen. H.H. Arnold". (the ship picture is shown above),

      So I wrote him back, asking permission to post his photos on my Range Rat Ships page and to the FB page for the "USNS Gen H.H. Arnold crew and fans", since I didn't think he was a FB member. He granted permission and provided the following info... "Joe,
      Regarding the photo of the people and antennas on the Arnold. The photo is of the 'Pony Express' military/contractor team, and the antennas used by the team on our trip in the North and Mid Pacific ocean areas 1974 time frame. The other instrumentation (C-band and L-band/UHF radars) and optical trackers were run by RCA."

      I did some more research on the internet and found this info. on wiki about someone else mentioning Pony Express: "USNS H. H. Arnold (TAGM-9), [Operation Pony Express: Bering Sea - Soviet ICBM Observation Mission], May 1978 - August 1978". I dont know how this applies to Mike Beuster date of 1974 tho. Mikes photo of the USNS Arnold Radar and some troops gathered around the antenna is shown below.

    • Richard Lee Ireland and Tim Morton, posted this info about the "Pony Express" on the FB page for the USNS Arnold where I posted the above ship photo: "Pony Express was our DEFSMAC mission name, which included anything floating or flying in the Broad Ocean Area."

    USNS Arnold, 1974 (photo provided by Mike Beuster)


  • This story was first published in the Topica Message Board for Range Rats, 25 Feb. 2012, and used by permission of the author, Wally Tubell:
      Wally writes: It's long, but I'll try to make it as brief as possible. First, some background.

      During the Mercury and Gemini era (1961 - 66), I was RCA-MTP's Ships Instrumentation Manager, with an office at PAFB. I was responsible for all RCA O&M efforts on eight ships. Two of these -- the Coastal Sentry and the Rose Knot -- were specifically equipped for Mercury/Gemini-support, serving as part of NASA’s worldwide Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN). Each ship had a ten-man technician crew, one of whom was a leader who reported to me.

      The two RCA crews had been assigned to the ships before I came on the scene. As a result, and because the ships were not physically located at Port Canaveral, I did not get to know the guys very well prior to the Glenn mission. I had only visited them once -- in port at Jacksonville for a couple of days. Obviously this was not enough time to get really acquainted or develop close rapport. Nevertheless, from this brief contact, I was generally impressed. Almost all of them seemed to be -- and later proved to be -- fine, motivated, hard-working, fun-loving guys, i.e., typical range rats. On the other hand, we did have one or two who were good guys and good at their jobs but, as I found out later, had a tendency to drink and party a bit too much -- maybe more than a 'bit.'

      In any case, this story involves two members of the Coastal Sentry’s RCA crew. It's about their connection to the John Glenn flight and certain events in the weeks leading up to it.

      USNS Coastal Sentry, approx. 1967, Sasebo, Japan. Photo provided by Bob Neal.
      (Can anyone provide another photo of the Coastal Sentry, possibly at sea?)

      During the weeks leading up to the mission, I naturally contemplated the imminent, high-risk nature of the John Glenn mission and how our ships’ support could impact RCA's reputation (and selfishly, my own) for good or for bad. As a result, I thought about the competency, reliability and management skills of the two leaders. After all, these would be the RCA guys in closest contact with the NASA teams and who would have the most influence on the performance of the RCA technicians. Nevertheless, at this point, from a distance, I was reasonably confident that they were qualified for their positions.

      Now a bit about mission support. For the Glenn flight and other later orbital missions, the Coastal Century was assigned to the mid-Indian Ocean. The RCA crew would work with a three- or four-man NASA team that would board the ship in Capetown, South Africa about two weeks before the mission. The NASA team's assignment was to serve as the 'Capsule Communicator' and 'Systems Engineers' during the flight, working closely with the RCA crew. (Interestingly, for the Glenn flight, the 'Cap Comm' turned out to be one of the other seven original astronauts; I believe it was Gus Grissom.) Our guys' job was to provide the NASA team with all the telemetry, communications and command control support they needed to do their jobs. This concept made the ship a sort of small-scale floating version of Mission Control and the equivalent of a land-based tracking station. Given these circumstances, the NASA teams lived and worked in close proximity to our guys aboard ship and would naturally get to know them well.

      The detailed mission schedule for the Glenn flight called for the Coastal Sentry to proceed from Florida to the vicinity of Antigua to participate in simulated missions for a week or so --- without the NASA team. At Antigua, in addition to mission support, the ship would pick up supplies and mail and the crew could get in a bit of shore leave. From Antigua, the ship would then proceed to Ascension for the same type of activity, and then transit to Capetown to pick up the NASA team. The entire odyssey from FL to Capetown would take about seven or eight weeks. From Capetown the ship and its NASA/RCA team would proceed to the Indian Ocean and support the mission.

      Rewind back a couple of months. Just prior to the Coastal Sentry's departure for Antigua, I had a last-minute telephone conference with its leader, 'John.' (Not his real name.) During the call, I directed him politely but firmly to keep me closely informed on all critical matters. This included the status of the crew, their training, their equipment and overall mission readiness. At sea, he was to do this by teletype (TWX) messages; this was the only mode available for routine ship-to-shore communications at that time. He was to supplement the TWXs by calling me via phone (or radio-telephone) from Antigua and Ascension. In addition, he was to send me any relevant written reports by mail when not at sea.

      Now for "the rest of the story."

      Between Florida and Antigua I received no TWXs from 'John.' However, I was not overly concerned due to the short duration of the trip. But then, a few days after the ship arrived at Antigua, and I had still not heard from him and was unable to contact him, I started to get a bit nervous. About that same time, I had a call from the Antigua RCA-IM telling me that 'John' had gotten quite snockered while ashore and had caused a bit of a ruckus in the club, but the missions had not been affected, so he was not overly upset. (Important to note, I had received no complaints from the ship's captain or the Pan Am Ship Operations Manager.) Being an old range rat myself, I was not yet ready to panic. In any case I soon managed to contact 'John.' We had a bit of a 'Dutch uncle" talk, and he seemed to respond well over the phone, and he sent me some reports by mail which made me feel a bit reassured.

      The ship then departed Antigua for Ascension. But once again, communications went 'black.' The next thing I get is a call from the Ascension IM giving me a report almost identical to the one I had received from Antigua. Now I hit the panic button, but the ship had left Ascension for Capetown before I could do anything.

      Footnote: I later learned that 'John' had smuggled booze on board and had been drinking almost continuously and ignoring his responsibilities.

      At this point I knew I would have to replace 'John' before the NASA team boarded. There was no doubt that 'all hell' would break loose if they thought the RCA crew, and especially its leader, were not fit to support the mission.

      But there were some really sticky problems with replacing 'John', to say the least. First, the replacement leader had to be trained in Mercury support (all our guys had gone through extensive NASA-provided training). He would also have to manage the technicians at sea and in port without the assistance and support of a nearby 'official' manager. Further, we had no one ashore or on another ship that met these requirements. And even if we did, we had to deal with the logistics challenge of getting him to the ship (and getting 'John' off) before our crew met the NASA crew.

      Another footnote. At this time I went to my management and asked for suggestions or advice. Their response? You handle it." Great !?
      So, I immediately began work on a plan. I started by thinking back to my visit to the ship several months earlier. I remembered that I had briefly met one technician who -- though he had no supervisory experience -- seemed to be a responsible, personable young man with a good head on his shoulders. This technician, to be named later, would be the focus of my plan, which I knew was very risky and far from fool-proof.

      The plan had two major steps.

        1. The Swap. First, I would send this young technician and 'John' a TWX directing them that he (the tech) was to immediately assume duties of 'acting leader.' I told the latter that his first step was to immediately brief the ship's captain, the Pan Am SOM and the RCA technicians on my directive. Lastly, he was to acknowledge my message and await further instructions by TWX and by private mail upon the ship's arrival in Capetown.

        Now for the catch and the gamble! I had absolutely no idea how the replacement would react to being handed this serious responsibility with no advance notice or private consultation. He could very easily have told me 'no way, José ?!" And I had no Plan B.

        2. Rendezvous at Sea. Concurrently with the above, and regardless of the replacement issue, we really needed to get ‘John’ off the ship ASAP, if possible before he could come into contact with the NASA team. Now I finally got a break. By sheer coincidence, the Sword Knot, one of our ships that was not involved in the Glenn mission, was in the general vicinity of the Coastal Sentry and heading north for Ascension. I managed to get my Pan Am management counterparts at PAFB to authorize the two ships to rendezvous in the South Atlantic and transfer 'John' from the Coastal Sentry to the Sword Knot for transportation to Ascension and subsequent return to PAFB.

      What Finally Happened? They all lived happily ever after.
      Just kidding, although we did have a happy ending (except for 'John'). First, the rendezvous went off without a hitch. Much more importantly, the technician accepted my proposition, did a truly great job on the ship, was soon promoted to permanent leader, and later went on to a successful management career with RCA.

      So who was that (masked) technician? None other than Fred Perkins, a great range rat and a great person?! And so ends the story.
      Cheers to all you range rats. Wally Tubell


  • This info provided by "Mac" Monroe on 11 Nov 2011:
      The Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, an artificial reef located in the Florida Keys, was lauded with a Society of American Travel Writers' Phoenix Award. The honor was announced at the organization's annual convention being staged now in New Zealand.

      Created in 1969, the Phoenix Awards recognize conservation, preservation, beautification and environmental accomplishments as they relate to travel. The Vandenberg project was among four North American tourism projects chosen.

      "The creation of the Vandenberg Reef is a profound example of how business, environmental and marine biology experts can work together to promote and maintain a valuable infrastructure that attracts tourists from around the world," an unidentified Phoenix committee member wrote in a SATW news release.

      A 13-year project in the making, the Vandenberg, a former Army troop transport ship and Air Force missile tracking vessel, was scuttled about seven miles south of Key West May 27, 2009.

      The bulk of the $8.6 million funding needed to acquire, clean and sink the ship came from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Monroe County, City of Key West, State of Florida, U.S. Maritime Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

      "We are privileged the Vandenberg project has been recognized for its environmental and economic contributions by such an influential group of travel communicators," said tourism council chairperson Rita Irwin. "The award will provide even more awareness for Keys artificial reefs and the value they have in providing a way to preserve our military history, as well as taking dive pressure off natural coral reefs."

      A formal Phoenix award presentation is to take place in the Keys at a future date.


    • in June 2010 Bill emailed me "The purpose of this posting: One of the last missions of the Arnold took place in April 1981, when she sailed from Japan to the Indian Ocean in support of the first Shuttle mission (STS-1). Arnold tracked Columbia's re-entering external fuel tanks and gathered data of their breakup on re-entry. A year later, Arnold was being towed to Taiwan to be broken up (sob!).

    • My queries:
      • #1) Did Arnold support any missions after STS-1? She was scheduled to support STS-2 in August of 1981, but that mission was slipped to November. Can anyone confirm whether Arnold supported it?
      • #2) During her nearly twenty year career, did Arnold support any other manned missions? When? In what capacity? Vaguely it seems to me that during my own tenure (1964-1966) we sailed to an alternative splashdown point for an astronaut pickup if needed. If I am correct in this, we were not needed as the capsule made it's primary splashdown point. I do not remember the mission number and my recollection may be completely incorrect. Based on time frame, if it happened at all, it would have been part of Project Gemini, and could have been Gemini I, II, III, IV, or V. I had left the ship before any of the later missions. Did Arnold ever support Apollo in any capacity?"
      Anyone who can supply with any additional info. as to the above questions, please email me, so I can pass along to Bill and also update this page. Thanx.

    • Do you know that two tracking ships have accounts where you can get info about other ship rats, life aboard the ship, see photos, learn who died, etc etc. You have to have a facebook account yourself to input information but I think you can look at one of the pages too without having an account. I am pretty new about navigating and learning what facebook is all about.
    • Let me know if the below link works for you, especially if you DO NOT have a facebook account. As I have heard that you can't access Facebook pages unless you have an account yourself, however I have emailed the link for the USNS Arnold to a friend who does NOT have an account and he was able to access it.
    • Try this link for the USNS GEN H.H. ARNOLD. The USNS Arnold account is a fan page dedicated to the former crews and fans of the (ARIS) Advanced Range Instrumentation Ship, USNS General H.H. Arnold, TAGM-9. The USNS Arnold facebook account was set up by Richard "Reeko" Ireland as a "Fan" page, this means that only designated Administrators have unlimited posting rights. But any member of Facebook who indicate that they "like" the USNS Arnold account can post to the Wall, but only Administrators can post to the Discussions or add Photos to the Albums. Bill Lewis is the Administrator now.
    • There is also a Facebook Account for the USNS Observation Island (T-AGM-23), however I am not able to come up with a URL from google that could give you access without having a Facebook Account. Goggle keeps bringing up the URL for the USS Observation Island. I will try to find a link for the USNS Observation Island, however if you have an Facebook Account you will not have any trouble going to its page.

    • The 1st anniversary reunion of the sinking of the Vandy has now come and gone, it was held on Thursday the 27th of May 2010, with a gathering in Key West to celebrate the event.

      If YOU attending this 1st anniversary, send in a report and I will include it on the Range Rat Reunion page.

    • In a previous email announcing the upcoming anniversary, "Mac" Monroe made these comments: "All of those who had trouble getting to the actual sinking, when the date kept changing and moving can take heart from the fact that the anniversary date is never going to change! It will always be on 27 May, every year, so that should make your long range planning easier.
      There was to be a gathering of ship troops in Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill, & Brewery, 301 Whitehead Street (corner of Whitehead and Caroline) in Key West. Kelly's is in the historic building that was the original headquarters of Pan American Airlines, which was connected to the ARIS program as you all know.

      I would suggest that we just plan on gathering on the 27th of May every year, as long as there are some of us left. Let it become an annual reunion, and as Pat Utecht has suggested, possibly a "Last Man Standing" party for those who spent time at sea on the Vandy. If you can't make it this year, how about next year, or the year after??"

    • Bill Lewis of Acworth GA provided this info. in Feb 2010:

        "I notice you referred to Range Rats and Ship Rats as though there is a difference. Aboard the USNS Arnold, we all considered ourselves Range Rats, though some said you were not truly a Range Rat until you had made a hundred dollars in one day (a tidy sum back then) and blown it all that night!
        There was one time however when we called ourselves Ship's Rats. Although alcohol was verboten aboard ship, many techs brought it aboard and threw parties in their rooms at night. This required ice from one of the two ice machines. During one of the early Tiger Prowl missions, one of the ice machines broke down and the Chief Engineer posted a sign saying that the remaining ice machine couldn't handle the load. Ice would be available only for meals.
        Parties continued and ice continued to be taken to support same. So the Chief Engineer put a padlock on the ice machine. By the next morning someone had cut the padlock and taken some of his precious ice. Forget missiles! The Chief Engineer went ballistic! He posted a sign stating that the padlock was government property... destruction of same amounted to sabotage... since we were at war (Viet Nam), this was a capital offense! He offered a two hundred dollar reward for the 'Dirty Lousy Ship's Rat' who sabotaged the padlock!
        The next morning a new sign appeared offering a two hundred dollar reward for a chief engineer who could fix the ice machine! And it was signed 'The Dirty Lousy Ship's Rat' !!! Morale improved immediately as all aboard took sides, techs against crew. The Dirty Lousy Ship's Rat Club was formed. I believe I might still have my DLSRC T-shirt packed away somewhere! Ah, the good old days."
    • Thanx Bill for this info., when I started these Range Rat pages and produced one especially for ships I wanted to differentiate it from the people who worked on the tracking stations and so I started using the words "Ship Rats", I really didn't know if this is what rats on the ships called themselves!

      Has anybody out there who worked on ships used this term for your identity? Would like to get some different opinions and/or views on this. Send me an email.

    • I've lost my diaries but as best I can remember I was on Golf in 1961-62, about a year I think. Were you on board when we were in Recife, off Ascension, and in the Gambia, where we were doing underwater sound, picking up impacts off ASC? I don't know what happened to the ship after that. I do remember the crew catching a pretty big shark off Ascension. They gutted it, then took some of the teeth for necklaces. The cook cut some steaks out of it, and the next day someone went back for more teeth and the "dead" shark almost took his arm off, snapping those jaws by reflex I guess. The other thing I remember is being sick too, every time, the first few days out of port. If we had a mission I had to work the console from a cot with a wastebasket at one end for the upchucking. After three days at sea I was fine."

    • Phil emailed me the above info. since I knew he was on the "Golf", one of the small tracking ships that I also worked on it for a few months in 1960 so I wasn't on it the same time as Phil was. I asked him to try and remember something about duty aboard the ship, and the above is what he wrote in Dec. 2009. My seasickness lasted over a week, and I lived mostly on soda crackers and milk and spent a lot of time at the rail. I too had to work a mission while being sick. which was no fun. I do remember we only had salt water showers (ugh!). After being out at sea for over a month, due to mission scrubs and rescheduling I couldn't wait to get back to Port Canaveral and get my mail. I was and am still a stamp and first day cover (envelope) collector and did a lot of trading with other collectors through the mail and when we arrived at Port Canaveral there was someone at the dock waiting for our ship to arrive with our mail. I don't recall who it was but he was complaining and wanted to know who the heck was Frasketi, as he dragged a huge mail sack full of mail just for me!
    • I'd like to hear from anyone one else who worked on the ship GOLF and can recall anything about it.

    • In June of 2009 John wrote this in the Range Rat Sign-in Book (which I have now deleted from the RR sign-in Book and entered it here): "I Went to the Vandenberg sinking in Key West. We were 1500 feet away when she was sunk. Spent time with Mac Monroe and his wife, Mike Steele, Teresa (Jack Steele's widow), Rick Sherlock, Bob Sellars, Deb (Fred Waterfield's daughter), and other great people. We all had a great time attending at least two ship's parties a day with Artificial Reef of the Keys (ARK) people. Spent a lot of time at Kelly's bar, which was our official hangout. Not a very big turnout for the Vandy vet's, but we represented our old shipmates in a manner they would be proud of."

    • Way back in Aug. of 2008 (OK, I said I was slow getting these pages updated!) I heard this from Vince: "I really enjoyed your website. I was a 19 year old Navy Aerographers mate at Trinidad-Chaguramas from 1958-1960. The Pan-Am tracking ships were tied up near our barracks and we often socialized with the crews in our EM Club or at the outdoor movie theater. Our assignment was launching and tracking weather balloons with radiosondes, information which contributed to the range and weather forecasting. We thought we were pretty good, sometimes getting balloons as high as 90,000 feet. Ironically, there were U2 planes flying higher than some of our record balloon ascensions unknown to any of us.

    • This tidbit of info. is from the Range Rat Sign-in book entry of Bob Neal, entered Dec. 2005!!) who in 2005 was living in Elkhorn Nebraska has this to say: "I worked on the Coastal Sentry for Gemini and most of Apollo RF TM , video recorders, chart recorders. Most rewarding work of my life, still have vivid memories and great respect for those who I worked with. For those who wonder and info is difficult to find, Aviation Week magazine a few years ago published a short article about the Coastal Sentry, according to that the ship caught fire and was lost in shipyards where it was being scrapped."
    • I heard from Neal again in 2008 and he supplied more info about the magazine but now says it is a different magazine: "This great article in Air & Space magazine of January 2002 tells of the fate of the "CSQ" and other ETR ships. Some of those who worked on those ships will find this article very interesting."
    • Neal sent me scans of part of the article written by Dan Kovalchik but maybe I can get the entire copy of that article if he still has it.

    • Received this message from "Mac" Monroe: "A request/favor, if you please. We have started an effort to document the cruises of the Vandy and the Arnold, in order to provide a record for a museum exhibit in Key West. I will be writing some FOIA requests, in hopes of getting some of the old documents declassified, but in the meantime, if any of you have old personal logs/notes/travel records and such squirreled away that can provide documentation of dates for ports-of-call, shipyard periods, TSP periods, missions supported, with Test numbers, missile types, and any other such information that you would be willing to share with me I would appreciate it if you would do so. Click here to Email me, Mac Monroe or you can write to me at 1365 Pineapple Avenue, Melbourne, FL 32935. Remember that it has been 20 years since the Cold War ended, and all of the missile systems which the ship supported are long since obsolete and out of service, so I don't expect there to be any problems from on high about any information we reveal at this point.

    • ADDITIONAL NEWS: The Vandy is apparently turning into a great reef and a great tourist attraction. She is attracting all sorts of plant and animal life, and is off to a great start on her new career. It will be interesting to see some of the impact she is having. I understand that there are a couple of new dive boat operations in Key West now, just as a result of the sinking.

      There is an effort underway to produce a one hour TV documentary on the Vandy, intended for PBS-TV. The documntary is expected to be completed in time for the second anniversary of the sinking, on 27 May 2011. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me in reconstructing the lives of both ARIS."

    • Some of these pictures were taken by the crew of the Lighthouse Tender USCS Lilac (see 01 Nov. 2009 entry below), and some taken by others. View pictures by clicking here. (Don't know why these photo album links change from time to time).

    • In March 2010 Dave sent scans of the Apollo Ships handbook and a scan of the ships patch which is shown here:

      The USNS Vanguard patch for the Skylab missions.


  • NASA232 aircraft flying over the USNS Vanguard.
    (Photo supplied by Len Brown, see comments below).
    • In Sept '09 I heard from "Jeff", a crew member of the Lighthouse Tender USCS Lilac, which is being restored. Jeff & others had just returned from the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia, they were aboard the USNS Range Sentinel & the USNS Vanguard scavenging for parts. The maritime admin. allows restoration projects to get parts from ships ready to be scrapped.
      Jeff told me when they were on the Range Sentinel, it looked like the crew had just walked off the ship and he also said it has been sent out to bid. The USNS Vanguard had a lot of parts on board that they needed and she is next to be let out to bid for scrap.
    • Jeff had asked me two questions about the USNS Vanguard: 1. Why the two bridges and 2. What was the 400hz MG sets used for? I then contacted those who signed the Range Rat Sign-in Book and had listed being aboard that ship. A single email went out to 13 ship rats and I received 8 answers. Thanks guys!
    • Q. Why the two bridges? A.The USNS Mercury, Redstone, & Vanguard were originally T2 tankers. Each ship was modified by seperating the bow and stern sections and adding a mid section (that contained the instrumentation and living quarters), ending up with the rear bridge. When they added the antenna dishes, the view from the rear bridge was obstructed and the Maritime Commission ordered a forward bridge to be added. Both bridges were functional.
      Q. What was the 400 hz MG sets used for? A. The 400 hz Motor Generators were for the Univac computers in the computer room. They used 400 hz to reduce the size of the power supply components in the computers. The ship had two 1218 computers that were for the updata buffer and three 1230 computers was for the tracking processing, one telemetry and one command computer.
    • I even received a informative reply from Len Brown (a ship rat who has yet to sign the Range Rat sign-in book) who received my email from one of the 13, and Len also sent me the above photo of the USNS Vanguard taken prior to having the forward bridge installed.
    • Can anyone send me a photo of the ship showing the forward bridge?

    • (See comments below about this special envelope).

    • The above commemorative envelope (called a cover by stamp collectors) was issued on 09 Sept. 1965 for the launching of the new Apollo Tracking Ship, the USNS Vanguard (TAGM-19). Whoever made the design on the left side of the envelope (called a cachet by stamp collectors) had used the previous name of the ship.

      The printing on the above envelope reads as follows: "Apollo Instrumentation Ship, "Moon Shot Tracker", Muscle Shoals (which is crossed out and the correct name VANGUARD inserted), TAGM-19 Launching. (Formerly T-2 Tanker Mission San Fernando) Lengthened and converted by Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics, Quincy Massachusetts."

    • Here is a partial history of this ship:
      • On 01 Oct.1949 this ship was placed in service as USNS Mission San Fernando (T-AO-122)
      • On 28 Sept. 1964 it was reacquired by the Navy to be converted to a Missile Range Instrumentation Ship (AGM) at General Dynamics Corp., Quincy, MA.
      • It was renamed and reclassified as USNS Mussel Shoals (T-AGM-19) while undergoing conversion.
      • The ship was renamed the USNS Vanguard (TAGM-19) 01 Sept. 1965, and on 09 Sept. 1965 the ship was launched.

    • Does anyone know where tracking ship patches can be purchased? If so please send me an email. My request is for ANY of the the tracking ships. I am sure others would be interested in this information. Can you help?
    • If I get any information it will be published here.

    • Adolphus M. Sams of Decatur GA recently emailed me that he is looking for a patch from the USNS Vandenberg. I also had a similar request way down the page on 6 July 2006 but never received any info. so am asking again.

    • The Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg sank at approximately 10:24 a.m. Wednesday, 27 May, successfully concluding a 13-year-project to convert the decommissioned military missile-tracking ship into a new artificial reef off Key West.

    • Unfortunately the live broadcast at the Sink the Vandenberg website, experienced difficulty, and this was their comment: "we regret that many viewers were unable to experience our historic live webcast of the sinking of the Vandenberg on May 27th. While our web hosting company assured us they could handle the traffic, the response was so overwhelming that the server experienced a CPU failure which ultimately blocked access to the website. In order to successfully meet the traffic demands of our viewers, we are switching web host servers and expect to be activated and fully accessible soon with our first on-demand videos for you to enjoy."

    • The sinking was also shown this morning on the Fox News Cable Channel and on the NBC evening news channel.
    • The best video that I've seen so far of the actual sinking from the air can be viewed at this link from: Keysnews website (The Florida Keys & Key West Daily Online News).

    • The Keysnews link above was provided by Michael Ritter on the message board of Collect Space website. I had posted a message there on 24 May about the sinking giving a link to this webpage, and in just two days there have been over 500 hits to my webpage, where I normally get anywhere from 5 to 15 hits from Range Rats.

    • No doubt there will be other video's and still photos available on the sinking, and they will be reported here. There is currently one video on YouTube its a little rough to view with the bobbing of the boat. A few still photographs on the sinking can be viewed at the: Florida Keys Official Tourism Website.

    • Mac Monroe sent me this info some months ago (see I told you I was way behind in getting the news out): Here is the initial information on the newest tracking ship, the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen, T-AGM 25. As far as Mac know, the keel was laid 13 August 2008, at Halter Marine in Pascagoula MS.
      The below information was taken from this U.S. DoD News Release:
      Navy Names Ship After Howard O. Lorenzen ‘Father Of Electronic Warfare’. The Navy announced Oct 10, 2008 that the name of the next missile range instrumentation ship will be USNS Howard O. Lorenzen. Designated T-AGM 25, the ship will honor the late Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) electrical engineer who was instrumental in the creation of our nation’s electronic intelligence capabilities. Considered by many to be the ‘Father of Electronic Warfare,’ Lorenzen’s accomplishments include developments in radar, electronic countermeasures systems, and intelligence satellite designs.
      Lorenzen led the Galactic Radiation and Background (GRAB) program, the earliest successful U.S. reconnaissance satellite program and the first electronic intelligence satellite.
      The USNS Howard O. Lorenzen will be 12,575 tons, 534 feet in length, and have a beam of 89 feet. Manned by a combined crew of 88 sailors and civilian mariners, the ship will host embarked military and civilian technicians from other U.S. government agencies. The construction contract for T-AGM 25 was awarded to VT Halter Marine Inc., in Pascagoula, Miss.
      Missile range instrumentation ships provide platforms for monitoring missile launches and collecting data that can be used to improve missile efficiency and accuracy. Like the Navy’s two current missile range instrumentation ships – USNS Observation Island and USNS Invincible – T-AGM 25 will be owned and operated by Military Sealift Command and conduct missions sponsored by the Air Force.
    • Click here to see a picture of the USNS Invincible, T-AGM-24, a sister ship to the new USNS Howard O. Lorenzen. The USNS Invincible is a Missile Range Instrumentation Ship operated by the Military Sealift Command. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

    • Mac Monroe sent me this email yesterday: "Our local newspaper the Florida Today (ie: the mullet wrapper) carried an article on 18 December 2008 as follows:"
      "KEY WEST -- WWII ship sold at auction will be artifical reef. A bank bought a missile-tracking ship that brought World War II soldiers home from France, clearing the way for the 524-foot vessel to become an artificial reef six miles off the city.
      First State Bank of the Florida Keys bought the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg for $1.35 million Wednesday at a federal auction."
    • That is good news by this announcement:
      NORFOLK, Va. -- First State Bank of the Florida Keys purchased the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg at auction Wednesday, making it possible for the 524-foot decommissioned Air Force missile tracking vessel to be scuttled as an artificial reef off the Florida Keys.
      Key West City Commissioner Bill Verge, a leader in the efforts to complete the long-awaited Vandenberg project, said the bank bid $1.35 million, topping other bidders including those who wanted to purchase the vessel for its scrap value or for an artificial reef in other locations.
      First State Bank stepped up to the plate to protect the interests of the county, the city and everybody involved, said Verge, who attended the auction. They thought it was the right thing to do.
      A federal judge ordered the auction of the ship after a contractor failed to complete payments to Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., for cleanup of the vessel. The proceedings, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, took place on the steps of the federal courthouse in Norfolk.
      While the shipyard was originally owed $1.6 million, additional charges and the funds owed to other claimants brought the total debt to more than $2.2 million. According to Verge, the $1.35 million will be placed in an escrow account and distributed to the claimants in proportion to their claims, satisfying the entire debt.
      The ship is now free and clear of all debts and obligations, and there's sufficient money to complete the project," said Verge.
      Verge predicted the Vandenberg would be towed from Colonna's Shipyard to Key West in January, if weather conditions allow and Coast Guard permits are in place. The vessel's sink date has not yet been announced."

    • while not a Range Rat, its always good to hear from those who sailed on the range ships. Glenn, now living in Point Pleasant NJ, worked on the USNS Vandenberg from Jan 1981 to Dec 1981 as a electrician with Rein Roots and Chief Engineer Spencer, and said "great times underway and in Recife Brazil!"


  • Click on above image for an enlarged view
    • this picture, sent in by Bill Stewart shows the crew of the Coastal Sentry that picked up the first recovered Atlas RVX-2 nose cone, sometime in the summer of 1959. Also included in the picture are a few RCA troops from Ascension Island (in the background).
      He goes on to say that all of these range rat troops are RCA and is able to identify all but two in the picture: Standing (left to right); Wayne Pratt - RCA Ship Tech; Jerry Simpkins - RCA Ship Tech; and ???? - unknown person standing at the far right, Stewart thinks he was the Operations Coordinator at Ascension.
      Kneeling (left to right):Bob Neely - Range Photographer; I.P. Gillmer - RCA Ship tech; Jim Feick - RCA Ship CCO; Lenny Moldovan - RCA Ship Tech; Jim Wright - RCA Ship Tech; John Facker - Instrumentation Manager at Ascension; Phil Hendricks - Radar manager at Ascension; Bill Stewart - RCA Ships Leader.
    • 01 NOV. 2009, UPDATE: Originally there were two unidentified range rats from Ascension in the above photo, In June 09 Wally Tubell identified Phil Hendricks, and his name is now filled in. Wally thinks the other unidentifed person looks a bit like Jim Horn. Can anyone verify this? Or if you know who the other one is (the one standing in the background to the far right) please send me an email.

    • Bill relates that he was reprimanded for letting Wayne Pratt lean against the nose cone like that, as the main purpose of the test was to see how the ablative coating stood up during reentry, and there he was messing it up.
    • ANOTHER SIMILAR PICTURE BUT WITH PAA RANGERATS AND DIVERS INCLUDED: Bill also sent in a picture similar to this one shown above which you can view by clicking: here.
      These individuals are:
      Standing behind the nose cone (left to right): Ed Gallagher, PAA weatherman; Jim Feick, RCA CCO; Art Ramsdell, PAA weather Supervisor (Bill said he was called Globemaster); ???, PAA diver; ???, PAA diver. Wayne Pratt, an RCA Tech is standing in front of the nose cone, and those sitting on kneeling in from of the nose cone (left to right) are: I.P. Gillmer, RCA Tech; Jerry Simpkins, RCA Tech; Lenny Moldovan, RCA Tech; Jim Wright, RCA Tech; Bill Stewart, RCA Leader.
    • If you can identify the two PAA divers, where the ??? are, please send me an email.

  • 14 AUGUST 2007, DEATH OF ART RAMSDELL REPORTED BY HIS SISTER (he is pictured in the above photo),
    I received this email below, maybe someone can help her: "Art Ramsdell, who is pictured above on the USNS Coastal Sentry, died July 31, 2007. I have been attempting to find Ed J. Gallagher to notify him and any of Art's other downrange friends. I am Art's sister. Anyone who would like information on Art's death and can identify himself as a friend, can contact me at this email address: . I have a copy of one of Ed's poems, he'll know which one. Signed Myrt Townsend ( from Lewisville,Texas.
    (taken late 1959 or early 1960).
  • Coastal Crusader (ORV 1851) personnel
    • The photo caption reads: RCA personnel of the Coastal Crusader (ORV 1851) who were part of the team responsible for a recent successful recovery of a missile nose cone pose with P.M. Gluchowski, Manager Ship Instrumentation, Recife, after the ship returned to port. Kneeling (left to right): A.C. Reneau, J.L. Epperson, J.F. Madonna and R.A. Bowser. Standing: R.C. Patterson, Ralph N. Cron, Jack V. Tolman, K.E. Schramm, J.C. Gorden, L.M. Boyd, Leader, Ship Instrumentation; and P.M. Gluchowski. (I have put their names here just in case they do a search for their own name they will locate this page).

    • I had originally wanted to know info. on the USNS Vanguard, Redstone and Mercury. Thanks to the help I've received it's whittled down to just the Redstone. Thanks Guys.
    • I have information that the USNS Redstone stayed in USAF service through the 1980s and was retired. BUT WHERE IS SHE NOW? If you worked on this ship maybe you have some (any) information that you can email to me.
    • 23 MAY 2007, Jed Clear emailed me that the USNS Vanguard, (which I also wanted to know her present location), was in the James River Fleet, VA as of 31 Mar 2007. Her status is now "disposal". Jed also said that the USNS Range Sentinel is also there and the status is "Historic Review".
    • 01 OCTOBER 2007, "Mac" Monroe sent me some information about the USNS Mercury, it had a long life after leaving the tracking program and in 1984 it was scrapped at Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

    • A friend of mine, Dr. Ross J Smith from South Hurstville, NSW, Australia is looking for this information as he is writing an article, here is what he emailed me: "One of my areas of interest is Recovery and Tracking ship covers for the US Manned Space program. I have already written a number of articles on these. I've found there is a distinct lack of information (not to mention confusion) on which tracking ships were used for which missions and were they were stationed. I was wondering if you would put a request for information on your Web site. At present I am particularly interested in the tracking involved with each of the Mercury missions".
      If you partisipated in any of the Project Mercury flights and remember which ship you were on and where the ship was stationed, please send your information to Dr. Ross, click HERE

  • (Jan 06) Added this list of Missile Range Instrumentation Tracking Ships : so that any range rats making a search for their ship, can find this page.
    (If the ships name is underlined, click on it to see its picture)
    Did I leave out any other ETR Tracking Ship names that you worked on?
    • USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM 10),
      USNS General H. H. Arnold (T-AGM 9),
      USNS Twin Falls (T-AGM 11),
      USNS American Mariner (T-AGM 12),
      USNS Sword Knot (T-AGM 13),
      USNS Rose Knot (T-AGM 14),
      USNS Coastal Sentry (T-AGM 15),
      USNS Coastal Crusader (T-AGM 16) (Redesignated T-AGS 36),
      USNS Timber Hitch (T-AGM 17),
      USNS Sampan Hitch (T-AGM 18),
      USNS Vanguard (T-AGM 19) (Redesignated T-AG 194),
      USNS Redstone (T-AGM 20),
      USNS Mercury (T-AGM 21),
      FS Ship Echo,
      FS Ship Foxtrot,
      FS Ship Golf,
      FS Ship Hotel,
      FS Ship India,
      FS Ship Kilo.
  • 04 MAY 2007: TO SEE A PHOTO HISTORY OF MOST OF THE ABOVE SHIPS, go to this NavSource website where there is a list of links to the various ships: NavSource Auxilary Ship Photo Archives.
  • USNS General H. H. Arnold
    USNS General H. H. Arnold (T-AGM 9), from a picture postcard.

    • Its an article written by Dwayne Day called V is for Virus, Volkov, and Vandenberg.

    • Dick Manaig sent info. on the forthcoming sinking of the USNS Vandenberg. Anyone who worked on the USNS Vandenberg would be interested in learning that it will become an artificial reef off the coast of Key West making it a unique recreational diving and fishing site.

    • 01 OCTOBER 2007, Steve Matthews sent in a webpage on the "Ghost Fleet ship to become artificial reef". That link is no longer available. There was a silent video shot of the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, taken in Mar. 2007, moving it to a local shipyard to be eventually sunk off Key West, Fl. There was much factual information on the Vandy at this link.

  • 06 JULY 2006,: Jim Flege ( from Elsmere, Ky, wrote me that he was looking for ships patch for the USNS Vandenberg T AGM-10. He worked on board as a Wiper in 1972. Does anyone out there know where these patches are sold, if so send ME an email (Click Here) so I can make this info. available to other ships personnel. Or if you have one that you want to sell, you can contact Jim at the email address by his name.
    • Ivan R. Salis ( from Callahan,Florida, wrote me that his grandfather, Erwin Conway Salis (now deceased) worked on the TAGM-16 COASTAL CRUSADER as a ships engineer. Ivan has a photograph of the ship dated 1967 and shows a single bubble type radar dome --the photo has on the outer matting area--in pencil ---Clan Studio and under it what looks to be Umhlanga Rocks (hand written in script). He is trying to find out where the photo may have been taken -- and would appreciate some help.
    • 16 SEPT 2006, John Gladden reports: that info on Umhlanga Rocks can be found at this website, click HERE
    • if you have any more info. to update this section. Perhaps someone remembers Erwin Conway Salis? You can email ME (Click Here)

    • In March 2010 I received an email from Bill McQueen ( who lives in Hixson (Chattanooga), TN and wrote: "Yes, I remember Chief Engineer Salis. I also operated a 'Ham Radio' station on the Coastal Crusader. I spent several years working on the ship and for some of them was the RCA Ship Instrumentation Manager. I also remember Tom White, Assistant Ship Operations Manager well. I was really surprised to see that he remembered me after all these years." (Bill wanted to know how to contact Tom White, and I did send him his email address, but I dont know if they ever made contact).

    • 11 MARCH 2008, BY GOLLY! SOMEBODY DID REMEMBER MR. SALIS:: Tom White who now lives in Santa Fe, NM wrote me in FEB 08:
      "I was Assistant Ship Operations Manager (Pan Am)and then Ship Operations Manager of the Coastal Crusader in the 1965=1966 period. I remember Chief Engineer Salis well. Among the things his engineering department did was supply the power to the fans for the predominant bubble that enshrowded the telemetry dish. The bubble was a balloon that needed full time operation of fans to keep it inflated. Occasionally the power would fail and backup power was unnreliable. Chief Salis (and the ships master as well) had many dealings over this. If the bubble were to collape and hit the telemetry dish, we would be out of action. The RCA Ship Instrumentation Manager at the time was Bill McQueen.
      We ported at Antiqua and Trinidad during that period after leaving Port Canaveral. We also visited Recife, Brazil and Ascension Island.
      From time to time Chief Salis would invite me (us) to use his ham radio station to call home. We had no other means of calling off of the ship during long missions."

    • I am looking for Ship Information: In 1960 I worked for a few months on one of the smaller tracking ships, the "Golf" I believe it had a designation of "FS" for "Freighter, Small" (it sure was one of the smallest of the tracking ships), however I have found NOTHING about this ship on the internet, (except a brief list of the FS ships: Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India and Kilo), if you have any info. to share, or a photo of the FS Golf or if you worked on this ship, it would be appreciated. (If you worked on any of the other FS ships please let me hear from you). Use the email link above to contact me.
    • Stephen Wooden wrote me in DEC 07: First: the Golf and other 'FS' ships were "Fleet Service" ships also known by sailors as "garbage scows". They were used during WWII to deliver food and supplies to warships. They then removed garbage from the ship which could be used to detect the ship's position.
      Second: The last time I saw the FS Golf was 1964 or '65 when I was working for ITT Federal Electric (NASA) and was ordered down to Port Canaveral to Tropicana dock to remove telemetry receivers and antennas from the ship. It was scheduled to be sold surplus or scrapped.
    • Stephen worked at the PAFB Tech Lab, Twin Falls Victory, San Salvador and later was a Capeside range rat. Now retired and living in Sarasota.

  • NEWS FROM 17 AUG 05: Bill Stewart in response to my query above, gives more info. about ships:
    "Your range rat page was asking about the FS ships. There were 6 of them - the 1834, 1835, 1836, 1837, 1838 and 1839. (Call signs Echo - Kilo as you listed). The even numbered ships were stationed in Trinidad, the odd numbered ones in Recife. I made one trip on the 1836 (Golf) in 1958, then went to Recife and made a trip or 2 on the 1839 (kilo) before joining the Coastal Sentry.
    I thought the FS boats were phased out before 1960, but I guess I was wrong. They were used primarily for the Snark project. The big problem with them was endurance, three weeks was about the maximum time they could remain at sea, plus as you probably know, living space was severely limited, and they could be a bear in an active sea (seasickness was a common occurence, even among professional sailors)".
  • On 13 Jul 06 Charles Lucas who lives in Newbury Park CA wrote this in the RR sign-in book about his background in ships, that might be of interest to others:
    RCA ARIS Program: H.H. Arnold and H.S. Vandenberg. December, 1961 until June, 1965. One of the early new hires by Wally Tubell – along with Mike Willis (who is in the RR sign in book) specifically for the Computer Group on the ARIS ships. Yard delays to the ship’s conversion schedule provided a fantastic opportunity for multiple TDY down range teaching and training assignments to San Salvador, Trinidad and Ascension during 1962 and early 1963.
    The full RCA crew rode the H.H. Arnold from the Bethlehem Steel Yard in Brooklyn NY down to Port Canaveral FLA about March of 1963; in June 1963 or there about, the crew was divided between the two ships and those of us assigned to the Vandenberg returned to NY and took the second ship down to Port Canaveral.
    The next two years we spent mostly on short one-week cruises out of Port Canaveral evaluating the ship’s navigation instrumentation. Since a star tracker was critical to this capability, almost all of our evaluation work was done at night. The Vandenberg spent the summer of 1964 in a yard in Baltimore where the original SINS was replaced with a newer model.
    After leaving, I worked initially in engineering for Litton’s Data Systems Division; in 1970 I went to work for ITT Gilfillan. I retired from there in 2000 but continued to consult part time for the next five years. I am married and have one son.

  • Click here to go back to the
    Range Rat Introduction Page.


    The left stamp issued by the USA on the day Astronaut John Glenn successfully splashed down in Grand Turk waters.
    The middle stamp issued by the Bahama Islands shows a radar antenna. Grand Bahama Island, Station No. 3, had a radar station.
    the right stamp issued by the Dominican Republic shows the Mercury capsule orbiting earth. There was a tracking station (No. 8) in the Dominican Republic, at Sabana de la Mar, in 1956, however (DOM) closed in 1957 long before the Mercury flights of 1960-63.

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