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USS White Sands (ARD-20)
Name: USS ARD-20 (until 1966)
USS ARD(BS)-20 (1966-1968)
USS White Sands (from 1968)
Namesake: The White Sands region of New Mexico
Builder: Pacific Bridge Company, Alameda, California
Laid down: 20 December 1943
Launched: early 1944
In service: 31 March 1944
Out of service: 7 October 1947
In service: 14 September 1966
Out of service: late summer 1974
Renamed: From ARD-20 to ARD(BS)-20 14 September 1966
White Sands 9 March 1968
Reclassified: From auxiliary repair dock (ARD-20) to bathyscaphe support auxiliary repair dock (ARD(BS)-20) 14 September 1966
Auxiliary repair dock (ARD-20) 9 March 1968
auxiliary deep submergence support ship (AGDS-1) 1 August 1973
Struck: September 1974
Fate: Sold for scrapping 1974
General characteristics
Class & type: ARD-12-class auxiliary repair dock
Displacement: 5,200 long tons (5,283 t)
Length: 291 ft 8 in (88.90 m)
Beam: 81 ft (25 m)
Draft: 6 ft (1.8 m)
32 ft 10 in (10.01 m) submerged
Propulsion: None
Complement: 112

USS White Sands (ARD-20), ex-USS ARD-20, ex-USS ARD(BS)-20, later AGDS-1, was a United States Navy auxiliary repair dock in service from 1944 to 1947 and from 1966 to 1974.

Construction and commissioning

ARD-20 was laid down on 20 December 1943 by the Pacific Bridge Company at Alameda, California, and was launched early in 1944. She was placed in service on 31 March 1944 with Lieutenant Commander Gutav Jones, USNR, as officer-in-charge.

First period in service, 1944-1947

After training at the Drydock Training Center at Tiburon, California, ARD-20 departed San Francisco Bay on 11 June 1944 under tow by the merchant ship SS Stratford Point. She stopped briefly at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands before arriving at her assigned base, Seeadler Harbor, at Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands, on 12 August 1944. As a unit of the United States Seventh Fleet's Service Squadron 3, ARD-20 repaired battle-damaged ships at Manus for the next eight months.

On 16 April 1945, the auxiliary fleet tug USS ATA-170 towed ARD-20 out of Seeadler Harbor and set a course for Morotai Island, located just north of Halmahera in the northern Molucca Islands. The two vessels arrived at Morotai on 29 April 1945. ARD-20 conducted repairs at Morotai until 24 July 1945, when she was towed to the repair base at Manicani Island, located near Samar in the Philippine Islands, where she spent 19 months.

ARD-20 departed Manicani on 25 February 1947, under tow by the merchant ship SS Robert Eden, and arrived in Apra Harbor, Guam, on 9 March 1947. Later in 1946, the merchant ship SS Robert Hartley towed her by way of Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, to San Pedro, California, where the two vessels arrived on 11 September 1947.

ARD-20 was placed out of service on 7 October 1947 and berthed with the San Pedro Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Second period in service, 1966-1974

Eighteen years later, in October 1965, ARD-20 was moved to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Terminal Island, California, where work began on her modernization and conversion into a bathyscaphe support ship. Reclassified as a bathyscaphe support auxiliary repair dock (ARD(BS)), she was placed in service on 14 September 1966 as USS ARD(BS)-20 and assigned to the Submarine Force, United States Pacific Fleet, to conduct Chief of Naval Operations-sponsored research projects related to deep submergence vehicles and their operation.

On 9 March 1968, ARD(BS)-20 was named USS White Sands, and her hull designation was shortened back to ARD-20.

From 1968, White Sands conducted tests with the bathyscaphe Trieste II in various open ocean environments. Those tests took place near the Undersea Weapons Center near San Clemente Island off California.

USS White Sands, carrying the bathyscaphe Trieste II, moored behind the fleet ocean tug USS Apache (ATF-67) at the Panama Canal Zone ca. 28 February 1969. Apache was towing White Sands to the Atlantic to search for the sunken nuclear submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) off the Azores.

In February 1969, White Sands, carrying Trieste II, departed the United States West Coast, towed by the fleet ocean tug USS Apache (ATF-67) to participate in the search for the nuclear submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589)—which had been lost in the Atlantic Ocean near the Azores in 1968—employing Trieste II and supported by Apache and the high-speed transport USS Ruchamkin (APD-89). White Sands concluded her part in the Scorpion assignment early in August 1969 and was towed, via the Panama Canal, to San Diego, California, where she arrived on 7 October 1969.

At San Diego, White Sands resumed her research assignment with deep submergence vehicles. On 1 August 1973, she was reclassified an auxiliary deep submergence support ship and redesignated AGDS-1.

Final disposition

Late in the summer of 1974. White Sands was placed out of service. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in September 1974, and she was sold for scrapping.


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