Wagner DE-539

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This Month in Naval History
Wagner DE-539


(DER-539: dp. 1,350; 1. 306'0"; b. 36'8" dr. 9'5"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 210; a. 2 5", 6 20mm., 1 dct., 1 dcp.(hh.); cl. John C. Butler)

Wagner (DE-539) was laid down on 8 November 1943 at Boston, Mass., by the Boston Navy Yard; launched on 27 December 1944; and sponsored by Mrs. Alfred Thomas. Due to adjustments of wartime priorities and postwar cutbacks, construction of Wagner was suspended on 17 February 1947, while the ship was 61.5 percent complete. Towed to the Naval Industrial Reserve Shipyard, Boston, the ship lay "mothballed" for the next seven years, until 1 July 1954. Chosen for completion as a radar picket escort ship, Wagner was towed to the Boston Naval Shipyard (the renamed Boston Navy Yard), where construction was resumed. Re-designated DER-539, Wagner was commissioned on 22 November 1955, Lt. Comdr. Edward A. Riley in command.

She departed Boston on 4 January 1956 for the Caribbean and conducted shakedown out of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Returning north, Wagner joined Escort Squadron 18 and operated out of Newport, R.I. The ship conducted radar picket duty on the seaborne extension of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line—the Eastern Contiguous Radar Coverage System and the Atlantic Barrier—into late 1959. Primarily operating in the North Atlantic, Wagner interrupted these lonely vigils in the Atlantic Barrier patrol system with visits to east coast ports and an occasional deployment to the warmer climes of the Caribbean for refresher training.

AS more sophisticated systems diminished the need for these seaborne patrols, Wagner was placed "in commission, in reserve," on 31 March 1960 and arrived at Sabine Pass, Texas, on 1 April to commence lay-up preparations. Decommissioned in June 1960, Wagner lay in the Atlantic Fleet Reserve until struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1974. She was subsequently slated for use as a target.


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