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USS Compass Island (EAG 153) in December 1959.

USS Compass Island (EAG 153) in December 1959.
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Class: COMPASS ISLAND (EAG 153, C4-S-1a)
Design: MA C4-S-1a
Displacement (tons): 16,076 full (15,600 operational)
Dimensions (feet): 563.7' oa, 528' pp x 76' max x 29' (23' operational mean)
Armament: (1969) 4-20mmT; (1971) none; (1976) 4-20mmS
Accommodations: 17 officers and 248 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 20
Propulsion (HP): 17,500
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (600psi/875deg), 1 screw

153COMPASS ISLAND29 Mar 1956New York SB17 Mar 195212 Mar 19533 Dec 1956

EAGNameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
153COMPASS ISLAND1 May 19801 Oct 1981MA/T9 Apr 199325 Jul 2003

Class Notes:
On 8 November 1955, after much inter- and intra-service wrangling, the Secretary of Defense established "a joint Army-Navy IRBM program (designated the IRBM #2 program) having the dual objective of achieving an early shipboard ballistic missile capability and providing an alternative to the Air Force IRBM program (designated the IRBM #1 program)." The Army-Navy missile was the Army's Jupiter and the Air Force's missile was the Thor, both liquid-fueled. CNO Admiral Arleigh Burke was a strong supporter of the ballistic missile effort, having decided to support the Navy's original FBM (Fleet Ballistic Missile) program in his first week in office in August 1955 and then in negotiating the joint Army-Navy effort as the only way to obtain approval for the development of an FBM. Burke set up a Special Projects Office under Admiral William F. Raborn (initially directly under CNO, later within the Bureau of Ordnance) to manage the program. Most of the missile specialists recruited for this office had research backgrounds in solid-fueled rockets, and though they would work to adapt the liquid-fueled Jupiter for shipboard use their ultimate goal was a solid-fueled FBM. The Army considerably modified the dimensions of the liquid-fueled Jupiter to fit the Navy's needs, making it nearly ten feet shorter and ten inches larger in diameter than the original design. It still measured 60 feet in height, 105 inches in diameter, and 108,500 pounds in weight. On the request of the Special Projects Office, BUSHIPS in late 1955 or early 1956 began drawing up plans for the conversion of several MARAD Mariner-class (C4-S-1a) cargo ships (see AKA 112) to Jupiter launch platforms in addition to considering designs for submarines to carry the missile. A solid-fueled Jupiter, Jupiter-S, was then designed in early 1956 but with measurements of 44 feet length, 120 inches diameter, a 160,000 pounds weight, and the same large warhead that was on the liquid Jupiter, Jupiter-S was so cumbersome that the Special Projects Office went on with the plans to test a liquid-fueled Jupiter on a surface ship in 1958, leaving Jupiter-S for deployment on a submarine in 1965. For purposed of comparison, the original Polaris had a much more compact warhead and measured only 28.5 feet by 54 inches with a weight of 28,800 pounds.

Navigational accuracy was crucial in any mobile ballistic missile system, and on 20 December 1955 a job order was issued for a design for the first of the Mariner conversions in the IRBM program (called Mariner No. 1), a Navigational Development Ship. Its mission was to provide a means of evaluating equipment for precise mid-ocean navigation and its specific task was to evaluate various kinds of precision navigational equipment in order to develop a system of sufficient accuracy for an IRBM ship. The ship had a navigation platform to mount numerous precision navigational instruments located to provide the maximum arc of visibility at the horizon and also in vertical alignment with the center containing the Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS). The SINS was the basic and only equipment that would give all the required missile outputs. It would provide ship's position, true north, vertical and speed over ground (not water). To correct SINS and refine its outputs, systems would also be evaluated including a horizon follower to correct SINS vertical output, optical star trackers, a Radiometric Sun/Moon Tracker and a Star Tracker to provide ship fixes when skies were overcast, and a doppler sonar system that was expected to give very accurate measurement of speed over ground. Fin stabilizers were installed to minimize roll and liquid and/or fixed ballast were provided to compensate for light loading and give proper propeller immersion and satisfactory trim. The Mariner hull also had the high speed and a large cargo capacity that would be necessary for a prospective second stage conversion to an IRBM ship.

On 18 January 1956 CNO requested a Mariner class ship from the MARAD reserve fleet for use in the FBM program. On 16 February 1956 CNO directed that the ship was to be placed in commission around December 1956 and be operational by 1 January 1957. He also directed that the ship was to be classified as YAG (Miscellaneous Auxiliary). Finally in the same letter CNO authorized the conversion of three Mariners for use in the IRBM program. These ships, previously called Mariner No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, were tentatively designated within BUSHIPS as YAG 56, 57, and 58 pending formal action. On 22 May 1956 CNO modified his letter of 16 February to specify that the ships were to be classified as AG (miscellaneous auxiliary) using the prefix "E" to indicate their experimental nature, and BUSHIPS tentatively designated them EAG 153, 154, and 155. Design work on Mariner No. 1 (EAG 153) was completed on 11 May 1956. On 31 May 1956 the Assistant Director for Fleet Maintenance (Op-43B) asked for a name to be assigned to the ex-SS GARDEN MARINER, recently acquired from the Department of Commerce, which BUSHIPS had designated as EAG 153. On 25 June 1956 SecNav approved the classification EAG 153 and name COMPASS ISLAND for the ship. (He also reserved the numbers 154 and 155 for future assignment to the other two Mariners.) As of 14 June 1956 the conversion of EAG 153 was start on 1 July 1956 and complete on 1 December 1956. The conversion yard, NSY New York, was told to use some documentation from the AKA 112 conversion in the EAG 153 conversion. Builder's trials in November 1956 were satisfactory, the ship logging a speed of 22.8 knots. The conversion was completed by NSY New York and the ship was commissioned on 3 December 1956.

The key research spaces on the ship were a triangular navigation tower forward of the bridge that contained the navigation platform with its instruments and a combined Navigational Instrumentation Space and Combat Information Center (NIC) located on the top deck of the superstructure aft of the bridge. An experimental Sperry fin stabilizer (Sperry's first for the navy and a copy of their installation on the passenger ships MARIPOSA and MONTEREY) was located below the navigation tower at the bottom of No. 4 hold. Ballast was loaded into Number 3 and 6 holds to compensate for light loading and maintain trim and propeller immersion. A doppler sonar was later installed in the bottom of No. 3 hold and a trailing VLF radio receiver wire was later fitted in the stern.

COMPASS ISLAND continued to carry out special projects for the submarine force during the 1960s and 1970s including the development of updated navigation aids and inertial navigation systems. One system she helped develop was the Transit system, predecessor of today's Global Positioning System (GPS). Between 1976 and 1978 she had a periscope in the middle of her flight deck, probably for experiments with a periscope-mounted star tracker for submarines. She also participated in 1968 in the search for the lost SCORPION (SSN 589).

Ship Notes:
153COMPASS ISLAND26(ex-GARDEN MARINER, compl. 24 Oct 1953). FY 1957. Commercially operated by three firms (at least the first one for MSTS) 24 Oct 1953 to 17 May 1955. Tentatively designated YAG 56 Feb-May 1956, from MA 29 Mar 1956 (title), formally designated EAG 153 and named 25 Jun 1956. On 11 March 1968 effective 1 April 1968 COMPASS ISLAND (EAG 153) was reclassified to AG 153. Replaced 1980 by AG 194 (ex AGM 19). To MA custody 4 Sep 1980. To Navy Retention status in NDRF 31 Jul 1984. Title to MA 9 Apr 1993. Disposal contract awarded 25 Jul 2003, to be BU by Able in Teeside (Hartlepool), UK with CALOOSAHATCHEE, CANISTEO (AO 98-99), and CANOPUS (AS 34). Arrived in UK early Dec 2003. Local protests delayed scrapping until Able UK secured waste management licensing in August 2008. BU complete 3 Jun 2010.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 18 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Item S-15 Entries UD 1024-AD Box 1 and UD 1024-M S1 (Design of vessel).