USS Recruit

A Sailors first ship

It was the first of its kind -- not quite 'building, not quite a ship. USS Recruit (TDE-1 and TFFG-1) the Navy's first non-ship, was originally a commissioned vessel and observed traditional Naval shipboard procedures like all other vessels. Any Sailor who ever served duty on board this haze gray ship awash in concrete, fondly remembers his first 'request permission to come aboard.

Affectionately known as USS Neversail, the Recruit was a two-thirds scale mock-up and served as a Sea Daddy to new recruits. When completed in 1949, it was 225 long, had a 24-foot, four inch beam and a 41-foot mast.

During construction, Sailors in NTC's seamanship division supervised the rigging with standard Navy fittings obtained from salvage and mothballed ships. The Recruit was commissioned Rear Adm. Wilder D. Baker, commandant, Eleventh Naval District, on July 27, 1'949. A commission pennant was broken and the ensign and Union Jack was hoisted.

It 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 nd mooring lines and operated as any standard Navy ship. Sailors learned rnarlinspike seamanship, ground tackle operation, cargo booms, deck fittings, lift boat handling and signal equipment.

Besides the regular classrooms, a company of recruits would stay on board from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night to polish watchstanding skills.


The recruit went into "drydock" for three months in 1954 for an overhaul and minor repairs. For almost 18 years, the Recruit served the Navy, but in 1967, something unusual happened: automation got the better hand. Technology is supposed to advance one's life, but in this case, it marked the end of the Recruit's commission.

Navy civilian employees making a, card-index inventory of vessels in the San Diego area, found themselves baffled by one particular card, which, when placed through the computer for classification, was continually rejected.

The computer determined that the ship was neither afloat nor tied up ashore. It was not in drydock, not undergoing repairs or rehauling, not in 'mothball' and was crewless! The ship had no boilers, engines or screws and when they discovered the computer could not classify USS Recruit as a commissioned vessel, it was decommissioned on March 7, 1967.

In 1982, the Recruit was old and weathered. Repairs took place to transform the ship from a training destroyer escort into a training guided missile frigate. The new ship had a wooden anchor and was armed with three-inch wooden guns and, a wooden depth charge launcher. The classrooms were modernized and enlarged now accommodating up to 80 Recruits for training.

By 1996, the ship's fate was still undetermined. It was sparred from demolition and some plans call for it to be turned into a maritime museum. Only the future will determine USS Recruit’s Fate.


USS Recruit’s Log entry poem

From Jan. 1, 1963
By George E. Johnson, BMC

Time 0000, Day #1, year 1963,
The, watch has begun.
Moored port & starboard at NTC
On this very quiet New Year's Eve

Six hawsers to starboard,
Seven hawsers to port,
Starboard chain to Buoy 1,
We're really held taut.

Concrete and black-top
Her make-believe sea,
She strains her moorings
In a ten-knot breeze.

Draft nine feet forward
Ten feet aft,
It's never change
on this Naval craft.

All services received
Direct from the pier,
She's had no engines
For many a year.

Electricity, steam,
fresh water too,
Furnished by Public Works
Power Plant Two.

North Island to starboard,
A beautiful sight.
To port lies Gate Six,
All's quiet tonight.

Dead ahead lies Camp Nimitz
Where training begins,
Astern lies Point Loma
And the Bali Hai Inn.

Anchor lights bum bright
No stars are in sight,
The decks are silent,
On this New Year's night.

She's made of plywood,
Sheathed in steel.
Her deck guns are wooden.
Her "K" guns real.

Recruits look forward
To a trick at her wheel,
To them her helm
Has a magic feel.

She's been in commission
Thirteen long years.
Started thousands of Sailors
on Naval careers.

Admirals and Generals
Civilians too, Have trod her decks
and met her crew.
She's a famous old ship,

A Training Aid too,
She's open for tours.
To all of you.
Happy New Year

To all officers and men.
Past, Present and Future
From an old wooden friend: 
USS Recruit (TDE-1).



John Finn