USNS Bowditch TAGS-21
Oceanographic Detachment/Unit One

Early Operations

The Seagoing Cowboys

Between 1945 to 1947. the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the Brethren Service Committee of the Church of the Brethren sent nearly 7,000 men and boys ages 16 to 72 across the oceans to deliver livestock to war-torn countries. These "seagoing cowboys" made about 360 trips on 73 different ships. They delivered mostly horses, heifers. and mules, along with some chicks, rabbits, and goats — over 300,000 animals by the end of the program

SS South Bend Victory, the ship that was to become USNS Bowditch, made four transatlantic voyages as part of this program.

South Bend Victory 5/30/1946 Newport News Poland
South Bend Victory 7/2/1946 Montreal Poland
South Bend Victory 12/4/1946 Newport News Greece
South Bend Victory 1/20/1947 Savannah Poland

More about this can be found on the Seagoing Cowboys website.

Loran-C Development

A single reference, "A History of Coast Guard Aviation: Coming of Age (1957-1975)", reports that Bowditch and Dutton were involved in the evaluation of the prototype radio navigation system that would become Loran-C. This project would have been conducted soon after their conversion to Oceanographic Survey Ships, probably in early 1959. The timing is uncertain, since Bowditch is reported to have completed her conversion on September 30, 1958 and Dutton on November 16, 1958, but here is the relevant text:

"By the early 1950s, the Department of Defense required a highly accurate long range radio navigation capability. The Sperry Company had proposed a navigation system which would use phase comparison and operated on two frequencies. This was later reduced to one frequency and the Air Force tried to adapt it for tactical needs but had given up on it. The system was known as Cytac. Capt Peter V. Colmar USCG saw the value in the system as a long range precision navigation system. He convinced the Navy to fund a test using the CG Cutter Androscoggin which showed it would work. A test chain was set up on the East Coast and the Navy Survey Ships USNS Bowditch and USNS Dutton conducted a controlled survey test out as far as Bermuda. This convinced Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, father of the nuclear submarine, to go operational with it. He fought for money, got it, and Capt Loren “Zeke” Brunner USCG drove the effort and the system would become known as Loran C. The Coast Guard was up and operational in a year and a half during which time Sperry designed and built the equipment. Lcdr. Al Manning, who had been assigned to oversee equipment design, inspection and delivery flew out with the final pieces of equipment on December 28,1958. The Mediterranean Loran C Chain was up and operational nine months later. The Norwegian Sea Chain was commenced in late March of 1960. Loran C operates in the 90khz – 110khz band. Under Coast Guard operation provided a repeatable accuracy of 18 – 90 meters with a 99.7% availability factor."

Contributed by Earl Adams.

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