A BRIEF HISTORY OF USS OXFORD
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The second Oxford (AG-159/AGTR-1), a Liberty ship, was laid down 23 June 1945 under Maritime Commission contract by the New
England Shipbuilding Corp., Portland, Me., Launched 31 July as the S.S. Samuel R. Aitken (MCE-3127), sponsored by Mrs.
Margaret C. Aitken, and delivered to the Maritime Commission 25 August 1945.
As the S.S. Samuel R. Aitken she served the merchant fleet, first with the Moore McCormack Steam Ship Lines and then with the
Arnold Bernstein Line. She was laid up 10 April 1948 in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Wilmington, N.C.
OXFORD could have looked like this when she was first launched. PROJECT LIBERTY SHIP photo.
In October 1960 the S.S Samuel R. Aitken was towed to the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y. for conversion. Named
Oxford (AG 159) on 25 November 1960, she commissioned at New York 8 July 1961 Comdr. Howard R. Lund in
command. She reported to Norfolk, Va. 11 September for duty with the Service Force, Atlantic Fleet, and shortly thereafter
conducted shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"And now for the rest of the story!"
The U.S.S. Oxford was of course the former Liberty Ship " S.S. Samuel R. Aitken" sponsored by Mrs. Margaret Aitken.
Samuel R. Aitken II, the grandson of Samuel R. Aitken, a vice president of the Moore-McCormack Line who died at 58 in 1938, recently contacted me with an email filled with history of the ship that has never been published until now! His wife, Patricia M. Aitken, provided this web site with the photo (below) of the S.S. Samuel R. Aitken in service with the Moore-McCormack Line years before the ship was to become U.S.S. OXFORD.
The email from Samuel R. Aitken II:
"My wife told me about contacting you and I am thrilled to say the least. This all started when I told her I wanted to make a replica (ship model) of the Samuel R. Aitken. I took a sail on her from NY to Baltimore one night just to say I was aboard her.
When I was about 17 my father said she was to be taken to Brooklyn, NY for refitting and renaming. Knowing that the nameplates would be thrown away, he had a friend "liberate" them. Soon after, he received a call from the Navy Department saying that they wanted to present them to me at a big PR dinner at the Walddorf Astoria Hotel in New York City but that the nameplates seemed to be missing. They asked if he knew anything about the plates and he told them they were in the trunk of his car! He returned them and they intern presented them to me at the PR dinner for the space program. That is essentially the last I heard of the ship except that she was sitting off the cost of Africa tracking the early space shots!! Not a bad history for the old ship!
Then enter the Oxford web site!! I can not begin to tell you how proud I was of its real history. I was in Viet Nam at the same time the Oxford was helping me off the coast. My grandfather and father and now myself could not be more proud of her history and contribution the this country. My grandfather died before I was born but I understand he was truly a great man who loved the sea. I believe he was the first licensed engineer in the US. The ship he was on hit rocks off Mindinow in the Philippines. They came ashore in lifeboats where a missionary named Margaret C Scott greeted him. They married and the rest is history.
Somewhere in my attic is the bottle the ship was christened with and I have the original deck plans that I am going to use to help create an accurate model. I only wish now that I had been part of the crew you sailed with. What a great history!!
Samuel R. Aitken II
November 1, 2006
Photo credit: Patricia Aitken
USS OXFORD Commissioning invitation provided by Plankowner Angelo Graniero.
Oxford was designed to conduct research in the reception of electromagnetic propagations. Equipped with the latest antenna
systems and measuring devices, she is a highly sophisticated and mobile station which can steam to various parts of the world to
participate in the Navy's comprehensive program of research and development projects in communications. Because of the
immediate or potential military application of her work, much of Oxford's employment is classified.
One of Oxford's publicized operations took place 15 December 1961 when she became the first ship to receive a message
from a shore based facility via the moon successfully. Next she departed Norfolk 4 January 1962 for a South Atlantic
deployment, returning four months later. Another four month South Atlantic deployment followed in May 1963, after which
Oxford underwent overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va.
January 1964 brought refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, and from 22 February until 10 June Oxford conducted further
research operations in South Atlantic and Pacific waters.
Oxford was redesignated Technical Research Ship (AGTR1) on 1 April 1964. She departed 4 August on yet another South
Atlantic cruise, conducting research not only in electromagnetic reception, but also in oceanography and related areas. She
returned to Norfolk 1 December.
Oxford steamed for Africa 3 February 1965, calling at Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Lagos, Nigeria, and Durban, South Africa.
A message arrived 26 May reassigning the ship to the Pacific Fleet, with a new homeport at San Diego, Calif. She stood out of
Subic Bay, P.I. 16 June for a one month deployment to the South China Sea, and thus set the pattern for her operations into
Oxford decommissioned and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 19 December 1969 at Yokosuka, Japan.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE WWII LIBERTY SHIP
Liberty Ships under construction during WWII
Please credit the following paragraph to PROJECT LIBERTY SHIP. Visit their site via our "LINKS" section.
The Liberty Ship came into being at the time when Britain's very
survival was in the balance. Germany had over-run Europe and was
blockading the British Isles with a fleet of U-boats, sinldng the ships
that were supplying that nation faster than they could be replaced. The
solution was to request the U.S. to build a standard cargo ship in
quantity under an agreed lease-lend plan. What followed was the
greatest feat of mass-production ever known. The credit for this was
largely due to a one time New York photography shop owner by the
name of Henry J. Kaiser. At first associated with Todd Shipyards,
Kaiser was to develop yards at an astonishing rate. Vast industrial
complexes were constructed in sites on both coasts, from Canada to
the Gulf as well as up the rivers of the Mississippi basin. Urgency was
paramount, and soon the Liberty Ship, designed along the lines of the
British "tramp" steamer concept but modified to suit welded, modular
construction, was being produced in such numbers that between 1942
and 1945 a total of 2710 were delivered. No other ship was built in
such enormous quantities or achieved such a noble objective, that of
being the catalyst which made the invasion of Europe possible. The
saga of the Liberty Ship is therefore one of the proudest chapters in
the annals of American maritime heritage.
Many Liberty Ships served in the Merchant Marine long after WWII.
Photo credit: YAGRS