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Sea Bird History, US Army, US Navy, Movie Star

History of The Sea Bird or New Bedford

Once known as the USNS New Bedford, this former Army and Navy cargo ship was an active supply carrier during World War II and played witnesses to the Texas Towers tragedy in 1960. She also had a starring role in the 1955 classic film Mr. Roberts, based off Lieutenant Thomas Heggen's book written about his experiences during the war. In 1994, the ship was decommissioned from military service and sold the next year as a commercial fishing boat under her current name, the Sea Bird. Her long and rich history caught the attention of the Sea Bird Adventure team and the process of retrofitting her as an environmentally friendly vessel began in 2006. The modification of the tesla turbine is not a simple or quick process and is still under development. However once finished, the Sea Bird will be on her way to cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
        1944 Camino Class Ship

T AKL 17 History

Read about the making of a legend: from shipyard, to WWII, the silver screen, Texas Towers, to an environmental ...
Captain Sixto Mangual

Texas Towers

What happened that caused twenty-eight brave men to lose their lives? The USNS New Bedford was ...
AKL 17, USNS New Bedford

USNS New Bedford

Ever wonder about the life of a ship and how they are given different names? Check out the Sea Bird Adventure story ...
Scene from Mister Roberts by Airplane

World War II

Check out the role the USNS New Bedford played in one of the most memorable events in recent ...
Sailors on the Deck

Mr. Roberts 1955

Originally assigned the designation FS-289, the Sea Bird's construction by the Wheeler Shipbuilder Company in ...

History Archives

Read more about the unique and diverse history of the Sea Bird ...
Lowering the Flag on the IX-308

Lowering the Flag

Check out the traditional ceremony decommissioning the USNS New ...
Wheeler Shipbuilding

Wheeler Shipbuilding Company

The History of the Wheeler Shipbuilding Company In 1945, the Wheeler Shipbuilding Company in Whitestone, New York ...
Thomas Heggen

Thomas Heggen

Lieutenant Thomas Heggen, author of the novel ...
Link to Nav Source

Sea Bird Web Links

Check out additional links featuring the Sea Bird ...

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With fear that the massive crane's two bands would not be enough to support the load of the Sea Bird,Untitled-21 1 it was determined that a third band would be needed to lift the the ship out of the water.  Adding a third band sounds much easier said than done.  The boat had to be pulled out of the slip, and the crane, which is controlled by a giant remote control had to be backed out of the slip, and workers needed to then add the third band to the crane.  From there, the crane had to be moved back into position, the boat had to be pulled back into the slip, and divers had to get back into the water to position all 3 of the bands properly so that the boat's weight was distributed evenly.  When positioning the bands under the hull of the boat, divers had to be careful to position the bands so that they wouldn't bend the stablizer fins.  To achieve this, blocks of wood were placed between the bands and the ship.  This process went smoothly, however the process took about 5 hours.

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In May of 2008, the Sea Bird Adventure was docked in the Seaport Village Marina.  On May 15th the ship was scheduled to be hoisted and put into dry ddtugdock for repairs and restoration.  In order to get the boat to the dry dock, a special crane had to be used to lift the boat out of the water.  Normally in San Diego, boats of the Sea Bird's size aren't lifted to dry dock, so a larger crane (one of, if not the largest in the word), capable of lifting larger ships had to be brought in.  Generally, this isn't a daunting task, but as the ship began to be lifted, we soon saw the adventure unfolding.

The first abnormality was that since there are such strict regulations on running the engines in the harbor, the Sea Bird needed to be pulled into dock by tug boats.  The picture on the right depicts the boats pulling the Sea Bird toward the crane (you can see the wheels of the crane in the left side of the image).  This process went quite smoothly, and she was soon resting in the slip ready to be hoisted by the crane. 

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The Texas Towers Incident: Bravery Despite the Odds

It is impossible to stop every tragedy, but there are those who will try even when it means risking their ownCaptain Sixto Mangual safety. This was the case in the tragic Texas Towers incident which marked another important landmark in the history of the U.S.S. New Bedford (currently the Seabird).

An Impending Demise

Captain Sixto Mangual was in charge of the U.S.S. New Bedford which was scheduled to run supplies to the Texas Towers located off the coast of Long Island, New York.  Tower 4 in particular was known for experiencing structural problems after suffering damage from Hurricane Donna in September of 1960. Captain Mangual was ordered to travel to Tower 4 to pick up equipment and resupply the minimal team of 14 air force personnel and 14 contractors inhabiting the tower. He would also be dropping off Airman First Class Larry Wolford who was to replace another airman who had left the tower earlier.

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Lieutenant Thomas Heggen: Before Mister Roberts

Thomas Heggen
World War II was a trying time that impacted the lives of people all over the world. During this period, there was one individual who was impacted but for different reasons. While men were traumatized by the horrors they saw and experienced, there were those who had to wait it out along the sidelines. They were anxious to get involved but had no choice but to go through the daily motions and wait for their turn, if it would ever come.

Thomas Heggen's Wartime Experiences

Just like many other young American men, Lieutenant Thomas Heggen enlisted in the Navy immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was awarded his rank in August of 1942. During his enlistment, Heggen was stationed on supply vessels traveling the Pacific ocean, Caribbean and North Atlantic ocean. He was later assigned assistant communications officer aboard the cargo ship the U.S.S. Virgo.

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Birth of the Texas Towers

During the Cold War, America began to feel concerned about protecting its vital locations, most of which are positioned along the east coast. An improved monitoring system was desired to provide an early alert in case of an attack. During the summer of 1952, the concept of securing radar platforms to the ocean floor was studied. It was determined that a set of these towers, very similar to oil rigs, would be constructed approximately 100 miles off the east coast.

Design and Planning of the Texas Towers

Next, the painstaking process of design had to begin. Although the texas tower maptowers would be used for communication and surveillance, planning the lay out wasnt that simple. People would have to live on the towers for periods of time, so recreational and food preparation facilities had to be included.

Crew size was another concern. 22 to 27 individuals were estimated to keep each tower up and running. This was later increased to 41 then 46. The towers were intended to be spacious enough to accommodate up to 72 individuals. The towers were modeled after offshore drilling platforms located along the coast near Texas, which is the basis for the name Texas tower. On January 11th, 1954, construction was approved on five Texas towers but only three were built.