Naval History and Heritage Command

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S. P. Lee II (AGS-31)

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Caption: S.P. Lee (AGS-31), one of the new generation of oceanographic research ships designed and built for that purpose in the 1960s to replace early warship conversions. She is painted white, with the identifying Military Sealift Command funnel bands of black, gold, and blue. Her designation as a civilian-manned “U.S. Naval Ship,” rather than the “United States Ship” borne by commissioned Navy ships, is spelled out on her bow. S.P. Lee's fantail is open to make room for heavy research equipment and the machinery needed to handle it.

(AGS-31: dp. 1,297; l. 208'4"; b. 39'; dr. 14'2"; s. 12 k.; cpl. 41; cl. Kellar)

Samuel Phillips Lee, grandson of Revolutionary War statesman, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, was born on 13 February 1812 in Fairfax County, Va. Appointed Midshipman on 22 November 1825, he served in sloop of war, Hornet, on the West India station for six months before beginning three years of duty in the Mediterranean. He served in Charles Wilkes' exploring expedition from 1838 to 1842 and spent most of the next decade conducting coastal surveys.

During the Mexican War, he volunteered for combat service and was present at the capture of Tobasco. In 1854, he took command of brig, Dolphin, and made oceanographic observations in her in the North Atlantic.

In the East Indies, in command of Vandalia at the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned home in her on his own initiative and was assigned to blockade duty off Charleston, S.C. He was selected for command of the new screw sloop of war, Oneida, and served in her during Flag Officer Farragut's campaign against New Orleans, and follow-up operations on the Mississippi.

In September 1862, he was given command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, with the rank of Acting Rear Admiral. For two years, he led this increasingly efficient squadron as it choked off vital Confederate commerce. In October 1864, he was transferred to command of the Mississippi Squadron which held through the end of the Civil War.

Much of Lee's postwar service kept him ashore in Washington. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on 22 April 1870, and was placed on the retired list on 13 February 1875. He died on 7 June 1897 at his home in Silver Spring, Sligo, Md.


The second S. P. Lee was laid down on 27 June 1966 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich.; launched on 19 October 1967; sponsored by Mrs. David Scull, great granddaughter of Admiral Lee; and was delivered to the Navy on 2 December 1968.

Although she had originally been intended to operate under the Oceanographer of the Navy, on 10 September 1968, S. P. Lee was placed under sponsorship of the Naval Underwater Research and Development Center, San Diego, Calif. Commanded by Capt. Paul L. Sinski, Master, the ship sailed to the Mediterranean and operated out of Naples conducting environmental acoustics tests for the 6th Fleet. For the next four years, but for a period in ready reserve status (7 April to 14 August 1972), she continued to conduct hydro-graphic operations for the Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific. On 25 September 1970, the ship was reclassified AG-192. S. P. Lee was placed back in ready reserve status on 29 January 1973, and transferred to the United States Geological Survey on 27 February 1974.

07 February 2006

Published: Tue Sep 01 08:25:33 EDT 2015