Surface collectors of intelligence of indirect support to the Navy, but under the technical direction and control of the National Security Agency, were the technical research ships –

USS Belmont (AGTR 4), USS Georgetown (AGTR 2, designated AG 165 prior to 1 April 1965), USS Jamestown (AGTR 3), USS Liberty (AGTR 5), and USS Oxford (AGTR 1) (featured image) and the miscellaneous auxiliary USNS Private Jose F. Valdez  (T-AG-169) and USNS Sgt. Joseph E. Muller (T-AG 171).

Their primary mission was to collect signal intelligence (SIGINT) to satisfy national requirements.  They also collected data for electromagnetic propagation studies and to collect on advance communications systems, such as satellite communications.

USS Belmont (AGTR 4)

Georgetown conducted collection operations off the north coast of Cuba from April through June 1964 and again from March to May 1965, the ship operated off the west coast of South America.

Jamestown conducted technical research operations along the coast of Africa in the summer of 1964 and during the winter of 1964-1965 in support of U.S. Navy electronic research projects.  Visits were made to Capetown, South Africa, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, during the summer operations and to Dakar, Capetown, and Lagos in the winter.

USS Jamestown (AGTR 3)


From February 2 to May 29, Oxford cruised from the Canary Islands to Nigeria, South Africa and Sierra Leone conducting “technical operations” en route. Oxford continued on the South China Sea and operated there and in the Gulf of Siam for the remainder of the year.  The converted C1-AM-V1 class cargo ship USNS Private Jose F. Valdez (T-AG-169) conducted similar operations along the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts of Africa from June 1964 to May 1965.

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USS Banner (AGER 1)

During the summer of 1964, two reconnaissance patrols, using submarine rescued ships, were conducted in the Vladivostok area to collect general, photo, and electronic intelligence (ELINT) data during Soviet fleet maneuvers.  Also, one fleet ocean tug (ATF) conducted a surveillance mission in the vicinity of the Kurile Islands and in the Petropavlovsk area to observe a Soviet fleet exercise.

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Source: A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence
Edited by Mario Vulcano