Permanently docked between shops, restaurants, and hotels just west of the San Diego airport, the USS Recruit, a 2/3 scale model of a naval destroyer, sits abandoned but not forgotten as both the first and last of the U.S. Navy’s “landships.”
Unofficially dubbed the “USS Neversail,” the Recruit served for over 40 years as a hands-on classroom. The mock vessel was commissioned in 1949 to be a perfect scale replica of a Dealey-class destroyer escort, save for the engine and screw, making it the first ship commissioned by the Navy that would never reach water. The first of three such training ships built after World War II, it is the only one that survives to this day.
Liberty Station, where the ship now sits, was built on the previous home of the Naval Training Center, which operated from 1923 until it was closed down by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1997. While there is other evidence of the area’s former incarnation, the Recruit is the most unique and interesting. After it was used for a few years, the Recruit got an overhaul and minor repairs in 1954. In 1967, as the Navy was creating a computer database of all the ships in the area from a card index inventory, they found that the Recruit could not be classified as it was not afloat, ashore, in dry dock, or in any of the other predetermined categories. Thus, on March 7, 1967, it was officially decommissioned. However, it would continue to be used as a training ship through the 1990s, even being reconditioned in 1982 as a training site for guided missile frigates.
The Recruit was finally abandoned in 1997 when the entire base was shut down due to the budget cuts. Since then the unclassifiable structure has sat empty. There have been multiple plans to turn the former training ground into a maritime museum but as nothing has come to fruition in over a decade, that ship may have sailed.
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