UNITED STATES OF AMERICAUSNS General Hoyt S VandenbergThe 159-metre-long USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg was originally named the USS General Harry Taylor, and was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract on 22 February 1943. Designed to be a troop transport, it was officially acquired by the Navy on 29 March 1944, and set off from San Francisco on its first mission to New Guinea on 23 June 1944, carrying basic troop reinforcements. Throughout the following year, the transport vessel would continue to make routine trips to the area, carrying troops and supplies, until the war in Japan came to an end on 5 August 1945.

Following the conclusion of the war, the General Harry Taylor continued to be used as a transport vessel to carry returning soldiers from the Pacific Asian campaign and the European campaign back to the US. It did so up until it was decommissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, on 13 June 1946. The General Harry Taylor went out of service on 19 September 1958 before being reacquired by the US Air Force on 15 July 1961, and being renamed the USAFS General Hoyt S Vandenberg - the namesake for the vessel was famed World War Two Air Force general Hoyt Sanford Vandenberg.

The ship was only in service for three years before the Navy reacquired it on 1 July 1964, thus changing its name once again to USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg. Between 1964 and 1983, the Vandenberg was set to a variety of tasks, such as testing missile ranges, as well as missile and spacecraft tracking, and was equipped with distinctive radar dishes. In 1998, a horror film called Virus actually used the Vandenberg in a few of its scenes.

The Vandenberg was finally put out of order in 2008, before it was acquired and sunk as an artificial reef – the second largest in the world after the USS Oriskany - in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key West on 27 May 2009.

It sits upright in 42m, with much of the extensive superstructure lying from 16m-17m, meaning there is plenty to explore in the recreational diving range, although its immense size makes it a great technical dive as well. However, its sheer size should not be taken lightly, and there have been fatalities on the wreck. Suitably qualified divers will find it an amazing dive, and it takes several dives to fully explore the vast ship.

Did you know?The Vandenberg is an artificial reef located seven miles off Key West.Essential informationLocation: Key West, Florida Keys, USA
Depth: 16m-50m
Diver level: Advanced

USNS Hoyt S Vandenberg Florida, USA
24°27’ N, 81°44’ W