The second Argonne (AP-4) was originally completed in 1920 under a United States Shipping Board (USSB) contract by the International Shipbuilding Corp., Hog Island, Pa., and transferred to the Navy on 3 November 1921 by the War Department. Accepted preliminarily by the Navy on that date, she was commissioned as Argonne on 8 November 1921 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. On 16 November 1921, the ship was classified as a transport, AP-4.
Selected for conversion to a submarine tender and classified as AS-10 on 1 July 1924, Argonne was transferred to Navy ownership under terms of the executive order dated 6 August 1924, and arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 September 1924. Placed in full commission on 25 March 1926, Argonne was assigned to the newly formed Submarine Division (SubDiv) 20, which consisted, at that time, of the "V-boats": :V-1 (SS-163, later Barracuda); V-2 (SS-164, later Bass); and V-3 (SS-165, later Bonita).
As Base Force flagship, she provided tender and repair services for minesweepers, tugs, and harbor craft, while maintaining the only major photographic laboratory for photo triangulation of fleet gunnery exercises. Over the next seven years she operated principally out of San Pedro, but followed the fleet to the waters of Hawaii or Panama to carry out her vital support duty.
On 25 July 1940, her classification was changed from submarine tender to "auxiliary, miscellaneous " and she was given the alphanumeric hull number AG-31.
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