The USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626), a Lafayette-class fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), was the only vessel in the history of the U.S. Navy to be named for the famed orator and American statesman, Senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852).
The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation located in Groton, Connecticut was awarded the contract to construct the Daniel Webster on February 3, 1961. Just a few days shy of the end of that same year (on December 28th), her keel was laid down. Sponsored by Mrs. W. Osborn Goodrich, Jr., Daniel Webster was launched on April 27th 1963 and commissioned nearly one year later on the 9th of April 1964. Her specifications were typical of her class: a displacement of 7,325 tons surfaced and 8,251 submerged a length of 425 feet, speeds of 16 knots surfaced and 21 knots submerged, and an armament of 16 missile tubes and four 21 inch torpedo tubes.
As was customary with SSBNs, the Daniel Webster employed two alternating crews. Composed of 13 officers and 130 enlisted, these crews were led by Commander Marvin S. Blair (blue crew) and Commander Lloyd S. Smith (gold crew).
Recognized for covertness and precise deliverance of nuclear arms, Daniel Webster’s sole mission—strategic deterrence—was the same as that of all SSBNs since their introduction by the navy.
A configuration of diving planes mounted near the bow (above the hull) was unique to the Daniel Webster and earned her the nickname “Old Funny Fins.” Although unique, this design proved to be unsuccessful as measured by a reduction in Daniel Webster’s efficiency and speed. As a result, these planes were replaced with standard issue planes during her first overhaul.
With regard to the defense mechanisms of the Daniel Webster, two historical events are noteworthy:
- She was the first to deploy Polaris A-3 missiles in 1964 from Charleston, South Carolina
- She was the first Lafayette submarine to be retrofitted with Poseidon missiles
After having conducted deterrent patrols for nearly 30 years, the Daniel Webster was both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day—August 30, 1990. Spared disposal via the submarine recycling program, which was common with other ships in her class, Daniel Webster was converted to a moored training ship by the Charleston Naval Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina. Upon completion of her conversion, she was designated MTS-626 and took up permanent residence at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit (Charleston).
Asbestos Risk on the USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626)
Asbestos, a naturally occurring and relatively inexpensive mineral recognized for its strength, flexibility, and resistance to heat, was a key component in numerous industrial applications through the 1970s. This material was held in such high regard by the U.S. Navy that its use was mandated for over four decades—from the 1930s through the mid-1970s. An element of more than 300 construction materials utilized in the building, maintenance, and repair of navy vessels, asbestos was commonplace aboard ships and in shipyards posing a significant threat to anyone whose occupation placed them in close proximity to this toxic substance.
It is believed that as early as 1939, Navy officials became aware of the adverse health effects that occurred as a result of prolonged exposure to asbestos. Despite this knowledge, the approved use of asbestos continued, and as a result, our nation’s navy veterans are now facing the devastating effects of asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestosis, pleural plaques, and cancer (in the form of lung cancer and mesothelioma) are all illnesses associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers. The extended latency period of these diseases, ranging anywhere from 15-50 years post initial exposure to asbestos, often results in difficulty in arriving at a diagnosis for both the patient and his/her physician. Since the presentation of symptoms to a victim usually occurs over such an extended time period, asbestos exposure may not be readily identified as the primary cause of the symptoms.
If you or someone you know served aboard the USS Daniel Webster, you may be at a significant risk for the development of an asbestos-related condition. From engine and boiler rooms to mess halls and sleeping quarters, asbestos was present aboard this vessel by means of products such as adhesives, insulation materials, gaskets, valves, and cables. Furthermore, the dangers of these asbestos products were enhanced by the confined space of the vessel, the extended duration of time spent within the confines during patrols underwater, and inadequate ventilation. In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one are diagnosed with an asbestos-related ailment, please consult our website for more information on the medical support, treatment centers, and legal resources offered for veterans facing this difficult challenge.
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Wikipedia – USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626)
Navy.mil – Official Website of the United States Navy
Naval History and Heritage Command
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry