USS Snook (SSN-592)
Named for the bluish-gray fish who roams the subtropical waters along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America and who is distinguishable by the two fins on its back and a dark streak on the lateral side of its body, USS Snook (SSN-592) was the second US Navy ship to bear this name. The first Snook (SS-279), who served our country during World War II, was lost in action in April of 1945. In commission for 25 years, USS Snook (SSN-592) was the sixth and final Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine. She bore the motto “Festina Lente”—Latin for “Make Haste Slowly”—as she journeyed below the ocean’s surface defending the United States against enemy threats.
Ordered on January 18, 1957, USS Snook’s keel was laid down on April 7, 1958 by Ingalls Shipbuilding located in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Mrs. George L. Walling—mother of Commander John F. Walling (the officer in command at the time the first Snook was lost at sea)—christened Snook as her sponsor at the launching ceremony on October 31, 1960. Nearly a year later, on October 24, 1961, Snook was commissioned with Commander Howard Bucknell III leading her complement of 118 officers and enlisted men.
The 251 foot, 9 inch Snook was armed with six 21 inch torpedo tubes and was capable of traveling down to 700 feet below the surface of the ocean. Powered by one S5W nuclear reactor and two steam turbines, Snook achieved speeds ranging from 15 knots (surfaced) to an excess of 30 knots (submerged) and possessed a surface displacement of 2,880 tons and a submerged displacement of 3,500 tons.
Upon completion of shakedown training in the Puget Sound, USS Snook departed her homeport of San Diego, California on June 23, 1962 for her first deployment to the Western Pacific. Serving as a unit of the Seventh Fleet, she conducted operations for six months before returning home on December 21st.
Snook underwent a series of improvements to her hull at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California from February 1st through August 23rd of 1963. Following this upkeep period, she carried out local operations out of San Diego until her next deployment.
March 19, 1965 marked Snook’s departure on yet another Western Pacific deployment. This deployment, which lasted for six months, included visits to Sasebo, Japan and Chinhae, South Korea and earned Snook the Navy Unit Commendation. Upon her return to San Diego, Snook underwent a six-month period of sound trials and drydocking in preparation for her next deployment which took place from April 16th through November 19th of 1966.
Snook entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington on March 19, 1967 for a 14-month overhaul and refueling. When the overhaul was complete, Snook returned to San Diego where she participated in local operations and a series of antisubmarine warfare exercises which lasted into the first four months of 1969. Snook concluded the decade with a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific which lasted through December of 1969.
During the early 1970s, Snook joined the First Fleet in an exercise known as “Uptide” and supported US forces during a two-month tour of duty in Vietnam. On January 10, 1973, Snook departed for her eighth deployment to the Western Pacific with the Seventh Fleet. By 1978, Snook had a total of 10 extended Western Pacific deployments to her credit since the onset of her career in 1961.
After transiting the Panama Canal in July of 1980, USS Snook joined the US Atlantic Fleet. She served with this fleet from 1980 through 1986 during which time she carried out six extended deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, South America, and the North Atlantic. Snook was the recipient of a Meritorious Unit Commendation for her operations in 1984.
With approximately 675,000 miles logged throughout the course of her career, Snook rejoined the Pacific Fleet in May of 1986 for deactivation at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on November 14, 1986, the scrapping of USS Snook was processed via the US Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington from October 1, 1996 through June 30, 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Snook (SSN-592)
Use of the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos was widespread across the United States, especially between the years 1930 through 1980. Within the shipbuilding industry, there was a specifically high concentration of asbestos use—an estimated 25 million tons of asbestos was utilized during this time period. The superior heat and fire resistant properties of asbestos, in addition to its accessibility and relatively low cost, made it an attractive material for use in the construction of ships. The US Navy actually mandated its use in over 300 products employed in the construction and/or maintenance of her ships in an ultimate effort to create an environment within her ships that would protect her sailors against the threat of fires in a confined space where extremely high temperatures were commonplace in order to power these vessels.
When asbestos fibers break down—due to construction, maintenance, or simply age—is when the greatest danger of asbestos exposure to humans is likely. These fibers become airborne and enter the lungs by means of inhalation or ingestion. Once present in the human body, the fibers can cause scarring and inflammation. The quantity of asbestos an individual is exposed to in conjunction with the duration of time exposure takes place are two key factors that elevate the level of risk of developing one of several asbestos-related diseases—asbestosis, pleural plaques, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. In the majority of cases, individuals with these diseases, which are known for their extended latency periods (15-50 years), do not exhibit any symptoms until many years after the initial exposure has occurred. Often, one of the earliest symptoms is difficulty with breathing.
If you are a navy veteran, or served within the shipbuilding industry in any capacity, it is highly likely that you were exposed to asbestos at some point in time. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma there are a number of resources and support systems available to you as a victim of asbestos exposure. Also, as a victim, you may be entitled to compensation that can assist you with the significant healthcare costs associated with an asbestos-related illness. Please contact us for an information packet that can supply you with further details concerning your medical and legal options.
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
USS Snook (SSN-592)