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USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602)

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)—16th President of the United States (1861-1865) and Civil War icon responsible for the preservation of the Union and the emancipation of slaves—served as the namesake for the one and only Navy ship in US history to bear his name, SSBN-602. The USS Abraham Lincoln was the fifth of five ships that comprised the George Washington class of submarines. She was also the fifth ship of the “41 for Freedom”—the collection of US Navy fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines from the George Washington, Ethan Allen, Lafayette, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes launched with the primary purpose of serving as a deterrent force against the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war during the era in history known as the Cold War. Guided by her motto “Pax Per Tridentem” (“Peace Through Trident”), USS Abraham Lincoln served her country for nearly 20 years in the name of freedom.

Construction

USS Abraham Lincoln’s keel was laid down on November 1, 1958 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, approximately three months after she was ordered on July 30th. Launched on May 14, 1960, she was sponsored by Mrs. Mary L. Beckwith—great granddaughter of President Lincoln. Upon USS Abraham Lincoln’s commissioning on March 11, 1961, two alternating crews (Blue and Gold)—each with a complement of 112—were led by Commander Leonard Erb (Blue Crew) and Commander Donald M. Miller (Gold Crew).

Powered by one S5W pressurized water nuclear reactor, two turbines, and one propeller, USS Abraham Lincoln was capable of reaching speeds up to 25 knots (submerged) and depths down to 700 feet. Her displacement was 5,959 tons when surfaced and 6,709 tons when submerged. Abraham Lincoln measured 381 feet, 6 inches in length and her defense mechanisms included 16 Polaris A1 (and later A3) missiles and six 21 inch torpedo tubes.

Naval History

After a period of initial shakedown, weapons testing, and post-shakedown repairs, USS Abraham Lincoln launched her career as a member of Submarine Squadron 14. After arriving in Holy Loch, Scotland in October of 1961, she immediately underwent a refit the next month before embarking on her first deterrent patrol. Holy Loch would remain Abraham Lincoln’s base of operations for the next four years.

The Electric Boat shipyard, located in Groton, Connecticut, served as the site of Abraham Lincoln’s first major overhaul and refueling which commenced on October 25, 1965. The overhaul endured through June 3, 1967 at which time she returned to Holy Loch where she continued to carry out a regular schedule of deterrent patrols through early 1972.

After having been reassigned to join the United States Pacific Fleet, Abraham Lincoln voyaged to the United States in March of 1972. After stops in New London, Connecticut (April 1972), and Fort Lauderdale, Florida (May 1972), a passage through the Panama Canal (June 1972), and an offload of missiles in Bangor, Washington (June 1972), Abraham Lincoln arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California on June 25, 1972 to begin an overhaul and refueling period in preparation for her operations in the Pacific.

December 1973 marked the conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s overhaul and the initiation of a phase of shakedown operations and training exercises which took place around the Puget Sound, and in San Diego, California, Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina. On July 26, 1974, Abraham Lincoln once again journeyed through the Panama Canal—this time en route to her new homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Abraham Lincoln arrived at Pearl Harbor on September 10, 1974 where she joined the SINC-PAC Fleet and Submarine Squadron 15. The following month, she was deployed to an advanced base in Guam where she conducted deterrent patrols, tests, and exercises in the Mariana Islands region into 1978.

Abraham Lincoln’s final patrol concluded in October of 1979. At this time, she traveled to Bangor, Washington to offload her missiles and initiate a period of preparation for her retirement which would last into 1981.

February 28, 1981 marked the decommissioning of the USS Abraham Lincoln. She was later stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on December 1, 1982. Her recycling was completed by May 10, 1994 via the Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602)

Mesothelioma cancer is the primary disease associated with asbestos exposure. Aside from steel, asbestos was the most widely used material in the construction of ocean vessels from the 1920s through the 1980s. Easily accessible and cost-effective in nature, asbestos was considered invaluable for its use aboard ships where protection from high temperatures and fires in an enclosed space was a priority. Captivated by this natural resource, the US Navy mandated the use of this substance and incorporated it in more than 300 products used in the construction and maintenance of her fleets. Essentially, asbestos could be found in virtually every crevice of ships from boiler and engine rooms to sleeping and living quarters. As a result, the harmful effects of this substance became widespread.

Upon being released into the atmosphere, the friable asbestos fibers of asbestos could be inhaled by all those who crossed its path. With historical estimates showing that as many as 4.5 million workers were employed by US shipyards between the years 1930 and 1978, the stage was set for extensive human exposure. This exposure, in combination with the extended latency period common with asbestos-related diseases (ranging from 15 to 50 years), has paved the path to our current state of affairs and accounts for the fact that many individuals exposed to asbestos years ago are just today beginning to exhibit the symptoms of associated diseases.

Once diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, the prognosis is often disconcerting. While there are currently many treatment options available, there is currently no known cure for mesothelioma.

If you are a victim of asbestos exposure due to your service aboard or in conjunction with a vessel such as the USS Abraham Lincoln please contact us to request an information packet.

Sources
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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