The USS Andrew Jackson was the third of nine submarines in the Lafayette-class of fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the seventh President of the United States. Serving her country for just over 26 years, the motto of the Andrew Jackson was “One man with courage is a majority.”
Having been awarded the contract to construct Andrew Jackson on July 23, 1960, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California laid down her keel on April 26, 1961. Mrs. Estes Kefauver, wife of a Tennessee senator, served as the sponsor of Andrew Jackson which was launched on September 15, 1962 and later commissioned on July 3, 1963. When submerged, this Lafayette-class vessel had a displacement of approximately 8,250 tons and traveled at speeds ranging from 22-25 knots. Measuring 425 feet in length, the Andrew Jackson was armed with 16 missile tubes (that would first house Polaris and then later Poseidon missiles), in addition to four 21” torpedo tubes. Two alternating crews—Blue and Gold—each consisted of 13 officers and 130 enlisted and were led by Commander Alfred J. Whittle, Jr. (Blue crew) and Commander James B. Wilson (Gold crew).
Upon her commissioning in 1963, Andrew Jackson voyaged to the east coast of the United States via the Panama Canal. This journey was followed by shakedown training in early October out of Cape Canaveral, Florida where she launched two A-2 Polaris missiles. Later that same month, she conducted the first submerged launching of its kind when she fired A-3X Polaris missiles into space on the 26th of October. This same launch was conducted a second time on November 11th.
On November 16, 1963, six days prior to his assassination, President John F. Kennedy witnessed Andrew Jackson launch an A-2 Polaris missile off of Cape Canaveral. After a successful launch, President Kennedy commended the Gold crew led by Commander Wilson for “impressive teamwork.” A few weeks later, at the end of November, Andrew Jackson traveled to Charleston, South Carolina where she entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability until April 4, 1964.
Ready to return to active duty, Andrew Jackson was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and departed her homeport of Charleston, South Carolina in May of 1964 to conduct her first patrol. Later operating from the base at Rota, Spain, Andrew Jackson continued deterrent patrols for the next nine years–through 1973.
March 19, 1973 marked Andrew Jackson’s arrival in Groton, Connecticut at the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation. Here she underwent a missile upgrade—replacement of the Polaris missiles with the new and improved Poseidon series.
With her missile upgrade completed on August 7, 1975, Andrew Jackson spent the remainder of her year in Exuma Sound, Bahamas for acoustic trials, Cape Canaveral, Florida for Poseidon missile testing, and finally back in Groton, Connecticut (her new homeport) to celebrate the Christmas holidays.
After spending the month of February 1976 making port visits and performing missile testing, Andrew Jackson entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard on March 8th where she remained for an availability period until the 9th of May.
June of 1976 marked a month of midshipman training cruises for the Andrew Jackson in the area of New London, Connecticut. Departing New London in late July, Andrew Jackson set off for her first strategic patrol since her missile upgrade.
Throughout the year 1977 Andrew Jackson conducted further patrols from Holy Loch, Scotland, intermingled with port visits at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New London, until September when the need for renovations called her back to Charleston. Upon completion of this overhaul, Andrew Jackson returned to Holy Loch where she conducted deterrent patrols for the next decade. August 27, 1987 marked Andrew Jackson’s 69th and final patrol.
In preparation for her decommissioning at Charleston on August 31, 1989, Andrew Jackson underwent a period of pre-inactivation planning in Groton followed by an inactivation ceremony, dismantling, and defueling in Charleston. Andrew Jackson’s final destination was the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where her existence came to an end on August 30, 1999 via the submarine recycling program.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619)
A naturally occurring mineral deemed invaluable for its low cost and effective heat and fire resistant properties, asbestos was held in high regard by the U.S. Navy who found countless ways to incorporate its use into its ships from the 1930s-1970s. The incorporation of this mineral—today recognized as a toxic substance—into every section of a submarine, from boiler and engine rooms to areas where crew members slept and ate their meals, placed all those who may have come into contact with its presence in a high-risk group for the development of an array of devastating asbestos-related illnesses.
Serious health problems including lung cancer and mesothelioma may result in individuals who have suffered exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Working within the restricted space of a submarine with poor air quality and ventilation, crew members and maintenance workers aboard the Andrew Jackson most likely came into contact with asbestos at one time or another throughout their career. If you or someone you know served aboard or was involved in any way with the construction, maintenance, or demolition of the Andrew Jackson you may be at risk for mesothelioma. One of the unfortunate circumstances involving asbestos exposure is that there is an extended latency period which results in a delay of the presentation of symptoms for up to as many as 50 years. Therefore, there may be some individuals who came into contact with the Andrew Jackson as a result of their profession that may just be beginning to witness symptoms that may in fact be related to exposure to asbestos. Early detection of symptoms will provide for the most efficient course of treatment aimed at preserving the highest level of quality of life for the longest duration of time as possible.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619)
Naval History and Heritage Command