The barb, a kingfish native to the Atlantic coast or a red and black striped fish native to the waters that surround Thailand and Malaysia, served as the namesake for USS Barb (SSN-596)—the second ship of the US Navy’s fleet to bear this name. A Thresher/Permit class attack submarine, the USS Barb was the fourth of 14 ships to be constructed as part of this class. Her motto of “Caveat Tyrannis”, which translates to “Let Tyrants Beware”, embodied her dutiful mission to serve her country as a defense mechanism against any force that threatened the freedom of the United States.
USS Barb was laid down in Pascagoula, Mississippi on November 9, 1959 by Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation. Sponsored by Mrs. Marjorie Fluckey (wife of the Commanding Officer of the first USS Barb [SS-220]—Rear Admiral Eugene Bennett Fluckey), Barb was launched on February 12, 1962 and later commissioned on August 24, 1963. Measuring 278 feet, 5 inches in length, displacing approximately 4,200 tons (submerged), and reaching speeds in excess of 28 knots (submerged), Barb was armed with four 21 inch torpedo tubes, MK 48 torpedoes, UUM-44A SUBROC, UGM-84A/C Harpoon, MK57 deep water mines, and MK60 CAPTOR mines. The vessel employed a crew of 130 officers and enlisted men led by Commander Charles D. Grojean.
Shortly after her commissioning, USS Barb set off from Pascagoula to the west coast for her shakedown training on September 28, 1963. She conducted a series of training exercises in Puget Sound before embarking on a four-week round-trip to Hawaii which would conclude her shakedown cruise. Barb’s post-shakedown availability, which lasted for nine months, was initiated on December 17, 1963 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. Upon completion of her availability, she was assigned to Submarine Division 71 with a new homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from where she would conduct her operations over the course of the next two years.
May 9, 1967 marked Barb’s first deployment to the Far East. Here she carried out a Vietnam War tour of duty with Task Group 77.9 which was followed by patrols of Vietnamese waters and stops in Singapore, Yokosuka, Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Guam. This deployment officially concluded with her return to Pearl Harbor on November 1st.
Following a period of local operations in the Hawaiian Islands at the beginning of 1968, USS Barb entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in late May for a regular overhaul. Lasting nearly a year and a half, the overhaul was officially completed on December 8, 1969.
After spending the year of 1970 performing testing of weapons systems and conducting local training missions, USS Barb was deployed to the Western Pacific on January 2, 1971 to carry out several cycles of special missions before returning to Pearl Harbor on June 25th.
Subsequent to her post-deployment standdown, Barb underwent shipyard availability followed by further repair work which lasted into the spring of 1972. At this time, she resumed normal operations and was deployed to the Marianas area where she operated out of Apra Harbor, Guam until her return to Hawaii on December 15, 1972.
Throughout the year 1973 and into the beginning of 1974, Barb embarked on a three-month overseas assignment, carried out an eight-week special operation, and conducted training missions out of her homeport of Pearl Harbor before entering the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on March 1st for her second refueling overhaul. Lasting just over 20 months, this overhaul was completed in November of 1975 at which time Barb was reassigned to a new homeport of San Diego, California.
After nearly 16 months of refresher training, Barb was prepared for yet another deployment to the Far East. Departing San Diego on February 17, 1977, Barb’s mission took her to Subic Bay, Chinhae, Korea, Hong Kong, The Marianas, and Guam before her return to the United States on July 7th.
The remainder of 1977 brought Barb a brief period of inactivity followed by a series of local operations which were executed into the first half of 1978. A combination of a three-month availability, normal operations out of San Diego, and a deployment to the Western Pacific carried Barb into the initial weeks of 1980.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard served as the site for an extensive overhaul for Barb which was initiated on July 21, 1980 and continued through late 1982. This overhaul included system upgrades, improvements to technology aboard the ship, and safety modifications. Upon completion of this overhaul, Barb was ready to resume her duties for the remainder of her career.
Deactivated on March 10, 1989, Barb was later decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register just over nine months later on December 20th. She was dismantled via the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington where her existence came to an end on March 14, 1996.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Barb (SSN-596)
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was once heralded by the US Navy as a miraculous product with unparalleled properties in the realm of heat and fire resistance. As a result, the Navy mandated the use of asbestos in the construction of her ships from the 1930s through the 1970s—utilizing more than 300 products of which asbestos was a component. The Navy’s goal in employing asbestos was to protect her crews against the dangers of heat and fire—required to power ships—within a confined space. In reality, this extensive use of asbestos would prove to be a poison to the crews and would give way to a public health crisis years down the road.
The widespread use of asbestos has given rise to alarming statistics which show that nearly 10,000 deaths per year, in the United States alone, can be attributed to a disease directly resulting to asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related illnesses, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis being the most common, are known to have extended latency periods ranging from 15-50 years. As a result, exposures that occurred years ago have just begun to give rise to increasing numbers of adverse health effects and devastating diseases in recent years, and according to statistics, will continue to do so in the years to come.
Gaskets, valves, insulation materials, adhesives, pipe coverings—these are just a few of the numerous materials that those individuals who served aboard or were involved in the construction and maintenance of ships such as the USS Barb may have come into contact with. As these materials aged and decomposed, or as they were disturbed through repair or dismantling of the ships, the friable particles of asbestos became airborne and were poised for inhalation by those in the surrounding areas. Over time, continual inhalation of asbestos fibers has been demonstrated to result in an accumulation of these particles in the lungs which increases an individual’s risk of developing serious health conditions.
If you believe you are a victim of asbestos exposure by means of your service aboard or in conjunction with a ship such as the USS Barb, it is important that you are aware that there is a variety of resources available to you as you assess your risk, seek treatment, and explore your legal entitlement to compensation. Please fill out the form on this page to request a free information packet.Sources