The USS Baton Rouge was a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine, the only naval ship to be named after the capital of Louisiana. She served for just over 16 years – shorter than most other Los Angeles class submarines – due to a 1992 collision with a Russian submarine in the Arctic Barent Sea.
The USS Baton Rouge was ordered in January 1971, and her keel was laid down in November 1972 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. She was launched in April 1975 and commissioned in June 1977 under the leadership of Commander Thomas Maloney. She was sponsored by the wife of longtime Louisiana Congressman Felix Edward Hébert.
A Navy document around the time of the Baton Rouge’s commissioning boasted the vessel’s great speed – 32 knots submerged – and “an unmatched level of quietness.” “As an underwater escort for surface task forces or as a lone prowler of the deep, Baton Rouge is a deadly force against both enemy subs and surface ships,” the document read.
In late 1977, the Baton Rouge participated in a special operation in the Atlantic, and the following February returned to Newport News for modifications. She then participated in overseas deployments. However the incident that has most defined the vessel’s history occurred on February 11, 1992, when the Baton Rouge collided with the Kostrama, a Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine, in the Arctic Ocean. The Kostrama was apparently surfaced twelve miles offshore and was unaware the Baton Rouge was underwater nearby when the Soviet vessel suddenly submerged, and the two collided.
No men were lost, and both vessels were able to return to their bases safely under their own power. But the incident caused some embarrassment, and the Baton Rouge was decommissioned shortly after in January 1995 – making her the first Los Angeles class submarine to be decommissioned. She was recycled as part of the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, with recycling completed in September 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Baton Rouge (SSN-689)
Asbestos has been used for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that it became widely used in commercial products. For many years, the public was not aware of just how dangerous asbestos can be to human health, and Americans manufactured and consumed numerous products laden with the naturally occurring mineral. Building materials, brake linings, industrial parts and countless other products were made with asbestos because of its tactile strength, durability and resistance to heat and fire.
Starting in the 1920s and until the 1980s, asbestos could be found in virtually every part of U.S. Navy vessels. One major culprit was insulation – found on pipes, in boiler rooms and protecting engine parts, the use of asbestos-containing insulation was mandated by the Navy beginning in 1922. But while asbestos was meant to prevent fire and save lives, it ended up endangering the lives of thousands upon thousands of people – both the shipyard workers who installed, replaced and recycled Navy vessels as well as the officers and enlisted men who served on the submarines each day.
Today, veterans and shipyard workers are two occupations at a very high risk for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma cancer, a rare type of cancer that generally occurs in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. The likelihood of a person being diagnosed depends on several factors, including length and severity of exposure; cigarette smokers are also at a higher risk than non-smokers. But sadly, no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe.
Virtually everyone who worked aboard a U.S. Navy submarine between the 1920s and 1980s was exposed to asbestos. If you or a loved one falls into this group, you are not alone; learn about your health options and legal rights today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Baton Rouge (SSN-689)
USS Baton Rouge – Crew Website
NavSource Online – USS Baton Rouge (SSN-689)