The USS Birmingham (SSN-995), a Los Angeles-class submarine, was the third vessel to be commissioned by the United States Navy which was named for the city of Birmingham, Alabama.
At a cost of approximately 900 million, Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia was awarded the contract to build the USS Birmingham on January 24, 1972. It took nearly two and a half years for the vessel’s keel to be laid down on April 26, 1975, with her launch taking place on October 29, 1977 sponsored by Mrs. Maryon Allen. The ship was commissioned on the 16th of December 1978 at the command of Paul L. Callahan. At a length of nearly 362 feet, her armaments were impressive: four 21 inch bow tubes capable of launching Tomahawk and Harpoon Missiles and MK-48 torpedoes.
With her motto of “Simpliciter Optimus”, the USS Birmingham made its home port
Pearl Harbor, HI shortly after being commissioned. With a crew of 19 officers and 98 enlisted men, Birmingham would spend the next 19 years serving with distinction both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. She would be part of numerous excercises and missions in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, North Atlantic and Indian Oceans during this time.
The USS Birmingham can be said to be one of the more recognizable submarines in U.S. Naval history because of its appearance in the film The Hunt for Red October. The submarines hull number (SSN-695) is easily recognized in the film from footage that was taken during her commissioning trials. These hull numbers were removed from the Birmingham before she was placed into active service in 1978.
During her early years, the USS Birmingham was involved in numerous sea trials in TOTO (Tongue of the Ocean). In late 1977-78, these trials involved executing emergency ascents to test the operation of the emergency blow system on these class of submarines. Under Rear Admiral Jeffrey B Cassias’ command from early 1992 to November of 1994, the Birmingham was an integral part of the Arabian Gulf deployment, serving with the Nimitz Battle Group. For its achievements during this surge, the Birmingham was awarded the 1992 COMPSUBPAC Golden Anchor Award.
During her inactivation ceremony on March 27, 1997, Rear Admiral Jerry Ellis reviewed some the accolades bestowed upon the Birmingham during her years of service. The Birmingham was awarded four Battle “E” awards, Navy Expeditionary Medals in six different theatres, and a Navy Unit Commendation. In 1996 the ship was also recognized as the Seventh fleet’s Top Anti-Surface Warship, which was a fitting honor after her final Pacific deployment.
After her inactivation, the USS Birmingham was decommissioned on December 22, 1997 and struck from the Navy list that very same day. The ship was placed at Pearl Harbor were her service had begun to await inclusion into the submarine recycling program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Birmingham (SSN-695)
During the construction of a submarine such as the USS Birmingham, one of the materials used throughout the ship for its strength, flexibility and insulating properties was asbestos. Asbestos, often called a “wonder product”, was used by the United States Navy throughout submarines not only during construction, but also was used during the repair and maintenance of the vessels during their years of service. The danger presented to sailors who came into contact, and lived in confined areas, with the asbestos fibers is now well documented. Prolonged and repeated exposure to these asbestos fibers is now known to be a human carcinogen – a cancer causing agent.
As a result of exposure to asbestos fibers on submarines such as the USS Birmingham, veterans can be at an increased risk to develop asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. There are many factors that affect a person’s risk of developing these diseases: length of time exposed to asbestos and its fibers, source of these fibers, and the amount of fibers that one has been exposed to. Many times the symptoms can remain dormant for 15-50 years before becoming identifiable which is why early screening is essential in fighting this disease.
If you served with aboard the USS Birmingham and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please consult our website for more information regarding the medical and legal options that may be available to you.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Birmingham (SSN-695)
Shipmates Connections News
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health