The USS Bluefish (SSN-675) was named in honor of the service of its predecessor by the same name—Bluefish (SS-222). The vessel’s motto—Blue Thunder From Down Under—appropriately correlated with her namesake of the bluefish, a ravenous fish that inhabits the U.S. Atlantic Coast and is destructive to other fish.
The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation located in Groton, Connecticut was awarded the contract to construct Bluefish on July 15th, 1966. Her keel was laid down twenty months later on the 13th of March 1968. Launched on January 10, 1970 with Mrs. David Packard (wife of the Deputy Secretary of Defense) as her sponsor, Bluefish was commissioned two days shy of a year later on January 8, 1971.
Measuring 292 feet, 3 inches in length, Bluefish (when submerged) displaced 4,640 tons and reached speeds of up to 25 knots. Equipped with four 21 inch torpedo tubes, MK 48 Torpedoes, UUM-44A SUBROC, UGM-84A/C Harpoon, MK57 deep water mines, and MK60 CAPTOR mines, Bluefish’s complement of 109—14 officers and 95 enlisted—was led by Commander Richard A. Peterson.
The USS Bluefish, in commission for 25 years, was the 27th Sturgeon-class attack submarine. The ships of this class were classified as nuclear-powered fast attack submarines—SSNs. Often referred to as the “work horses” of the US Navy’s submarine fleet, the vessels of the Sturgeon Class were known for tracking Soviet naval movements throughout most of the Cold War by following Soviet submarines for days in order to record their movements and noise signatures.
Descendants of the Thresher/Permit class, those vessels of the Sturgeon class differed from their predecessors mainly by having:
- larger sails to aid in intelligence gathering
- fairwater planes, with the ability to rotate 90 degrees, mounted on the sail to allow the submarines to ascend through thin ice
With Norfolk, Virginia serving as her homeport, Bluefish’s deployments throughout her years of service took her to the North Pole in May of 1975, to the Virgin Islands in November of 1983, and off the coast of Puerto Rico in February of 1991.
Simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the 31st of May 1996, the USS Bluefish entered the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Her dismantling was completed at this location on November 1, 2003.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bluefish (SSN-675)
The USS Bluefish, by means of her namesake and motto, was portrayed as a destructive force. A fast attack submarine, she was at the ready to serve her country by means of aggression. Unbeknown to her crew at the time, another destructive force lurked within the confines of this vessel posing great harm to all those veterans who served aboard this ship. This force was asbestos—a substance resulting in illnesses with an extended latency period of up to 50 years from time of initial exposure to the development of symptoms.
Held in high regard by the US Navy for its heat and fire resistant properties, not to mention its availability as a naturally occurring mineral at a low cost, the use of asbestos was mandated by Navy officials for use in over 300 products involved in the construction and maintenance of ships beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the mid-1970s. Taking this information into account, and adding to it the fact that estimates show that over 4.5 million workers were employed in U.S. shipyards between the years 1930 and 1978, leads to the conclusion that a significant number of navy veterans and shipyard workers were exposed to a substantial number of asbestos products over a considerable period of time. Furthermore, family members who came into contact with asbestos fibers carried into the home environment on articles of clothing are also considered to be in danger for exposure. In summary, numerous individuals whose occupations brought them into contact with vessels such as the USS Bluefish, in addition to an extended circle of family members, are presently at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness such as asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.
It is ironic that durability, the quality that once made asbestos so attractive for industrial use, is also the quality that allows it to pose such a significant health risk to individuals who cross its path. Once asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled by an individual, they become embedded into lung tissue. The durability of the fibers allows them to remain within the lung tissue for an extended period of time.
If you served aboard the USS Bluefish or a similar vessel, or were involved in the construction or maintenance of such ships, it is highly likely that you were exposed to asbestos at some point. To date, medical science has identified asbestos as the lone factor resulting in the development of mesothelioma. Since the prognosis for mesothelioma is often unfavorable, many times with only months of life remaining once a diagnosis has been established, it is important to understand the symptoms of the disease and to consult with a medical professional if you have concerns. While there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, an early diagnosis can lead to improved quality of life for an extended period of time.
Please consult our website for further information on your medical and legal rights as a veteran of the United States.Sources
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Wikipedia –USS Bluefish (SSN-675)
Naval History and Heritage Command