USS Flasher—the second US Navy ship to bear this name—was named after the flasher, an edible fish, often referred to as grouper or black perch, found in warmer areas of all ocean waters, but particularly common along the middle and southern coasts of the United States. The eleventh submarine to be constructed as a unit of the Thresher/Permit class, USS Flasher was in commission serving her country for over 26 years. A highly decorated vessel, Flasher’s motto of “Best in the West” was fully supported by her numerous accolades—a Presidential Unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, and five Battle “E”s.
The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, located in Groton, Connecticut, was the recipient of the contract to construct USS Flasher on June 9, 1960. Her keel was laid down at that same site less than a year later on April 14, 1961.
Extensive modifications were performed on Flasher during her construction. Contrary to her original design plans, she was built with both a longer hull and sail and all of her sea water systems underwent a complete upgrade. These alterations were implemented as part of what came to be known as the SUBSAFE Program—a US Navy initiative that was a direct response to the loss (by sinking) of the first ship of this class, USS Thresher (SSN-539). USS Flasher was the first US Navy submarine to be officially certified as SUBSAFE.
Together with USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628), USS Flasher was launched on June 22, 1963 in the first ever simultaneous submarine launch. Mrs. Paul F. Fay, Jr., wife of the Under Secretary of the Navy, served as Flasher’s sponsor at the launching ceremony. She was later commissioned on July 22, 1966 with Commander Kenneth M. Carr leading her crew of 12 officers and 76 enlisted men.
The 292 foot Flasher displaced 4,200 tons (submerged) and achieved speeds in excess of 28 knots (submerged). Capable of operating at depths down to 400 feet, she was powered by one S5W nuclear reactor in conjunction with two steam turbines and one propeller. In addition to her ability to lay mines (MK 57 deep water and MK 60 CAPTOR), her armament included four 21 inch torpedo tubes that housed MK 48 torpedoes and SUBROC and Harpoon missiles.
Post-commissioning, Flasher began her career homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on September 23, 1966. She arrived at this location by traveling through Fort Lauderdale, Florida and transiting the Panama Canal. Flasher operated locally until departing on her first Western Pacific deployment on April 25, 1968.
On June 15, 1970, Flasher entered her first major overhaul period which would last nearly a year—ending on June 12, 1971. The following November she embarked on a second deployment to the Western Pacific with scheduled stops in Guam, Mariana Islands; White Beach, Okinawa; Yokosuka, Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines, and Hong Kong. She returned to her homeport in Hawaii by June of 1972.
A third Western Pacific deployment was underway for Flasher by early 1973. Prior to returning to Pearl Harbor on December 24th of that same year, she visited Yokosuka, Japan; Subic Bay Philippines; and Hong Kong.
Reassigned to a new homeport at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, located in Vallejo, California, Flasher underwent a second overhaul period which lasted from January 11, 1975 through December 16, 1976. Upon completion of this overhaul, Flasher journeyed to yet another new base of operations—San Diego, California—on December 22, 1976.
A brief two month Selected Restricted Availability (SRA)—a period of repairs and/or alternations to maintain the operating status of a ship in between overhauls—took place for Flasher from January through March of 1979. This SRA assured peak performance for Flasher until her third overhaul period at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard from May 9, 1983 through March 26, 1985.
As Flasher’s time in service neared an end, she carried out two additional Western Pacific deployments (1986 and 1990) and two phases of special operations (October 1990 and May 1991) while operating out of San Diego, California.
The Naval Base Point Loma, located in San Diego, served as the site for Flasher’s Inactivation Ceremony on June 18, 1991. During this ceremony, Flasher was credited with logging over 680,000 miles and completing over 1,000 dives.
Decommissioned on May 26, 1992, Flasher was later stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on September 14, 1992. She ceased to exist on May 11, 1994 after being processed through the US Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Flasher (SSN-613)
Navy veterans spent many years of their lives in service defending our country. Likewise, shipyard workers spent years of their lives constructing and repairing US Navy vessels, such as the USS Flasher, that patrolled waters around the globe serving as a means of defense against the threat of war and promoting the preservation of peace. Both of these groups of individuals, by means of the career paths they chose to follow, left their jobs with an unexpected consequence: the potential risk to their health due to exposure to one single substance known as asbestos.
The naturally-occurring mineral asbestos was used to a great extent in the shipbuilding industry from the 1930s through the late 1970s. It was used to insulate boilers, as a covering for pipes, and was a component of a myriad of products ranging from gaskets and valves to paints and adhesives. The Navy was so impressed with the heat and fire-resistant properties of asbestos that she mandated its use in over 300 products employed in the shipbuilding process. As a result, sailors and shipyard workers were literally immersed in a substance that would years later be deemed a hazard to their health.
Today asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by several government agencies—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Current estimates show that nearly 10,000 deaths occur each year in the United States as a direct result of an asbestos-related disease.
Diseases attributed to asbestos exposure range from asbestosis, an inflammatory condition resulting in difficulty breathing, to mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the membranes surrounding the chest and abdomen. A variety of factors—the quantity of asbestos one has been exposed to, the duration of time the exposure has occurred, the source and composition of the asbestos fibers, and preexisting risk factors (e.g., smoking)—can influence an individual’s risk for developing an asbestos-related illness.
If you are a US Navy veteran or performed work in US Naval shipyards at one time or another, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact us for an information packet. This packet will provide you with a wealth of information to assist you in exploring both your medical and legal options.Sources
Wikipedia–USS Flasher (SSN-613)
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive