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USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643)

Fleet ballistic missile submarine USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643) was the fourth ship in the US Navy’s history to bear this name. She was named in honor of George Bancroft (1800-1891)—an American historian and statesman who served as United States Secretary of the Navy from 1845-1846 and is credited with founding the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland (1845).


The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, located in Groton, Connecticut, was the recipient of the contract to construct USS George Bancroft on November 1, 1962. Her keel was laid down at that site less than a year later on the 24th of August 1963. Sponsored by Mrs. Jean B. Langdon and Mrs. Anita C. Irvine, great-great granddaughter and great-great-great granddaughter of George Bancroft, respectively, she was launched on March 20, 1965. Upon her commissioning on January 22, 1966, two alternating crews (Blue and Gold) consisting of 120 men each were led by Captain Joseph Williams (Blue Crew) and Commander Walter M. Douglas (Gold Crew).

USS George Bancroft, measuring 425 feet in length, was powered by one S5W pressurized water nuclear reactor, two geared steam turbines, and one propeller and was armed with four 21 inch torpedo tubes and 16 missile tubes. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 20 knots, she descended down to depths of 1,300 feet and was able to displace 8,251 tons when submerged.

Naval History

The USS George Bancroft was the fourth ship of twelve vessels that comprised the Benjamin Franklin class of submarines. This class was considered similar to the Lafayette class with the exception of its quieter machinery design.

Upon her commissioning, USS George Bancroft joined Submarine Squadron 14 with New London, Connecticut serving as her homeport. She initiated her first patrol on July 26, 1966 with her Blue Crew at the helm. She concluded this patrol successfully within a short period of time with her arrival at the naval base in Holy Loch, Scotland. This location served as the departure point for her second patrol, this time carried out by her Gold Crew, which would last until the end of that year.

Guided by her motto “Our Enemies Go Down in History,” USS George Bancroft served her country for over 27 years by carrying out a series of patrols aimed at the deterrence of aggression, the protection of freedom, and the preservation of peace. The majority of her patrols throughout her career were concentrated in the North Atlantic region with known visits to the Arctic Circle, as well as stops in the southeastern United States (Florida and South Carolina).

On September 21, 1993, USS George Bancroft was simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. Aside from her sail, which remains on display at the Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia, she was scrapped via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington where she ceased to exist on March 30, 1998.

Asbestos Risk on the USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643)

Asbestos, originally utilized in the shipbuilding industry as a protective material against fire, would prove to be a substance that resulted in significantly more harm than good.

The US Navy mandated the use of the naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos for its superior fire and heat resistant properties. The substance’s low cost and abundant availability also made it an attractive material for industrial use. Between 1930 and the late 1970s, the use of asbestos was widespread in the construction and maintenance of submarines. Historical evidence shows a peak use of asbestos during these years of 1,589 million pounds in 1965 with a combined estimated use of 25 million tons between the years 1930 and 1978. A component of numerous products, asbestos was found in pipe coverings, gaskets, paint, patching compounds, millboard, and a wide range of insulation supplies, such as insulating mud, spray insulation, and insulation blocks.

The large quantities of asbestos employed in shipyards in conjunction with the vast numbers of individuals employed in this industry—estimated at approximately 4.5 million (1930-1978)—has resulted in significant numbers of people who were exposed to airborne fibers of asbestos which have now been identified as a human carcinogen. Inhalation of these fibers is now known to result in a variety of asbestos-related illnesses, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, and cancer in the form of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Today, nearly 10,000 deaths per year in America can be attributed to a disease resulting from asbestos exposure.

If you or someone you know served aboard a vessel such as the USS George Bancroft they may be at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease. Asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, have a latency period ranging anywhere from 20 to 50 years. As a result, an individual who has suffered from exposure may have one of the related diseases without yet exhibiting any symptoms of disease.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioima please contact us for an information packet to learn what resources are available to support you and your family.

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