The USS Greenling was a Thresher/Permit-class, nuclear-powered submarine built for the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s. She was the second Navy vessel to be named for the greenling, a long, saltwater fish found in Pacific waters from eastern Russia to California. Today, equipment from the USS Greenling’s control room can be viewed at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, where it was used in the construction of a submarine control room exhibit.
The contract to build the USS Greenling was awarded in June 1960 to General Dynamics Corporation’s Electric Boat Division; the Greenling’s keel was laid down there in August 1961. She was launched on April 4, 1964, sponsored by Mrs. Henry C. Bruton, the wife of retired Rear Admiral Henry Chester Bruton, who had served as commanding officer of the first USS Greenling (SS-213). Alongside the Greenling at her launch into the Thames River were the USS Gato (SSN-615) and USS Sturgeon (SSN-637).
After the USS Thresher – the lead ship of the Greenling’s class – was lost in 1963 because of design flaws, several Thresher-class submarines were chosen to be converted to an “improved Thresher class.” The Greenling was one of the three chosen, and shortly after her launch, she was towed to the coast of Quincy, Massachusetts, where she had her hull lengthened by nearly 14 feet and received upgrades for increased buoyancy. She was then re-designated a member of the Permit class.
The Greenling was commissioned on November 3, 1967, carrying a complement of 99 officers and men all under the command of Commander Guy H.B. Schaffer.
Cold War-era submarines like the USS Greenling were generally given an important duty – quietly patrolling the seas to monitor the movements of enemy ships, particularly those belonging to the then-Soviet Union. The Greenling participated in such activities for 27 years, from her commissioning in November 1967 until she was retired from service in April 1994.
Early in her career, during a fleet training exercise, the Greenling was called on to halt her activities and take part in a search-and-rescue operation for a missing submarine, the USS Scorpion (SSN-589). The Greenling carried out that assignment for more than a year, until June 1968, during which time the Greenling’s commanding officer was called on to lead seven submarines as commander of the SAR Task Element.
The USS Greenling was decommissioned on April 18, 1994. She was scrapped through the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington. The scrapping process was completed on September 30, 1994.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Greenling (SSN-614)
Americans of a certain age may recall a time when asbestos was a regular part of everyday life. From house paint to oven mitts to cars’ brake linings, the naturally occurring mineral could be found in thousands of products that the average person regularly used in homes and on the job. While it became increasingly popular in the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s, asbestos had been used for its fireproofing and heat resistance qualities since ancient times. For most of that time, the public was generally unaware of the risks posed by asbestos exposure. But as the decades passed, doctors and scientists made the connection that breathing in the dust released by asbestos products could cause debilitating respiratory diseases.
Ships – including submarines – contained huge quantities of asbestos. From the 1920s to the 1970s, the mineral was used aboard submarines in various types of insulation, gaskets, tape, adhesives, fireproof blankets and other products, all with the intention of keeping the ships and their sailors safe from deadly fires. But as it turned out, asbestos actually made submarines far more dangerous. Shipyard workers, sailors, deckhands and anyone else who spent time aboard a Navy submarine before the 1970s was likely exposed to asbestos. Today, these individuals could be at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, an aggressive type of cancer that strikes the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
While there is no cure, early detection can make treatment options – such as radiation and chemotherapy – much more promising. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos aboard the USS Greenling or another Navy submarine, talk to a doctor to assess your risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Greenling (SSN-614)
USS Greenling (SSN-614) – History