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USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655)

Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950), the namesake of SSBN-655), served the United States as Secretary of State (1929-1933) and Secretary of War (1911-1913, 1940-1945). During his second tenure as Secretary of War, he was credited with expanding the US Army to over 10,000,000 men. The USS Henry L. Stimson is the only ship in the Navy’s history to bear this name.


After having been awarded the contract on July 29, 1963 to construct USS Henry L. Stimson, the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation laid down her keel on April 4, 1964 in Groton, Connecticut. The wife of US State Senator Thomas J. Dodd from Connecticut—Grace Murphy Dodd—served as the submarine’s sponsor at her launch on November 13, 1965. USS Henry L. Stimson was commissioned less than a year later on August 20, 1966. Captain Richard E. Jortberg (Blue Crew) and Commander Robert H. Weeks (Gold Crew) each led a complement of 13 officers and 130 enlisted men.

Henry L. Stimson was powered by a S5W pressurized nuclear reactor in conjunction with two geared turbines and one propeller. Capable of reaching depths down to 1,300 feet, this 425 foot vessel displaced 8,250 tons when submerged and reached speeds in excess of 20 knots. Her armament consisted of four 21 inch torpedo tubes and 16 ballistic missile tubes which housed Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident I missiles, respectively.

Naval History

USS Henry L. Stimson was the eighth submarine constructed in the Benjamin Franklin-class series of nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines. The Benjamin Franklin-class was the fifth of five classes that together comprised the “41 for Freedom” collection of submarines. This collection earned its name due to the limitation placed on the number of submarine-launched missiles enacted as the result of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I). This Treaty required that the number of missiles was not to exceed 656—hence, the number in 41 submarines.

Following a period of shakedown training, Henry Stimson joined Submarine Squadron 16 based out of Charleston, South Carolina. It was from this location that Henry Stimson departed on her first deterrent patrol on February 23, 1967. By the middle of this same year, both crews—Blue and Gold—each had one patrol to their credit.

Henry Stimson underwent her first overhaul in 1971 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock located in Newport News, Virginia. During this overhaul, her missile system was upgraded with Poseidon C-3 missiles. Subsequent to the completion of the overhaul, Henry Stimson’s new base of operations was Rota, Spain. When not on active duty aboard the submarine, her crews continued to reside in Charleston, South Carolina.

Nine years later, yet another conversion of weaponry took place. At Port Canaveral, Florida, Henry Stimson was converted to accommodate Trident-I ballistic missiles. Once installation of this advanced weapon system was complete, Henry Stimson was assigned to a new homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. It was from this location that she carried out her operations for the duration of her career.

Decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day—May 5, 1993—USS Henry L. Stimson was entered into the US Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington where her existence came to an end on August 12, 1994.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655)

The naturally-occurring mineral asbestos, recognized in the past for its superior heat and fire resistance, is presently recognized for its toxicity. Identified as a human carcinogen (cancer causing agent) by several government agencies, this hazardous material is the underlying cause of several diseases including mesothelioma, and is responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Historical evidence cites that an estimated 4.5 million individuals were employed in US shipyards between the years 1930 and 1978. Taking this information into account, along with the fact that the US Navy mandated the use of asbestos and asbestos products, means that a significant number of people were put into contact with a significant quantity of asbestos. This mineral posed the greatest threat to human health and safety when its particles became airborne, were inhaled, and furthermore, became embedded in human lung tissue.

Highly friable in nature, a series of factors came into play as to how asbestos was released into the surrounding environment. Deterioration of asbestos due to age and decomposition, disturbance of asbestos due to maintenance and repairs, and demolition of items containing asbestos during the scrapping/recycling of vessels within the shipbuilding industry all played a part in how humans have fallen victim to the deadly consequences of inhaling the airborne fibers of this perilous product.

Serving your country aboard a submarine such as USS Henry L. Stimson may have placed you at an increased risk for the development of mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with this asbestos disease please fill out the form on this page to request a free information guide to learn more about your rights as a victim and mesothelioma treatment options.



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