Resources for Patients and their Families

USS James Madison (SSBN-627)

The USS James Madison (SSBN-627) was the second ship of the US Navy’s fleet to be named in honor of James Madison (1751-1836)—the fourth President of the United States (1809-1817). Valued as one of our country’s most influential thinkers and statesmen, James Madison authored 29 of the famous Federalist Papers, proposed the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution (the Bill of Rights), and served both in the House (1789-1797) and as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809). In commission for over 28 years, USS James Madison was the premier ship in her class of ten nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).


The keel of the USS James Madison was laid down at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, located in Newport News, Virginia, on March 5, 1962. Mrs. A.S. “Mike” Monroney—wife of the US Senator from Oklahoma—christened the vessel at her launch on March 15, 1963. Sixteenth months later, on July 28, 1964, the USS James Madison was commissioned and at the ready to defend her country.

Equipped with 16 missile tubes and four 21 inch torpedo tubes, the USS James Madison employed a complement numbering 147 divided into two crews, Blue and Gold, as was commonplace with SSBNs. Capable of speeds of up to 21 knots, the James Madison measured 425 feet in length and displaced 7,325 tons (surfaced) and 8,251 tons (submerged).

Naval History

The USS James Madison launched her career in mid-1964 with a series of shakedown exercises in conjunction with Polaris missile testing conducted by both the Blue and Gold crews. Post-shakedown repairs ensued for the months of November and December of 1964 in preparation for a series of deployments.

January 17, 1965 marked the commencement of James Madison’s first deterrent patrol. Mainly patrolling the waters around Europe, she completed 10 successful patrols by the end of 1966.

With seventeen deterrent patrols to her credit by February 3, 1969—mainly based out of Rota, Spain and Charleston, South Carolina—James Madison underwent an overhaul and weapons system upgrade to the Poseidon Missile System at the shipyard of the General Dynamics Corporation’s Electric Boat Division located in Groton, Connecticut. The Poseidon conversion required extensive modifications to the James Madison which were completed by June 28, 1970. A period of shakedown operations, followed by a complete evaluation and cycle of testing of the Poseidon missiles, were carried out into August of 1970.

Two Extended Refit Periods (ERPs) were performed on James Madison—a first on November 6, 1974 followed by a second on November 2, 1977. These maintenance procedures were designed to allow the ship to operate at a level of peak performance in between overhaul periods with the goal of increasing the number of patrols the vessel could accomplish over the course of her lifetime.

After the completion of thirty-two consecutive deterrent patrols, James Madison underwent a major overhaul at the Newport News Shipbuilding and DryDock Company, located in Newport News, Virginia. Initiated on August 3, 1979, this overhaul, which included a refueling and an upgrade to the Trident C-4 missile system, would last through February of 1982.

Subsequent to the overhaul, James Madison conducted sea trials, shakedown operations, and test launches of the Trident missiles. For the remainder of her time in service, James Madison continued her cycle of deterrent patrols in an effort to preserve peace and protect the United States against the threat of war.

After having been simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day—November 20, 1992—USS James Madison ceased to exist as of October 24, 1997 after having been completely scrapped via 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 James Madison (SSBN-627)

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the membranes surrounding the chest and abdominal cavities. Medical science supports popular beliefs that asbestos exposure is the only one definite cause of this disease. According to current mortality statistics, an average of 2,500 individuals die each year in the United States as a direct result of mesothelioma. In addition to this form of cancer, asbestos exposure has also been linked to other ailments—asbestosis, lung cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer—that, when combined, account for an additional 7,400 deaths per year.

Shipyards are considered a primary site for asbestos exposure, particularly from the time period ranging from the 1930s through the late 1970s. Asbestos use was widespread in this industry with the US Navy actually mandating the use of asbestos in a multitude of products due to its superior heat and fire resistant properties, not to mention its accessibility and relatively low cost. Historical estimates show that as much as 25 million tons of asbestos were used in US shipyards from the years 1930 through 1978. As a result, sailors, in addition to construction, maintenance, and demolition crews, are all considered to be high-risk groups for asbestos exposure.

Extended latency periods, ranging from 15 to 50 years, are common with asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, the onset of systems indicative of a pending disease may not present until many years after the initial exposure took place. In addition, a variety of factors contribute to an individual’s level of risk—source of the exposure, composition of the asbestos fibers, duration of the exposure, and the presence of individual risk factors, such as smoking or a preexisting lung condition.

If you were employed as a shipyard worker or are a US Navy veteran, your physical wellbeing should be your number one concern as a possible victim of asbestos exposure. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have legal rights which may entitle you to compensation from companies that supplied asbestos containing materials for the construction and maintenance of ships.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to request a free information packet to learn more about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. This packet outlines the numerous resources available to support victims of asbestos exposure and their families including information about treatment options and their legal rights.

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