USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630) was the only US Navy ship to bear this name in honor of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), noted as one of the most distinguished legislators in US history. Beginning his career in the state legislature (South Carolina, 1808-1809), John C. Calhoun went on to serve his country as a member of the House of Representatives (1811-1817), as Secretary of War (1817-1825), as Vice-President (1825-1832), as a US Senator (1832-1844 and 1845-1850), and as Secretary of State (1844-1845).
Ordered on July 20, 1961, the keel of the USS John C. Calhoun was laid down at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, located in Newport News, Virginia, on June 4, 1962. Launched on June 22, 1963 at this same location, this submarine was sponsored by then 14-year old Miss Rosalie J. Calhoun—great, great granddaughter of the ship’s namesake. Upon her commissioning on September 15, 1964, two alternating crews identified as Blue and Gold—consisting of 120 men each—were led by Commanders Deane L. Axene (Blue) and Frank A. Thurtell (Gold).
USS John C. Calhoun measured 425 feet in length, was capable of reaching speeds in excess of 20 knots, and displaced 7,250 tons when surfaced and 8,250 tons when submerged. Her armament included four 21 inch torpedo tubes equipped with Mark 48 torpedoes in conjunction with 16 missile tubes—originally housing Polaris missiles and later retrofitted with Trident C-4 missiles.
USS John C. Calhoun was the fourth of ten ships to be constructed in the series of submarines known as the James Madison class. This class succeeded the Lafayette class and its ships differed from those of its predecessors in only one way—the inclusion of an improved missile system which was capable of carrying Polaris A-3 missiles and exhibited enhancements in the ships’ missile guidance, navigation, and launcher systems.
The James Madison class was the fourth of five classes of submarines comprising the US Navy’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines known as the “41 for Freedom.” This collection of submarines had a primary function to serve as a deterrent force against the threat of nuclear war in an effort to preserve peace with the Soviet Union during the time period of political conflict known as the Cold War. The motto of the USS John C. Calhoun embodied this mission—For Peace, Ready.
Subsequent to her shakedown training, which took place along the East Coast of the United States, John C. Calhoun began her career as a member of Submarine Squadron 18 and initiated her deterrent patrols, the majority of which were classified, on March 22, 1965. Throughout the course of her career, John C. Calhoun was the recipient of two Navy Meritorious Unit Citations in addition to a National Defense Service Medal and underwent two upgrades to her missile systems being refitted with Poseidon missiles (1969-1978) and later Trident I missiles (1979-1982).
On March 28, 1994, USS John C. Calhoun was concurrently decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. Her scrapping took place in Bremerton, Washington via the Nuclear- Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program and was completed by November 18, 1994.
Asbestos Risk on the USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630)
The use of asbestos was so widespread in the shipbuilding industry from the 1920s through the 1980s that it is highly unlikely that veterans, in addition to those individuals involved in the processes of ship construction, repair, or demolition, were not at one time or another exposed to the hazardous effects of airborne asbestos fibers. Asbestos was commonplace in operational areas of ships, such as boiler, engine, fire, and navigation rooms, as well as living areas—sleep quarters and mess halls. In essence, sailors and shipyard workers were literally encased in a substance that in the years ahead would be classified as a known human carcinogen by several government agencies.
Asbestos fibers, once inhaled, become embedded in lung tissue. Continued exposure over time can cause an accumulation of these fibers resulting in eventual scarring and inflammation which paves a path to the development of more serious diseases of the lungs. In addition, individual risk factors, such as smoking and pre-existing lung conditions, can play a key role in determining the extent to which asbestos exposure may affect a given person.
The three main health conditions associated with exposure to asbestos include asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. It is important to be aware of the fact that mesothelioma, in particular, has an extended latency period ranging anywhere from 15-50 years. This means that symptoms indicating the presence of a disease attributed to asbestos exposure may not present themselves until many years after the initial exposure has occurred. It is also important to know that often times when the symptoms of mesothelioma do appear, the anticipated life expectancy of the affected individual is extremely limited.
Navy veterans, such as those who served aboard the USS John C. Calhoun and similar vessels, who once dedicated themselves to the defense of our country against the threat of a nuclear attack, are now finding themselves defending their lives against the threat of debilitating diseases of the lungs that will significantly impact their quality of life and eventually lead to their demise.
If you were exposed to asbestos while serving on the USS John C. Calhoun or a similar vessel and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact us for an information packet. It is full of vital information than can help you understand the various legal and treatment options that are available to you and your loved ones.Sources
USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN 630) Veterans Association—The John C. Calhoun (The Ship)
Wikipedia USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630)
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive