The USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658) was a Benjamin Franklin-class fleet ballistic missile submarine that served the U.S. Navy from 1966 until 1995. The ship’s namesake, Gen. Mariano G. Vallejo, was a key figure in California’s bid for statehood in the 19th century and in 1850 was elected a member of California’s first state senate. The submarine’s sail is currently on display at Mare Island in Vallejo, California, and plans are in the works to make it part of a memorial there.
On August 8, 1963, the Navy awarded the contract to build the USS Mariano G. Vallejo to Mare Island Naval Shipyard, located in Vallejo, California. The ship’s keel was laid down there on July 7, 1964. She was launched on October 23, 1965, sponsored by Miss Patricia O. V. McGettigan, General Vallejo’s great-great-granddaughter. The ship was commissioned on December 16, 1966, with Commander Douglas B. Guthe commanding the Blue Crew and Commander John K. Nunneley commanding the Gold Crew. The two crews, which took turns manning the vessel, each consisted of 120 men.
The Vallejo was commissioned as the 40th member of the “41 for Freedom,” a set of 41 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines launched from 1960 to 1966 that were designed to protect the U.S. during the Cold War. Shortly after she was commissioned, the Vallejo conducted shakedown and training exercises off the West Coast, in the Caribbean Sea and off the coast of Florida.
In March 1967, she transited to her home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving in April. She continued her training exercises and sound trials in Hawaiian waters before returning briefly to Mare Island Naval Shipyard. When she returned to Pearl Harbor in August 1967, she was fully operational and ready to take on deterrent patrols as part of Submarine Squadron 15.
For the first few years of her operations, the Vallejo was outfitted with 16 Polaris missiles, the standard for her time. In August 1972, however, she reported to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia to be brought up-to-date with newer weaponry – the Poseidon C-3 missile. The process took just over a year, with the updates completed in December 1973. Her Gold Crew fired her first Poseidon missile during shakedown in April 1974. She received further upgrades just a few years later in November 1979, when she was converted to Trident I missile capability.
From 1983 to 1984, the Vallejo underwent a refueling overhaul at Charleston Naval Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina. When the work was complete, she completed shakedown operations, during which her Gold Crew successfully launched one Trident I C-4 missile. Shortly thereafter, she deployed for operational patrols. In April 1987, the ship arrived at the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia, marking the completion of her 2,500th deterrent patrol.
The Vallejo conducted the Follow-on CINC Evaluations off the coast of Florida in 1991, and in May of that year launched two Trident missiles off Cape Canaveral. The ship set off on her final voyage on August 2, 1994, leaving Charleston for San Diego via the Panama Canal. Her crew experienced a natural phenomenon during the trip, as she traveled just 20 nautical miles from the epicenter of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
The Vallejo was decommissioned on March 9, 1995 and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. She was scrapped under the Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington. In the process, her sail was preserved; it has since been displayed on the waterfront of Mare Island, and is slated to become part of a memorial at the site.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658)
Today, the presence of asbestos in a home or job site is considered extremely dangerous; anyone coming into contact with the mineral is expected to wear protective clothing and masks to shield themselves from the cancer-causing fiber. But this wasn’t always the case. From the late 1800s until the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in numerous products and industries, with unsuspecting workers handling and inhaling the toxic substance day after day.
One of the industries in which asbestos was most prevalent was shipbuilding. Starting in the 1920s, the U.S. Navy required that asbestos be used aboard all its ships – in insulation, gaskets, tape and other materials – because of the mineral’s ability to prevent fire. This unfortunately put at risk not just shipyard workers who built and repaired asbestos-containing vessels, but also members of our armed forces who served aboard them. Even if a sailor did not directly come into contact with asbestos aboard the ship, it is highly likely that he was exposed to the mineral’s toxic dust.
Asbestos exposure can cause a variety of ailments, ranging from a non-cancerous asbestos disease called asbestosis to mesothelioma cancer, a rare and inoperable type of cancer that affects the protective lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. It’s likely that many veterans who were impacted by asbestos exposure are not even aware of it yet; that’s because it can take as long as 50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to appear in the human body.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love may have been exposed to asbestos aboard the USS Vallejo or another Navy vessel, learn more about the risk factors and treatment options for asbestos-related diseases.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658)
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships – USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658)
USS Mariano G. Vallejo website