The USS Memphis (SSN-691) was a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine commissioned by the U.S. Navy, serving from 1977 to 2011. For much of that time, she served as an “experimental” submarine, testing new technologies in the field.
The USS Memphis was ordered in 1971, and her keel was laid down in June 1973 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. She was launched in April 1976, sponsored by Mrs. Cathy Beard, and she was commissioned in December 1977 under the leadership of Commander G. Dennis Hicks. She was the sixth ship of the U.S. Navy to be named after the city of Memphis, Tennessee.
Upon her commissioning, the USS Memphis was designated a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. She spent her first several years in operations in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean and in 1981 completed an around-the-world cruise via the Panama Canal. In 1989, however, she was re-designated as an experimental submarine to test new technologies for the Los Angeles and Seawolf classes. She tested unmanned underwater vehicles, advanced sonars and other technologies, but her combat capabilities also remained intact.
In the 1990s, the Memphis underwent significant modifications to prepare her for her new research role, receiving a towing winch, new hydraulic systems and more. When the work was complete, she was assigned to the Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE in Groton, Connecticut. She tested a new navigational system developed by Lockheed Martin in 1998, won the coveted Battenberg Cup in 2005, and deployed against Iraqi insurgency in 2006.
After 33 years of service, the USS Memphis was decommissioned on April 1, 2011 at a ceremony at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton, Connecticut. She then went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for inactivation.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Memphis (SSN-691)
Navy vessels and the shipyards that built them are notorious today for their prior use of asbestos. Starting in 1922, the U.S. Navy provided strict mandates as to how and where asbestos was to be used in the construction of their ships – and the answer, in short, was everywhere. There was hardly a part of a naval submarine where asbestos was not present, from asbestos-containing insulation, pump parts, gaskets, packing, tape or fireproof cloth and blankets. As in many industries, asbestos was considered a “miracle mineral” that could protect against the threat of fire.
But the naturally occurring mineral actually created another threat: asbestos-related diseases. Individuals who worked aboard naval submarines, from mechanics to deck hands, were virtually guaranteed to be exposed to asbestos in the course of their work. So were the shipyard workers who had the unenviable task of ripping out and replacing asbestos-containing insulation several times throughout the life of a submarine – a process that released huge amounts of asbestos-laden, disease-causing dust into the atmosphere.
This dust, we know today, can be deadly. When asbestos dust is inhaled or swallowed, particles of asbestos can become lodged in a person’s lung or abdominal tissue, causing serious health problems. It is not fully understood how asbestos particles cause disease inside the human body, but we do know the result can be mesothelioma, a rare and inoperable form of lung cancer for which asbestos is the only known cause. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the tissue around the lungs, include painful coughing, shortness of breath and pain under the rib cage. For peritoneal mesothelioma, in which the cancer grows in the abdomen, warning signs include abdominal pain and swelling.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer or if you have cause to believe you were exposed to asbestos aboard a U.S. Navy ship, learn about your treatment options today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Memphis (SSN-691)
USS Memphis – Deployments & History