USS Pintado (SSN-672), the second US Navy ship to bear this name, was the successor to the World War II submarine Pintado (SS-387). The vessel’s namesake, pintado, is a large fish resembling the mackerel that is commonly found in the waters of the West Indies and along the coast of Florida. Meaning “painted” in the Spanish language, pintado earned this name based on the look portrayed by the oblong spots characteristic of this species of fish.
The Mare Island Naval shipyard (Vallejo, California) was the recipient of the contract to construct Pintado on December 29, 1965. The keel of this submarine was laid down at this site nearly two years later on October 27, 1967. Launched on August 16, 1969, Pintado was sponsored by Mrs. Bernard A. Clarey, wife of then Vice Chief of Naval Operations and first commanding officer of the original Pintado (SS-387). Upon Pintado’s commissioning on September 11, 1971, her crew of 109 (14 officers and 95 enlisted men) was led by Commander William Holland, Jr.
Powered by two steam turbines, one S5W nuclear reactor, and one propeller, USS Pintado was capable of reaching depths down to 1,300 feet and speeds of up to 25 knots (submerged). Measuring 292 feet, 3 inches in length, Pintado possessed a surface displacement of 3,640 tons and a submerged displacement of 4,640 tons. With regard to her defense mechanisms, she was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes that were at the ready to launch MK-48 torpedoes and Harpoon, Tomahawk, and SUBROC missiles. In addition, she had the capability to lay MK 57 deep water mines and MK 60 CAPTOR mines.
At the onset of her career, the Sturgeon-class attack submarine Pintado operated out of San Diego, California. As a member of the United States Seventh Fleet, she initiated her first deployment to the Western Pacific in October of 1972. This deployment concluded in April of 1973 at which time Pintado returned to San Diego where she remained until embarking on her second deployment (March through October of 1974). Upon her return to San Diego, Pintado earned recognition as the first submarine to launch the Harpoon missile successfully.
A collision occurred in May of 1974 between Pintado and a Soviet Navy submarine in the waters near the Soviet naval base Petropapvlovsk-Kamchatsky located on the Kamchatka peninsula. Immediately after the impact of the collision, the Russian vessel surfaced while Pintado remained submerged and fled the scene. The extent of the destruction to Pintado—damage to her sonar sphere, starboard-side torpedo hatches, and diving planes—forced her to enter drydock in Guam for seven weeks to undergo repairs.
Pintado was once again deployed to the Western Pacific in August of 1977. During this deployment she endured yet another collision, this time with a South Korean vessel that crossed her path. She returned to San Diego in February of 1978 having suffered damage to her rudder.
Later that same year (September –November of 1978), Pintado traveled to the Arctic where she carried out operations submerged below the polar ice cap. She surfaced at the North Pole for the first time on October 10, 1978.
Pintado deployed to the Indian Ocean (September 1979-February 1980) and the Western Pacific (February-August 1981) prior to entering the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii for a regular overhaul. This overhaul, which lasted from June of 1982 through October of 1983, included an upgrade to Pintado’s combat systems.
September 1984 saw Pintado once again operating under the polar ice cap during a deployment to the Arctic Ocean which lasted for two months. On November 12, 1984, Pintado surfaced at the North Pole for a second time, this time together with USS Gurnard. This duo of submarines became the third pair in US naval history to surface together at this location.
Pintado carried out a fifth Western Pacific deployment from July of 1985 through January of 1986 with the United States Seventh Fleet.
June 16, 1987 marked the third surfacing of Pintado at the North Pole during a series of Arctic operations that took place from May through July of 1987. An additional two-month deployment to the Arctic followed in June of 1988.
After completion of a regular overhaul at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Pintado was assigned to a new homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in January of 1992 where she joined Submarine Squadron 1. The summer following this transition, Pintado embarked on yet another expedition to the Arctic where she achieved two milestones: 1) her 1,000th surfacing and dive (August 23, 1992) and 2) an unprecedented fourth surfacing at the North Pole (September 4, 1992).
A six-month deployment to South America (1993) followed by a sixth and final Western Pacific deployment (1996) were the final missions for Pintado as her career came to a close. Simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on February 26, 1998, Pintado’s scrapping was completed by October 27, 1998 via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Pintado (SSN-672)
The commercial use of asbestos in the United States was widespread from the 1930s through the late 1970s. The US shipbuilding industry alone was a major consumer of asbestos and asbestos products with historical estimates showing that as much as 25 million tons of this naturally-occurring mineral was utilized in the construction and maintenance of ships. The US Navy actually mandated the use of asbestos in more than 300 products employed in her shipyards (e.g., insulation materials, valves, gaskets, cables, adhesives, paints). This extensive use of asbestos in combination with the fact that more than 4.5 million individuals worked in the shipbuilding industry between 1930 and 1978 account for the high levels of exposure that have occurred in the past. In turn, these past exposures have given way to the steady rise in the incidents of asbestos-related diseases we are now witness to today.
Aboard ships, such as the USS Pintado, asbestos functioned as it was expected to with regard to providing protection against the high temperature equipment necessary to power a ship, in addition to proving protection to the crew against the outbreak of fires. What few individuals realized at the time was that this same product aimed at providing protection was also releasing harmful fibers into the confined spaces of ships as asbestos products deteriorated due to age or were disrupted due to maintenance or demolition. These asbestos fibers, known for their strength and durability, were easily accessible for human inhalation once they became airborne. Once inhaled, these fibers attached to the inner linings of the lungs of navy veterans and shipyard workers causing eventual scarring and inflammation. This type of exposure, especially after occurring over extended periods of time, has proven to lead to the development of a variety of diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Asbestos-related illnesses are known for their extended latency periods. This means that once an individual is exposed to the harmful effects of airborne asbestos fibers, it may be anywhere from 15 to 50 years before he/she presents with any symptoms indicative of the onset of a disease. Current statistics show that nearly 10,000 individuals, in the United States alone, are dying each year from an asbestos-related disease that has resulted from exposure that occurred many years ago.
If you believe that you are a victim of asbestos exposure, please know that there are numerous resources available to support you as you make important decisions regarding your health and well being. There are also significant resources available that explain your legal rights as a victim of asbestos exposure and what possible compensation may be due to you as such a victim. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact us for an information packet to provide you with further details about treatment options and legal rights.Sources
Wikipedia– USS Pintado (SSN-672)
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Official Website of the United States Navy