The USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) was a U.S. Navy submarine named after politician Sam Rayburn, a Democrat from Texas who held the position of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for a number of years between 1940 and 1961. The Lafayette-class fleet ballistic missile submarine served the Navy from 1964 to 1989, and continues to serve as a training ship in South Carolina.
The USS Sam Rayburn was built at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. The contract to build her was awarded on July 20, 1961, and her keel was laid down on December 3, 1962. She was launched a year later on December 30, 1963, sponsored by Mrs. Mrs. S. E. Bartley and Mrs. W. A. Thomas. She was commissioned on December 2, 1964, with Captain Oliver H. Perry, Jr., in command of the Blue Crew and Commander William A. Williams III in command of the Gold Crew. Paul B. Fry, then-Under Secretary of the Navy, spoke at the commissioning ceremony, and President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke via telephone.
The Sam Rayburn conducted her shakedown operations in the Atlantic Ocean and then joined Submarine Squadron 18 at Charleston, South Carolina. In the summer of 1965, she embarked on her first Polaris ballistic missile deterrent patrol, joining with Submarine Squadron 16 to conduct seven patrols out of Rota, Spain. She conducted seven additional patrols out of Charleston over the next two years.
In 1969, the Rayburn entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, for an overhaul, which included reactor refueling and a conversion to the new Poseidon missile system. When the two-year process was completed, she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 14 based out of Holy Loch, Scotland, from which she conducted her next 20 deterrent patrols. In the late 1970s, the Rayburn earned several awards for her patrol duties, including her squadron’s Battle Efficiency “E” award, the Supply Blue “E” for 1977, and the Squadron Food Service Award for 1977 and 1978. Early 1978 brought the Rayburn again to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, this time for a non-refueling overhaul.
In the early 1980s, the Rayburn crossed the Arctic Circle, becoming the first fleet ballistic missile submarine to surface through the ice as part of a special test. However, the vessel was damaged during the surfacing, and was forced to dry-dock at Holy Loch for repairs. The Rayburn completed her 60th patrol in 1985 and returned to New London for a refueling overhaul.
In June 1985, the White House announced that the United States would dismantle a ballistic missile submarine in accordance with the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) II, and the Rayburn was selected. She was deactivated on September 16, 1985, and her missile tubes were filled with concrete and her tube hatches were removed.
The USS Sam Rayburn was decommissioned on July 31, 1989, and was reclassified as a moored training ship (MTS-635). She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 28, 1989, and was soon after transported to the Naval Nuclear Prototype Training Unit at Goose Creek, South Carolina. The Rayburn is scheduled to operate as a training ship until 2018.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635)
Mined from large deposits in North America and Africa, asbestos became a regular part of American industry and manufacturing during the 20th century. Industrialists learned that the crystals that comprise asbestos were a natural fireproofing agent, could help products withstand high heat, and could make them more durable. Unfortunately, it was later learned that asbestos is also highly toxic, and exposure to airborne particles of the mineral could result in diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Between the 1920s and the 1970s, the U.S. Navy used asbestos in more than 300 products for the construction and repair of submarines and other vessels. The substance was primarily used for insulation in ships’ engine rooms, where it was vital to keep heat under control. But smaller amounts of asbestos were also present in boiler rooms, navigation rooms, sleeping quarters and mess halls, as well as in gaskets, valves, adhesives, blankets and other materials.
These high levels of asbestos put shipyard workers and sailors at very high risk for exposure to the toxic substance. Some individuals worked with asbestos products first-hand, such as repairmen who ripped out and replaced asbestos insulation during routine maintenance. Others happened to be exposed during the course of their work. For example, some sailors recall sleeping in bunks under pipes that were coated with asbestos insulation, waking up to find themselves coated with the asbestos dust.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year, making the cancer relatively rare. The disease can also be difficult to diagnose; symptoms, such as shortness of breath and lung fluid, generally don’t appear until 15 to 50 years after exposure, and when they do appear, they often resemble symptoms of other ailments. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos and believe you could be at risk, an experienced mesothelioma doctor can help you understand risk factors and treatment options.Sources
USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) – History
Wikipedia – USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635)
USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) – Asbestos Exposure