The USS Scamp (SSN-588) was a nuclear-powered submarine in the U.S. Navy’s Skipjack class that served for more than three decades starting in the early 1960s. She was the second Navy ship to be named after the scamp, a type of grouper fish normally found near offshore reefs. She was retired early, in 1988, after an attempted rescue of a freighter from the Philippines left her severely damaged.
The contract to build the Scamp was awarded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California in July 1957, and her keel was laid down there in January 1959. She was launched in October 1960; her sponsor was Mrs. John C. Hollingsworth, the widow of the commander of the original USS Scamp (SS-277) at the time that ship was lost in World War II. The second Scamp was commissioned on June 5, 1961, and set off under the leadership of Commander W.N. Dietzen.
After she was commissioned in June 1961, the Scamp set off for trials and training exercises, with stops at Bremerton, Washington; San Diego, California; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After a short stop at Vallejo’s Mare Island Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability, she began local operations near San Diego. The Scamp’s first deployment came in April 1962, when she set off for the western Pacific; she returned to the California coast the following July. In September, she conducted another extended training cruise.
After a short period in drydock at Mare Island, she deployed again to the western Pacific in April 1963, where she conducted additional training and operated off the coast of Japan. After returning home to San Diego, she assumed her regular operations for much of 1963 and 1964.
The year 1965 saw Scamp back at the shipyard, where she received extensive modifications in accordance with the SUBSAFE program; when the upgrades were complete in June 1966, she resumed operations in San Diego. She made a short, one-month trek to Washington’s Puget Sound that November. In June 1967, the Scamp embarked once again to the western Pacific, joining up with the Seventh Fleet. She participated in fleet operations along the coast of Vietnam and returned home six months later.
The Scamp continued to spend most of her time near San Diego until November 1969, when she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for a regular overhaul. During her two-year stay there, Bremerton was reassigned as the Scamp’s home port.
But that assignment didn’t last long, and after post-overhaul sea trials the Scamp was sent back to San Diego in February 1971. The following July saw the Scamp sent again to the western Pacific, with stops at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay. For much of 1971, she operated in far eastern waters with the Seventh Fleet. Officials sent her home to San Diego in February 1972, but she was quickly redeployed to Southeast Asia because of increased tension there; she would end up spending most of the summer of 1972 in the South China Sea. In March 1973, the Scamp deployed again to the Far East, stopping at Pearl Harbor and then proceeding to Yokosuka, Japan, where she operated with the Seventh Fleet until September.
In 1980, the Scamp underwent an overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia; with her upkeep complete, she went on special operation to the Mediterranean Sea to assist with the Libyan crisis. She visited several ports in Europe in 1982, including Naples, Italy and Toulon, France.
The Scamp participated in several NATO exercises in February 1984, filling in for another submarine with just ten days’ notice. On these exercises – known as “United Effort” and “Teamwork 84” – the submarine traveled 16,500 miles, simulated sinking more than 250,000 tons of surface war ships, and transited into the Arctic Circle. Later that year, she deployed to Puerto Rico for participation in additional exercises.
In February 1987, the Scamp was involved in an unlikely rescue attempt: The submarine was called to rescue a sinking 345-foot, Philippines-registered freighter that was struggling in a winter storm. Despite not being designed for such maneuvers, the Scamp managed to rescue just one of the 19 sailors on board. The submarine was damaged in the attempt, however, resulting in her early retirement.
The Scamp was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 28, 1988. She was disposed of through the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Scamp (SSN-588)
Anyone who served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine or who worked in one of the shipyards charged with constructing them between the 1920s and 1980s should be aware that they were probably exposed to asbestos in the course of their work. Asbestos is a type of silicate mineral comprised of long, crystalline fibers that grows in large deposits in nature, mainly in Africa and in the Quebec province of Canada. The mineral was used extensively in American industries for much of the 20th century – and was widely used aboard Navy submarines – though the mineral’s use as a strengthening agent and fire retardant actually dates back to ancient times.
Today, we know that asbestos exposure can lead to debilitating diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer – diseases that are only caused by exposure to the mineral’s airborne fibers. But at the time the USS Scamp was being constructed and maintained, the public knew very little about the health risks of asbestos exposure. There is evidence that some Navy officials knew, however; a Navy medical bulletin dating back to 1922 includes asbestos on a list of known hazardous materials.
Mesothelioma can strike Navy veterans, shipyard workers and their family members – virtually anyone who spent time aboard a submarine could be at risk. There is no known cure, but treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiation have proven effective in many patients. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, or if you match some of these risk factors and are presenting symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, you may wish to consult a doctor who is an expert on the disease. People diagnosed with mesothelioma may also have legal rights. For more information about risk factors, treatment options and more, request a mesothelioma information packet today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Scamp (SSN-588)
History of the USS Scamp
“Rescuers from the Deep”
“Shipbuilding’s Deadly Legacy: Horrible Toll Could Have Been Avoided”