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USS Sculpin (SSN-590)

The USS Sculpin was the second ship of the US Navy’s fleet to be named after the sculpin—a spiny and typically scaleless fish from the species Cottidae that is native to the waters surrounding the Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe. Her predecessor, Sculpin (SS-191), was sunk in the line of duty against the Japanese on November 19, 1943. Guided by her motto “Videt Eos Prius” (“See Them First”), USS Sculpin was in commission defending her country for just over 29 years.


Ordered on January 18, 1957, the USS Sculpin’s keel was laid down just over a year later on February 3, 1958 at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Mrs. Fred Connaway—wife of Lieutenant Commander Fred Connaway who lost his life aboard Sculpin (SS-191)—served as the ship’s sponsor at the launching ceremony on March 31, 1960. Upon Sculpin’s commissioning on June 1, 1961, Commander C.N. Mitchell took charge of the submarine’s complement of 118 officers and enlisted men.

As a unit of the Skipjack class, USS Sculpin possessed a new teardrop hull design and was powered by the novel S5W reactor that would be incorporated on many submarines in future classes. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30 knots when submerged, USS Sculpin was a member of the fastest class of submarines until the introduction of the Los Angeles class. Measuring 251 feet, 9 inches in length, Sculpin displaced 3,500 tons when submerged and was armed with six 21 inch torpedo tubes.

Naval History

Recognized as the first atomic submarine to be constructed in the Deep South, USS Sculpin departed Pascagoula, Mississippi on June 8, 1961, days after her commissioning, to begin her career at her new homeport of San Diego, California. Upon her arrival on the West Coast, Sculpin initiated a period of shakedown training followed by a period of trials and testing exercises in Puget Sound and a two-week roundtrip excursion to Pearl Harbor. Upon her return, she conducted local operations on the West Coast prior to undergoing post-shakedown availability at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard which began in October of 1961and continued through late March of 1962.

A regimen of training exercises in April of 1962 gave way to a deployment to the western Pacific which began in May and concluded in August of the same year. Further training drills, evaluation projects, fleet exercises, and a series of local operations based out of San Diego followed for Sculpin over the course of the next two years.

On April 8, 1964, Sculpin was deployed for duty with the Seventh Fleet, making port calls in Pearl Harbor and Sydney and conducting operations out of Subic Bay and Naha, Okinawa. This deployment earned her a Navy Unit Commendation which she received upon her return to San Diego on October 20, 1964. Sculpin carried out local operations and exercises along the west coast (ranging from San Diego to Bangor, Washington) for the next 25 months prior to departing on another deployment with the Seventh Fleet on November 27, 1966 to Naha, Okinawa.

A series of local operations ensued for Sculpin upon her return to the United States in May of 1967 through the end of that year. On January 2, 1968 she set out for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for her first major overhaul and refueling after seven years in commission. She remained in drydock until January 22, 1969 at which time she initiated a period consisting of sea trials, shakedown, training, and upkeep that would occupy her until her next deployment to the western Pacific on February 6, 1970.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sculpin was deployed to the western Pacific and the Mediterranean, while maintaining regularly scheduled periods of local operations along the West Coast based out of San Diego. During this period of time, she was documented as having visited Pearl Harbor, Buckner Bay, Okinawa, Subic Bay, Hong Kong, and Yokosuka.

Officially inactivated at a ceremony at Norfolk Naval Base on November 3, 1989, USS Sculpin was later decommissioned on August 3, 1990 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 30, 1990. Entered into the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington on October 1, 2000, Sculpin’s scrapping was complete just over a year later on October 30, 2001.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Sculpin (SSN-590)

Past employment in the shipbuilding industry, either as a Navy veteran or shipyard worker is considered to be a primary risk factor for the development of one of several serious health conditions, including a cancer known as mesothelioma, resulting from exposure to the naturally occurring mineral asbestos.

Engine and boiler rooms, sleeping and living quarters, communication and navigation rooms—all of these areas of a submarine were highly likely to contain products with asbestos. The fact that asbestos was resistant to extremely high temperatures and fire made it an ideal component for products employed in the construction of ships where protection against heat and fire was a paramount concern. Over the years, however, it became evident that this easily accessible and affordable product was actually a human carcinogen—a cancer causing agent.

Due to the extended latency period of asbestos-related illnesses (15-50 years), those individuals exposed to this hazardous material during its peak use from the early 1930s through the mid-1970s may just be beginning to realize its profound effects on human health.

If you were at one time employed by the shipbuilding industry, chances are that you suffered exposure to asbestos at one point or another. If this is the case, and you are experiencing symptoms associated with asbestos disease, it is important that you seek out the expertise of a pulmonologist (specialist in diseases of the lungs) to assess your risk factors, undergo a thorough medical evaluation, and if appropriate, outline a course of treatment. In addition to seeking out medical expertise, you may also wish to contact a law firm specializing in asbestos litigation to see what legal rights and/or compensation that you are entitled to as a victim of asbestos exposure.



Wikipedia–Sculpin (SSN-590)

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