The USS Sea Devil, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine (SSN), was the second ship of the US Navy’s fleet to bear this name. Her namesake—the sea devil (Manta birostria)—was widely recognized for two key characteristics: endurance and power. Also identified as the devil ray or manta ray, the sea devil remains the largest of all living rays to roam the ocean.
The Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, located in Newport News, Virginia, was awarded the contract to construct USS Sea Devil on May 28, 1964. Her keel was laid down at this facility nearly two years later on April 12, 1966. Mrs. Ignatius J. Galantin, wife of Admiral Ignatius J. “Pete” Galantin, served as the ship’s sponsor at her launch on October 5, 1967. Upon her commissioning on January 30, 1969, Commander Richard A. Currier took charge of Sea Devil’s crew of 108 officers and enlisted men.
Armed with four 21 inch torpedo tubes, USS Sea Devil measured 292 feet, 3 inches in length and displaced 4,640 tons when submerged. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 25 knots (submerged) and depths down to 1,300 feet, she was powered by one S5W nuclear reactor, two steam turbines, and one propeller.
USS Sea Devil was the 16th vessel to be constructed as part of the Sturgeon class of submarines—otherwise known as the “work horses” amongst the Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. Bearing the motto “Fearless and Peerless,” the USS Sea Devil traveled the seas carrying out her operations in an effort to trail Soviet submarines and track their movements in support of her primary mission: antisubmarine warfare.
At the onset of her career, Sea Devil’s homeport was Norfolk, Virginia where she was assigned to Submarine Division 62. Throughout the course of her career, the majority of her operations were focused in the North Atlantic region and the Mediterranean. Notable excursions during her time of service included stops in Morocco (1976), Kalamata, Greece (1977), Portsmouth, England (1980), and the Arctic ice cap (1987).
A participant in several North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercises, including Common Effort and Northern Wedding, Sea Devil was also the recipient of three Navy Unit Commendations and a BATTLE “E” award in her line of duty.
August 1981 marked a transition period for Sea Devil as she was called to leave Norfolk for a new homeport in Charleston, South Carolina and a reassignment to Submarine Squadron 4. In preparation for her new role, the following October Sea Devil initiated a 20 month overhaul and refueling period at the Charleston Navy Ship Yard. At this time, she was also outfitted with a new weapon system to accommodate the Tomahawk Cruise Missile.
Simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on October 16, 1991, Sea Devil was dismantled and scrapped via the Ship and Submarine Recycling Program located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. September 7, 1999 marked the end of her existence.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Sea Devil (SSN-664)
The numerous sources of high-heat elements that were required to power and operate a submarine, in conjunction with the potential risks of fire that these elements imposed, called for the use of a material that was capable of withstanding excessive temperatures and that was resistant to fire. Between the early 1930s and the mid-1970s, this material was asbestos.
Once heralded as a miracle mineral, the naturally occurring substance asbestos was widely used in the shipbuilding industry. Not only was asbestos easily accessible and cost-effective, it provided the protective safeguards against fire that were warranted within the tight confines of ships. Within boiler, engine, and navigation rooms and extending to mess halls and sleeping quarters, materials composed of asbestos—gaskets, valves, insulation, packing, tape, paint—were found in every section of nearly every ship.
Between the years 1930 and 1980, asbestos use in the United States continually escalated each year, with no sign of a decrease until the middle of the 1970s when the dangers of this substance began to become more widely known. During the Cold War, asbestos use peaked in the United States with a record high of 1,589 million pounds in the year 1965. The shipbuilding industry was one of the top consumers of this product.
Numerous navy veterans and shipyard workers are now facing the agonizing consequences of having worked in close proximity to asbestos products. After years of breathing asbestos dust, these individuals are plagued with asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma—a rare form of cancer in the surrounding membranes of the lungs and abdominal cavity—is the most common form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.
If you were a navy veteran or shipyard worker it is highly likely that at some point throughout your career you were exposed to asbestos and you may be at risk for developing mesothelioma. Please contact us for an information packet that will assist you in identifying the medical and legal resources available to you as a victim of asbestos exposure.Sources