The USS Silversides (SSN-679) was a Sturgeon-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine. Operating under the motto “Veni Vidi Vici (I Came, I Saw, I Conquered),” she was the second U.S. Navy vessel to be named after the silverside, a small fish characterized by a sliver stripe that runs down each side of its body.
On June 25, 1968, the U.S. Navy awarded the contract to build the Silversides to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. Her keel was laid down on October 13, 1969. The submarine was launched on June 4, 1971; her sponsor was Mrs. John H. Chafee, wife of the former governor of Rhode Island and then-secretary of the Navy. The USS Silversides was commissioned on May 5, 1972 under the leadership of Commander John E. Allen.
The Silversides contained four 533-mm torpedo tubes that were capable of blasting MK-48 torpedoes, Harpoon, Tomahawk and SUBROC missiles. The 302-foot vessel carried a complement of 12 officers and 95 enlisted men.
Following her commissioning in 1972, the USS Silversides underwent shakedown exercises in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. She then proceeded to her assigned home port – Naval Station Charles in Charleston, South Carolina. But Charleston would only remain her home port for a few years; following a drydock period in January 1977, she was reassigned to the nearby Naval Station Norfolk at Norfolk, Virginia.
The Silversides traveled to the North Atlantic in the summer of 1980, and the following year, she made her first voyage to the Arctic Sea, surfacing at the North Pole. In June of 1983, she voyaged to the Mediterranean Sea, and later that year, went to the Caribbean island of Grenada as part of the United States’ invasion of the country.
Following another trip to the Arctic, the Silversides entered drydock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington in 1984 for a refueling overhaul. The process took two years, after which she returned to Norfolk.
The Silversides departed on a second trip to the Arctic in the fall of 1989. She surfaced at the North Pole before traveling to the Pacific Ocean, where she took part in United States Pacific Fleet exercises. She stopped in Hawaii and California before returning home through the Panama Canal. The trip took her all the way around North America, and made the Silversides the second submarine ever to circumnavigate the continent.
With her career nearing its end, the Silverside was reassigned to a home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1994. She was decommissioned there on July 21, 1994, and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. The Silversides was scrapped under the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. The process took exactly one year – commencing October 1, 2000 and finishing October 1, 2001.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Silversides (SSN-679)
While it was considered a “miracle mineral” for much of the 20th century, science has proven that asbestos is actually extremely toxic and the root cause of a number of debilitating ailments, like emphysema, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. People who were exposed to asbestos for a significant amount of time – particularly in situations where the asbestos products were disrupted and released dust into the air – run the highest risk of being diagnosed with one of these diseases. Cigarette smokers run an even greater risk.
Asbestos was widely used aboard submarines from the 1920s to the 1970s because of its heat resistant properties; the U.S. Navy ordered shipyards to use the substance throughout all ships, particularly around boilers, engines, and other mechanical areas where fire risk was high. Unfortunately, products that were supposed to keep sailors safe ended up putting them at a grave health risk. Sailors were exposed to asbestos during their regular routine aboard the vessel – even if they never handled the substance first-hand. The likelihood of exposure was extremely high because of the close, air-tight environment of a submarine.
Perhaps at an even higher risk of exposure were shipyard workers. These men constructed, repaired and scrapped/recycled submarines at places like General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. These jobs were potentially even more hazardous because asbestos products – particularly insulation – were constantly being cut, ripped and torn out. These processes released huge amounts of dust into the air – a dust that, if inhaled or swallowed, could become embedded in a person’s lungs or abdomen, causing serious health problems.
It can take as long as 50 years from the time of exposure before symptoms of asbestos-related diseases begin to appear in the human body. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, or if you fear that you or a loved one may be at risk, read about the risk factors and treatment options about the disease on our website and fill out a form to receive more information.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Silversides (SSN-679)
Navy Site – USS Silversides (SSN-679)
Hullnumber – USS Silversides (SSN-679)