The USS Spadefish (SSN-668) was a Sturgeon-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine that served the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1997 based out of Norfolk, Virginia. She was the second Navy vessel to be named after the spadefish, a spiny-finned fish found off the coastlines of the western Atlantic.
The U.S. Navy awarded the contract to build the USS Spadefish in March 1965 to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia; her keel was laid down in December 1966. She was launched in May 1968, sponsored by Mrs. Charles T. Booth. She was commissioned on August 14, 1969 with Lieutenant Commander George M. Henson in command.
The 4,000-pound submarine was propelled by a S5W nuclear reactor and two steam turbines, and she traveled at 25 knots submerged. She held a crew of 109 – 14 officers and 95 enlisted men.
After her initial shakedown and alterations in 1969, the USS Spadefish took part in antisubmarine warfare exercises in the North Atlantic and then returned to her home port of Norfolk, Virginia. From Norfolk she deployed into the Atlantic in December 1970 and then returned to Virginia for upkeep.
The Spadefish’s second deployment came in February 1971; she headed to Faslane, Scotland and returned to Norfolk two months later. For the remainder of that year she remained in waters near her home port conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises and attack submarine training. The following year saw the Spadefish on two more Atlantic deployments, from June to August 1972 and again from October to December.
The submarine conducted operations along the United State’s east coast through June 1973, including a fleet ballistic sub exercise. That spring, she assisted Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 8 in an Atlantic readiness exercise and sea control exercise and spent one week at the Isle of Portland in England. A major overhaul followed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, lasting until July 1974.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the Spadefish travel several times to frigid Arctic waters. In 1984, the vessel operated in the Arctic on an ice exercise (“ICEX) under Commander George Bardsley; in 1992 and 1993, two more operations into the frigid waters were overseen by Commander R.B. Williams.
Late in her career, in 1995 and 1996, the Spadefish traveled to a far different climate, crossing the equator for two deployments to the Persian Gulf. At the completion of her second Persian Gulf expedition, the Spadefish reported to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, where she was decommissioned on April 11, 1997. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. She was scrapped starting October 1, 1996 as part of the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program; the process was completed in October 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Spadefish (SSN-668)
Asbestos played a prominent role in American industry and manufacturing for most of the 20th century – though its history actually goes back thousands of years. There is evidence that ancient people in Finland used the naturally occurring mineral as long as 4,500 years ago to strengthen pots and cooking utensils. Even then, it appears, the mineral was known for its strength and resistance to heat and fire.
Those qualities made asbestos hugely popular starting in the late 1800s, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, and by the time the USS Spadefish was constructed in the 1960s, asbestos had become a staple on board Navy vessels. The mineral was used throughout the ship, mainly in insulation but also in gaskets, tape, fireproof fabric and in the inner workings of pumps and other machinery.
Unfortunately, we now know these products had the potential to severely harm anyone who came into contact with them. When asbestos products are cut or torn, they release dust into the air that is filled with tiny asbestos fibers. These fibers, once inhaled, can become lodged in the lining of a person’s lungs, abdominal cavity or heart, causing distress to the organs and planting the seed for diseases like mesothelioma cancer.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for decades after exposure; it some cases, it takes as long as 50 years before signs begin to present themselves. If you feel you may be at risk, request a mesothelioma information packet to educate yourself about the risk factors and treatment options.Sources
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships – USS Spadefish (USS-688)
Wikipedia – USS Spadefish (USS-688)