USS Stonewall Jackson was the third ship of the US Navy to bear the name in honor of the great American soldier and Army General of the Confederate States Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863). The 27th vessel of the famed “41 for Freedom” assemblage of Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), Stonewall Jackson bore the motto Strength-Mobility. The strength portion of this motto aptly reflected the ship’s namesake who earned his nickname of “Stonewall” in an exhibition of his strength as he stood like a stone wall in the midst of a Civil War battle. The mobility portion of this motto supported the ship’s mission of conducting numerous deterrent patrols in the name of freedom and in the defense of the threat of nuclear war by the Soviet Union.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California was the recipient of the contract to construct USS Stonewall Jackson on July 21, 1961. Her keel was laid down at this location nearly a year later on Independence Day—July 4, 1962. Sponsored by Miss Julia Christian McAfee, the great, great granddaughter of General “Stonewall” Jackson, USS Stonewall Jackson was launched on November 30, 1963 with her flag at half staff and a black ribbon depicted in the program guide for her launch in tribute to President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated just eight days earlier.
Upon her commissioning on August 26, 1964, two alternating crews, composed of approximately 140 men each, were led by Commander John H. Nicholson (blue crew) and Commander Richard A. Frost (gold crew).
Powered by a S5W nuclear reactor, in conjunction with two geared steam turbines and one propeller, Stonewall Jackson reached speeds of up to 21 knots (submerged) and displaced 8,250 tons (submerged). Measuring 425 feet in length, she was armed with 16 missile tubes and four 21 inch torpedo tubes and descended to depths of up to 1,300 feet.
The eighth ship of the James Madison-class of submarines, USS Stonewall Jackson served her country for over three decades. Her career began on September 3, 1964 as she journeyed from Vallejo, California, the site of her launch, to Cape Kennedy, Florida for shakedown training. Upon completion of this training, she returned to the Pacific Ocean on February 13, 1965 to conduct shakedown availability. Her next voyage brought her to Bangor, Washington where she underwent final preparations for deployment overseas. USS Stonewall Jackson departed on her first strategic deterrent patrol in April of 1965.
Beginning in June of 1965, Stonewall Jackson operated out of Apra Harbor, Guam. She would conduct deterrent patrols out of this port over the course of five years before being reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet in the spring of 1970.
After conducting a special operation out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on April 23, 1970, Stonewall Jackson traveled via the Panama Canal to New London, Connecticut where she remained through the end of May for repairs and maintenance.
After another special operation at sea during the month of June, followed by a stop in Charleston, South Carolina to off-load missiles, Stonewall Jackson returned to Connecticut where she entered the General Dynamics Electric Boat Division shipyard for an upgrade to the Poseidon missile system. Equipped with her new missiles, she set off to the southeastern coast of the United States for shakedown training with both of her crews (blue and gold) from October 1971 through early March of 1972. Following a return to the General Dynamics shipyard in Groton, Connecticut on March 4th, she commenced her post-shakedown availability by March 8th.
In preparation for her first post-conversion deterrent patrol, Stonewall Jackson briefly stopped in Charleston, South Carolina prior to setting out for the advanced base of Holy Loch, Scotland. Out of this port, she would conduct deterrent patrols with alternating crews through the middle of 1978.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located in New Hampshire, served as the site for an extensive overhaul for Stonewall Jackson from the summer of 1978 through April 1980. Post-overhaul training and availability followed out of Charleston, South Carolina with an eventual missile conversion to the Trident missile system by late summer of 1980. With Charleston serving as both her homeport and base of operations, Stonewall Jackson continued to conduct patrols out of this location through September of 1982.
While Stonewall Jackson remained homeported in Charleston, her port of operations was changed to King’s Bay, Georgia. Out of this port, her blue and gold crews would alternate patrols until mid-1994 when preparations were put in place for her decommissioning.
Decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on February 9, 1995, Stonewall Jackson was disassembled and disposed of by October 13, 1995 via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
In retrospect, Strength-Mobility—the motto of the USS Stonewall Jackson—was also relevant to asbestos use aboard this vessel.
- Strength - Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was highly valued for industrial use for its strength and durability in resisting heat and fire. These qualities, in combination with the fact that this mineral was cost-effective, led the US Navy to mandate its use. With regard to the shipbuilding industry, asbestos was employed as an insulation material for boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes, in addition to being a component of such materials as valves, cables, gaskets, and adhesives. With such a broad range of applications, asbestos literally encased the interior of the majority of submarines constructed between the 1930s through the mid-1970s.
- Mobility - Once asbestos attains mobility, that is, its fibers and particles become airborne when disrupted, is when it poses the greatest risk to those working in close proximity to this hazardous substance. Once acclaimed for industrial use, today asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by several government agencies including the EPA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. When elements of asbestos are released into the environment and inhaled by individuals, these elements become embedded in lung tissue resulting in the potential risk of the development of harmful effects on health, including, but not limited to, ailments such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. A variety of factors—the quantity of asbestos an individual is exposed to, the duration of exposure, the composition of the asbestos fibers, and the source of exposure—all influence the prospective outcome on an individual’s health. Current estimates show that approximately 10,000 deaths occur in the United States per year—nearly 30 deaths per day—from asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos-related illnesses, mesothelioma in particular, have an extended latency period ranging anywhere from 15 to 50 years. Therefore, individuals exposed to asbestos while serving aboard or working on the maintenance or demolition of a vessel such as the USS Stonewall Jackson may be at risk for the development of an asbestos-related ailment while not yet exhibiting any symptoms. Please browse our website for further information as you assess your risk for an asbestos-related disease and explore the options available to you from both a medical and legal perspective.Sources
USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
Wikipedia – USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
Naval History and Heritage Command
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Environmental Protection Agency