The USS Theodore Roosevelt was the US Navy’s second ship to be named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)—the 26th President of the United States. This vessel was otherwise referred to as “Big Stick” in reference to the President’s “speak softly, and carry a big stick” philosophy which elevated America’s influence throughout the world.
Originally ordered as a guided missile submarine—SSGN-600—the keel of this vessel was laid down as Scamp (SSN-600) by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on May 20, 1958 utilizing components originally intended for the nuclear attack submarine USS Scamp (SSN-588). On November 6, 1958, USS Scamp (SSN-600) was renamed USS Theodore Roosevelt and redesignated as a fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN-600). Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, served as the ship’s sponsor at her launch on October 3, 1959. Upon her commissioning on February 13, 1961, the ship’s two crews (Blue and Gold) of 112 officers and enlisted men were led by Commander William E. Sims (Blue Crew) and Commander Oliver H. Perry, Jr. (Gold Crew).
Measuring 382 feet in length and powered by one S5W pressurized water nuclear reactor, two geared turbines, and one propeller, the USS Theodore Roosevelt displaced 6,700 tons and reached speeds in excess of 20 knots when submerged. Her armament included 16 missile tubes capable of launching Polaris A1/A3 missiles in addition to six 21 inch torpedo tubes.
The third George Washington-class nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarine and the first Polaris submarine to be constructed on the West Coast, the USS Theodore Roosevelt served her country for over 21 years.
Shortly after her commissioning in March of 1961, USS Theodore Roosevelt made her mark in history as the first FBM submarine to travel the Panama Canal—an event of significance because the completion of this canal was largely attributed to the determination and efforts of the ship’s namesake.
Embarking out of Charleston, South Carolina, Theodore Roosevelt set off on her first deterrent patrol on July 19, 1961. Lasting for just over two months, this patrol was concluded on September 23rd with Theodore Roosevelt’s arrival at the naval base in Holy Loch, Scotland.
The following three and a half years would see Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Holy Loch on 15 deterrent patrols. Upon completion of her final patrol of this series from Holy Loch, she entered the Electric Boat Shipyard in New London, Connecticut in July of 1965 where she remained through January of 1967 for an overhaul and weapons upgrade to the Polaris A3 missile system.
With her overhaul complete and her new advanced missile system in operation, Theodore Roosevelt returned to Holy Loch where she completed her 18th through 21st patrols from June 1967 through February 1968. Similar to her first tour of duty, this series of patrols was followed by a period allocated to repairs at the New London, Connecticut shipyard from April 23, 1968 through mid-October 1968.
Upon completion of her repairs, Theodore Roosevelt was deployed to Holy Loch for a third time where a series of nine deterrent patrols would ensue through the middle of 1971.
The remainder of the 1970s would witness USS Theodore Roosevelt conduct special operations out of Charleston, South Carolina, undergo a two-year refueling overhaul, be reassigned to the United States Pacific Fleet with a new homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and carry out her 43rd and final deterrent patrol out of Guam.
Decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day—December 1, 1982—USS Theodore Roosevelt was stored in the facility at Bremerton, Washington in preparation for her entrance into the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program. Her dismantling was completed on March 24, 1995 at which time she ceased to exist.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)
The naturally-occurring mineral asbestos, once widely used for industrial applications, is today the source of serious health issues for many Americans. Exposure to this substance, currently identified as a known human carcinogen by several government agencies, has been linked to a variety of lung diseases, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Current statistics show that asbestos-related diseases account for nearly 10,000 deaths per year in the United States with the majority of the victims being men older than 50 years of age.
Held in high-regard for its superior resistance to fire and heat, asbestos was employed in numerous industries from the 1930s through the mid-1970s—in particular, the shipbuilding industry. The United States Navy officially mandated the use of this substance in products ranging from pipe covers and insulation materials to gaskets, valves, paints, and adhesives. When these products were disturbed during the construction, maintenance, and/or demolition of ships, the greatest danger with regard to asbestos exposure took place. When disturbed, the friable fibers of asbestos are released into the surrounding atmosphere and in turn, these fibers have the potential to be inhaled by humans. Once inhaled, these fibers have the ability to accumulate in the lungs where they remain for an extended period of time resulting in eventual scarring of the lung tissue and the development of serious health conditions.
Due to the extended latency period (ranging anywhere from 15-50 years) of asbestos-related illnesses, specifically mesothelioma, those exposed to this hazardous mineral many years ago may just be beginning to show signs of the development of the disease. The earlier a diagnosis is determined, the greater the chances are for preserving one’s quality of life to the greatest extent through implementation of the best-known therapies currently available for battling this ailment.
If you are a veteran or shipyard worker that has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after working on a vessel such as the USS Theodore Roosevelt, please reach out and contact us for an information packet. This packet contains information that both you and your family member will find valuable as you progress through treatment.Sources
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)