Built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation of Groton, Connecticut, the USS Cavalla SSN-684 was the second submarine bearing that name. This nuclear-powered, Sturgeon-class attack submarine bore the motto “Any mission, Any Time.” She was launched on February 19, 1972 and commissioned on February 9, 1973, in the charge of then-commander Bruce DeMars, who eventually became an Admiral.
The vessel first operated out of Groton, Connecticut making numerous deployments to the Atlantic and Mediterranean. In 1978, the submarine sailed via the Panama Canal to her reassignment with the Pacific fleet, receiving the first of her two overhauls at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In 1980, she moved to her new home port at Pearl Harbor’s Submarine Base Pearl Harbor. There she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 1, leading her on missions across the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Indian Oceans.
As one of her noteworthy initial accomplishments, in 1983 the Cavalla became the first submarine to successfully perform dry dock shelter operations. In dry dock shelter, a tank attached to the deck back of the submarine, which allows personnel to exit the vessel when submerged. Her 1985 to 1986 Western Pacific deployment saw the Cavalla support important dry dock operations for SEAL team certification.
She also participated in the very first Submarine Ice Expedition to the Arctic Ocean, which left in 1995 with civilian scientists. In 1996, she participated in the first joint United States/Japanese Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel Operations in 1996. The Cavalla also showcased the military’s advancing technologies, including the dry dock operations, Strike Warfare/Tomahawk Cruise Missile Operations, mine warfare, Anti-Surface and Anti-Submarine Warfare and Reconnaissance.
On March 30, 1998, the USS Cavalla SSN-684 was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Registry. Her scrapping, completed November 17, 2000, was carried out by the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. During her service, the Cavalla received the Navy Arctic Service Ribbon, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, the Navy’s Battle Efficiency “E” (three awards), the Navy Unit Commendation (two awards) and the Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards).
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.