The second submarine known as the Gato, this 292-foot Thresher/Permit-class nuclear submarine was also known as the “Goal Keeper” or the “Black Cat.” The name, gato, actually refers to a species of small catshark found in west coast Mexico’s waters. Like her namesake, the Gato was constructed by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation. Sponsored by Mrs. Lawson P. Ramage, she was launched on May 14, 1964, though she was not commissioned until January 25, 1968.
A notable event in her service occurred when she collided with the Soviet submarine, the K-19, at the Barents Sea in November of 1969. This occurred 15 or 25 miles from the entrance to the White Sea at a depth of approximately 200 feet. One crewmember reported that although struck in the heavy plating that shielded the nuclear reactor, the vessel did not sustain any serious damage. This incident was not reported until a July 6, 1975 New York Times news article.
The Gato was both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register on April 25, 1996. She was disposed of by entering the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Its recycling was completed on November 1, 1996.
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.