The USS Grayback SSG-574 was the second ship in the United States Navy have the namesake grayback, which is a small herring found in the Great Lakes. Her keel was laid down in July 1954 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard of Vallejo, California. She was launched in July 1957 and sponsored by Mrs. John A. Moore, widow of the skipper of the last Grayback (USS Grayback SS-208). Grayback was commissioned in 1958 with Lieutenant Commander Hugh. G. Nott in command.
Originally designed as an attack submarine, Grayback was converted into a Regulus guided missile submarine in 1958; she was the first Navy submarine to carry the Regulus II Sea-to Surface missiles. Her success in carrying and deploying this particular type of missile advanced Navy abilities to attack land bases, a revolutionary step forward. Much of Grayback’s deployments were deterrent missile strike missions. She completed seven of this type of mission, totaling nearly 18 months at sea in which she was primarily submerged. Other service completed by Grayback included various patrols in which Grayback logged well over 130,000 miles at sea.
In 1963 after being buffeted by extremely strong seas a battery breaker shorted on the Grayback, causing a fire in the berthing compartment. One man was lost at this time; however, the ship was able to return to Pearl Harbor of her own accord. After the Regulus missile program ended in 1964 Grayback was withdrawn from active service. She was converted once again and in June of 1972 carried a team of Navy Seals into the coastal waters of North Vietnam in the last attempt during the Vietnam War to rescue American POWs held in North Vietnam, a mission known as Operation Thunderhead.
Grayback was decommissioned for the second time in January 1984 at the Subic Bay Naval Station in the Republic of the Philippines. Upon decommissioning she was sunk as a target on April 13, 1986 in the South China Sea.
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.