USS Guitarro SSN-665 (1972-1992)

USS Guitarro SSN-665 was a Sturgeon-class submarine, and was the second ship of the United States Navy under that name. She was built in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California and commissioned in January 1970.

Napa River Sinking

On May 15, 1969 Guitarro’s construction was still underway when Guitarro sank while moored in the Napa River. Guitarro had taken a sudden down angle causing most of her forward hatches to go underwater. Massive flooding occurred through the large open hatches and attempts to close large watertight doors and hatches were largely unsuccessful due to various lines and cables that ran through the doors and hatches, thus preventing them from closing. Three days later the ship was refloated, with damages estimated at between $15.2 million and $21.85 million USD.

Service

Her initial commissioning ended up being delayed by 32 months because of the incident at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. She was, however, eventually commissioned on September 9, 1972 with Commander Gordon Lange in command.  During the mid-to-late 1970s Guitarro was stationed at Point Loma in San Diego, California where she was commanded by Alvin Pauole and then Scott Van Hoften. The majority of her service included launching several test missiles on a test range located off the coast of Southern California. This testing involved the then pre-operational testing of the new Tomahawk cruise missile.   Guitarro was simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on May 29, 1992. She was scrapped via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program which is located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. This scrapping was completed on October 18, 1994.

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.