USS Spadefish SSN-668 (1969-1997)
USS Spadefish SSN-668 was a Sturgeon-class submarine, which was a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines in service with the United States Navy from the 1960s until 2004. Spadefish’s contract was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. She was commissioned on August 14, 1969 with Lieutenant Commander George M. Henson in command.
Spadefish’s home port was Norfolk, Virginia, a location she maintained throughout her career. Spadefish was a part of the Submarine Squadron 6, and spent her first year of service participating in antisubmarine warfare exercises in the North Atlantic Ocean. Spadefish’s second deployment including visiting Faslane, Scotland before returning to the Norfolk area where she resumed antisubmarine warfare exercises, as well as attack submarine training. Many of Spadefish’s deployments were located in the Atlantic Ocean.
Through June of 1973 Spadefish operated along the United States East Coast, where she conducted a fleet ballistic missile submarine security exercise, independent attack submarine training, and independent exercises. As part of a support system for Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 8, Spadefish participated in an Atlantic readiness exercise and sea control exercise during May and June of 1973. At the beginning of September 1973, Spadefish commenced a major overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia which was completed in July 1974, after which she resumed operations along the United States East Coast.
Under Commander George Bardsley in 1984 and Commander R. B. Williams in 1992 and ’93 Spadefish operated in the Arctic on an ICEX, which is a United States Naval exercise aimed at practicing in arctic conditions. During 1995 and ’96 Spadefish completed two deployments to the Persian Gulf, each time crossing the equator.
After these two deployments, Spadefish cruised to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington where she remained until being decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 11, 1997. USS Spadefish SSN-668 was eventually scrapped via the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program.
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.