USS Sturgeon SSN-637 (1966-1994)

The third ship in the United States Navy to be named for this fish, this Sturgeon-class attack submarine was launched on February 26, 1966 after being laid down by the General Dynamics Corporation. She was sponsored by Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen and commissioned on March 3, 1967. Lt. Comdr. Curtis B. Shellman, Jr. was put in command of the submarine.

Service History

After spending a month in refresher training, she began her shakedown cruise on April 3, sailing along the east coast to Puerto Rico. She then returned to Groton for availability, maintenance, and training until September 18, when she departed on extended submarine operations. Following a return to port two weeks later, she was transferred to Development Group 2. She then began a five-week antisubmarine exercise to evaluate the relative effectiveness of Sturgeon and Permit-class submarines on January 22, 1968.

She then began a three-month post-shakedown availability on March 3, then participating in the search for Scorpion in the vicinity of the Azores in June. After spending July and August preparing for overseas deployment from September to early November, she participated in tests and evaluation of a new sonar detection device from December 1968 to February 1969. She then visited the Naval Academy in March and held intensive training for her crew before deploying from May to July. However, in April she received a Meritorious Unit Commendation for outstanding service during 1968.

She next participated in fleet submarine exercises in August and September, followed by taking on a project for the Chief of Naval Operations from September 29 to October 31. She then received her second Meritorious Unit Commendation in December for her service during a period in 1969. Following more training and preparations, she deployed again from January 29 to April 8, 1970. That May and June, she helped evaluate aircraft antisubmarine warfare tactics and equipment. She spent the remainder of the summer in trials and exercises before an October overhaul at Groton, Connecticut which would last an entire year, until October 5, 1971. However, she received the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service during a period of 1970 during her overhaul.

After her overhaul, she was transferred to Submarine Squadron 10, based at New London. Following refresher training and a shakedown cruise, she left for a month of leave and upkeep until January 16, 1972. Participating in two antisubmarine exercises before returning to Groton for restricted availability from March 6 to May 27, the Sturgeon next conducted sea trials until July 15, at which time she began a test on sonar systems which lasted until mid-December 1972.

She conducted operation in the Narragansett Bay Area for the first three months of 1973, sailing to the Fleet Weapons Range in the Caribbean on April 3. After running aground there in May, she was forced to return to Groton for repairs. She then returned to sea for local operations from July 17 to October 1, 1973, when she entered the Naval Shipyard of Portsmouth, New Hampshire for bow repairs. Following sea trials, she returned to her home port of New London for a ten-day upkeep period, operating in that area until August 13, 1974, when she left for Norfolk, Virginia to join other fleet units participating in Atlantic Readiness Exercise 1-75. She then returned to New London to hold local training exercises in preparation for overseas movement, leaving for the Mediterranean on November 29 for a six-month deployment with the 6th Fleet.

She was decommissioned in 1994 after serving over 27 years in the United States Navy.  She was disposed of by recycling. However, on September 15, 1995 s ceremony was held to commemorate the transfer of the Sturgeon’s 55-ton sail to the Naval Undersea Museum of Keyport, Washington.

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.

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