USS Tautog SSN-639 (1968-1997)
USS Tautog was Sturgeon-class attack submarine which was a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. They were in service in the United States Navy from the 1960s until 2004, and were referred to as the “work horses” of the submarine attack sleet throughout the majority of the Cold War. She was commissioned on August 17, 1968 with Commander Buele G. Balderston in command.
Tautog began her naval service as the flagship of Submarine Division 12 of the United States Pacific Fleet. Upon completing repairs involving the replacement of her entire diesel generator, she was put to the task of performing torpedo and sonar tracking exercises. In June of 1970 Tautog was stationed in the North Pacific Ocean near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a major base for Soviet Navy missile-armed submarines. While attempting to trail K-108, a Soviet Navy Echo II-class guided missile submarine, the two vessels violently collided. It was initially believed that K-108 broke apart and sank. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union, 30 years later, that K-108 had been able to return to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. There were no personnel causalities from either submarine after this collision.
Another mission of note involved Tautog joining a rapidly organized task force surrounding the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise CVN-65. This task force was in response to a crisis in Uganda in which all American residents in Uganda at that time were rounded up and made prisoner by President of Uganda, Idi Amin. Tautog’s assignment at this time was to cruise the coast of Kenya, as it stood between landlocked Uganda and the Indian Ocean. This task force helped to demonstrate a show of American resolve to protect U.S. citizens abroad, as well as being a scratch force for attempting hostage rescue should that become necessary. Eventually Amin freed the hostages of his own accord and Tautog was released from the task force in order to resume normal operations.
Tautog was stationed out of Pearl Harbor through August 1986 when her home port was changed to Bremerton, Washington, where she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a non-refuleing overhaul. Tautog continued her service in the United States Navy until she was decommissioned and struck from the Navy Vessel Register on March 31, 1997. Her scrapping, as part of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, was completed on November 30, 2004.
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.