USS Thomas A. Edison was a an Ethan Allen-class ballistic missile submarine, which was a class of subs designed from scratch as fleet ballistic missile submarines capable of carrying the Polaris A-2 missile, and later the Polaris A-3. USS Thomas A. Edison was commissioned on March 10, 1962 with Captain Charles M. Young commanding the Blue Crew and Captain Walter Dedrick commanding the Gold Crew.
In the midst of her shakedown training, Thomas A. Edison collided with the destroyer USS Wadleigh DD-689 off the eastern coast of the United States. Embarking on her first deterrent patrol on November 7, 1962, the sub headed for Holy Loch, Scotland. It would be from this base that she would operate for the next four years, conducting a total of 17 such patrols. In 1966, her official home port was changed from New London, Connecticut to Charleston, South Carolina as part of the preparations for her first major overhaul.
Following her 19th patrol, Thomas A. Edison conducted a Follow On Target (FOT) test launch. This launch required the warheads from her torpedoes to be removed and replaced with telemetry packages. These missiles were fired into the Caribbean at a location just off the Canary Islands. The members of the Blue Crew, who were on board at the time, were awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for the accuracy and timeliness of these successful launches.
Reclassification and Decommissioning
In order to comply with the SALT I treaty, the missile section of Thomas A. Edison was removed in 1981. Concrete blocks were placed in the ballistic missile tubes, and the ballistic missile fire-control system, as well as one of the ship’s inertial navigation systems were removed. She was reclassified as an attack submarine and given the hull number SSN-610. After her reclassification and conversion she was used primarily for anti-submarine warfare training and other secondary duties. Thomas A. Edison was decommissioned on December 1, 1983, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 30, 1986. Her recycling, via the Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program located at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, was completed on December 1, 1997.
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.