USS Will Rogers SSBN-659

This Benjamin Franklin-class ballistic missile submarine was built by the General Dynamics Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut and named for the American humorist. Rogers, an avid booster of aviation, passed away on August 15, 1935, when the plane he was traveling in crashed at Point Barrow, Alaska. The submarine that bore his name was sponsored by Muriel Buck Humphrey, the wife of Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey, and commissioned on April 1, 1967 with Captain R. Y. Kaufman in command of the Blue Crew and Commander W. J. Cowhill in command of the Gold crew.

Service History

After shakedown, she conducted a successful Polaris ballistic missile launch on the Atlantic Missile Range off Cape Kennedy, Florida, on July 31, 1967. That October she began her first deterrent deployment. She remained stationed at Groton until 1974, when she shifted to a forward deployment at Naval Station Rota, Spain. Around this time, she was also converted to carry Poseidon ballistic missiles and saw a nuclear reactor modification to use an S3G core 3. Deterrent deployments out of Rota continued into 1978, bringing her patrol number to 35.

From 1978 until November 1991, Will Rogers was forward deployed at Site One in Holy Loch, Scotland. Finally, on November 9, 1991, the Will Rogers left Site One, the final submarine to do so before Submarine Squadron 14 was deactivated.

USS Will Rogers was deactivated while still in commission, entering the U.S Navy's Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington on November 2, 1992. She was both formally decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 12, 1993. Her scrapping through the program was completed on August 12, 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.

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