Originally contracted to be named the Redfish, the USS William H. Bates was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding and launched on December 11, 1971. This Sturgeon-class attack submarine was sponsored by Mrs. Andrew R. Grainger and commissioned on May 5, 1973 with Commander Glen N. Arthur, Jr., in command. William H. Bates was a Naval Reservist before taking his father’s place in the United States House of Representatives when he was killed in a plane crash at the Washington D.C. National Airport on November 1, 1949.
Following shakedown, she returned to her home port of Groton, Connecticut. Between July and October 1974, she was deployed to the eastern Atlantic to conduct her first patrol mission before visiting Holy Loch, Scotland, and Halifax, Nova Scotia on her return voyage. Another patrol took her to sea from the Christmas holidays into January 1975.
After undergoing voyage repairs at Holy Loch and a port visit at Faslane, Scotland, William H. Bates sailed for Groton in late January, undergoing a refit at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia before conducting local operations off Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, which extended into the summer of 1975. Another European water deployment followed, where she took part in antisubmarine warfare exercises. That November, she also took part in NATO Exercises “Moby Dick” and “Ocean Safari 75,” before returning to New London the next month.
Her first Mediterranean deployment began on May 5, 1976, during which she carried out exercises with other United States Navy ships and NATO naval units. Following a September 6, 1976 departure from the Mediterranean, she participated in Exercise “Ocean Safari 76” in mid-month, returning to Groton on October 14.
After further repairs and preparations, she made another deployment in the summer of 1977, completing an assigned mission on October 3. She then visited Bremerhaven, Germany before taking part in Exercise “Ocean Safari 77” with NATO units while returning from European waters to Groton. Her Atlantic service continued there until May 1978, when she moved to San Diego for service in the Pacific Fleet.
From 1980 until early 1989, she operated out of San Diego attached to Submarine Squadron 11. During this time, she conducted numerous Western Pacific deployments and operations, including operations with other nations’ navies. In mid-1989, she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington, for an extensive refueling overhaul and retrofit. Following the completion of this overhaul, in 1991, she sailed to her new home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she made more Western Pacific deployments and patrols throughout the 1990s.
On February 11, 2000, she was both decommissioned and struck from the United States Navy list. On October 1, 2002, her scrapping by the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program began. It was completed on October 30, 2002.
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.