The USS Woodrow Wilson, a Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarine, was built by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard of Vallejo, California. Sponsored by MissÂ Eleanor Axson Sayre, she was launched on February 22, 1963. With Commander Cleo N. Mitchell in command of the Blue Crew and Commander Walter N. Dietzen in command of the Gold Crew, she was launched on December 27, 1963.
On January 9, 1964, Woodrow Wilson left Vallejo, California for the east coast, visiting San Diego briefly before transiting the Panama Canal en route. Arriving at the western end of the canal on January 19, she encountered violent anti-American demonstrations and riots. These were the result of a recent flag displaying incident, which created an extremely tense atmosphere for the Woodrow Wilson. Due to the charged atmosphere, the submarine transited the canal in a record seven hours and ten minutes as combat-ready marines and soldiers stood guard at the locks.
She reached her port at Charleston, South Carolina on February 5, then conducting shakedown in the lower eastern seaboard into March. She entered her post-shakedown availability in April. She began her first deterrent patrol out of Charleston in June, having completed all her repairs and alterations.
Her operation in the Atlantic, which included patrols from forward bases at Rota, Spain, and Holy Loch, Scotland, continued until the fall of 1969. She then found herself transferred to the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on November 19. She then continued on to Guam, where she took up base, conducting deterrent patrols from Apra Harbor through 1972. That year she transferred back to the Atlantic and had another overhaul and conversion to fire the Poseidon C3 missile at Newport News Shipbuilding. She served with the Atlantic Fleet into 1978.
Following several more overhauls at the Charleston Naval Shipyard and 40 more deterrent patrols, she was converted into an attack submarine, seeing her designation change to SSN-624 in 1990. After conversion, she completed a series of special operation patrols between 1990 and 1993.
In September 1993, Woodrow Wilson was deactivated. September 1, 1994 saw both her decommissioning and removal from the Naval Vessel Register. On September 26, 1997, she entered the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program]] at Bremerton, Washington, seeing the completion of this recycling on October 27, 1998. Her sail is preserved as part of the Deterrent Park monument at Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, 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, includingÂ 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.