USS Whale (SSN-638)
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USS Whale (SSN-638) and her ship's insignia
|Name:||USS Whale (SSN-638)|
|Namesake:||The whale family of aquatic mammals|
|Builder:||General Dynamics Quincy Shipbuilding Division, Quincy, Massachusetts|
|Laid down:||27 May 1964|
|Launched:||14 October 1966|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Russell B. Long|
|Commissioned:||12 October 1968|
|Decommissioned:||25 June 1996|
|Struck:||25 June 1996|
|Battle Efficiency Award (Battle "E") 1991|
|Fate:||Scrapping via Ship and Submarine Recycling Program completed 1 July 1996|
|Class and type:||Sturgeon-class attack submarine|
|Length:||292 ft 3 in (89.08 m)|
|Beam:||31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)|
|Draft:||28 ft 8 in (8.74 m)|
|Test depth:||1,300 ft (396 m)|
Construction and commissioning
Whale's keel was laid down on 27 May 1964 at the General Dynamics Quincy Shipbuilding Division shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched on 14 October 1966, sponsored by Mrs. Russell B. Long, the wife of United States Senator Russell B. Long (1918–2003) of Louisiana, and commissioned on 12 October 1968, with Commander William M. Wolff, Jr. in command.
Whale arrived in her first home port, Charleston, South Carolina, on 2 November 1968 and, after a week in port, put to sea on 9 November 1968 for shakedown training, which she completed in November and December 1968 along with a series of post-commissioning tests, trials, and qualifications. In January 1969, she began normal operations out of Charleston with attack submarine training along the southeastern coast of the United States.
On 18 March 1969, Whale stood out of Charleston on her way north to operations above the Arctic Circle. She reached the North Pole on 6 April 1969 and surfaced there in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary's 1909 arrival there. Following that event, she completed her mission under the polar ice cap and then headed south. After a visit to Faslane, Scotland, she voyaged home to Charleston, where she arrived on 9 May 1969.
Following two months of local operations out of Charleston, Whale sailed for Groton, Connecticut, and her post-shakedown repair period. After three months in the shipyard of the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, she started back to Charleston on 16 October 1969. She arrived at Charleston on 20 October and conducted local operations for the remainder of 1969.
During the first half of 1970, Whale continued operations out of Charleston. In late January, she participated in tests with a Navy Underwater Demolition Team and, in February and March, took part in three major fleet exercises. In April, she headed north for a brief tour of duty as training ship for the Prospective Commanding Officers' School at New London, Connecticut. She returned to Charleston at the end of the first week in May and spent the remainder of the month conducting acoustic trials.
Whale departed Charleston on 27 July 1970 for an overseas deployment which she concluded in mid-September with visits to Faslane and Holy Loch in Scotland. While Whale visited Scotland, the Jordanian crisis —precipitated by civil war between the government of Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and aggravated by an incursion into northern Jordan by Syrian tanks – resulted a show of American strength in the eastern Mediterranean. Thus, Whale received orders to join the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and did so near the end of September 1970. She remained in the Mediterranean Sea through October and into November 1970. When the crisis abated, she headed for Charleston, arriving home on 18 November 1970 and remaining there for the remainder of the year.
Three fleet exercises and local operations out of Charleston occupied Whale during the first half of 1971. Late in July, she deployed once more for special operations in the Atlantic Ocean, concluding that cruise late in September 1971 at Bremerhaven, West Germany. She returned to Charleston on 12 October 1971 and resumed local operations upon arrival. That routine continued until 20 March 1972, when she departed once again for another special operations cruise in the Atlantic. At the end of that voyage, she made a brief call at Holy Loch before returning to Charleston on 9 June 1972.
Almost two months after her return to the United States, Whale left Charleston and headed north to Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, her new home port. She entered the shipyard at the Electric Boat Division in Groton on 7 August 1972 for a 46-week overhaul and remained there undergoing repairs until 27 October 1973.
Whale completed post-overhaul shakedown and refresher training in November and December 1973 and began preparations for another deployment to the Mediterranean in response to the Middle Eastern crisis brought about by the Arab-Israeli War in October 1973. Late in January 1974, however, she received notification that her deployment had been delayed until May 1974. During the interim, she conducted normal operations out of Groton, including submarine anti-submarine warfare exercises, attack submarine training, and a major fleet exercise, Operation Safe Passage. On 3 May 1974, she departed Groton en route the Mediterranean Sea. On 12 May 1974, she changed operational control from the United States Second Fleet to the Sixth Fleet.
While in the Mediterranean, Whale participated in two North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercises, "International Week" and "Dale Falcon", with units of the Greek and Italian navies as well as several antisubmarine warfare exercises with other units of the Sixth Fleet. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and changed operational control back to the Commander, Submarines, United States Atlantic Fleet, on 18 October 1974. During the voyage back to Groton, Whale participated in a fleet antisubmarine warfare exercise which she completed on 28 October 1974. On 30 October 1974, she arrived at Groton.
Whale spent the next 11 months engaged in operations out of Groton. Various tests and evaluations occupied January and the first half of February 1975. Between then and June 19075, she provided training services for various units of the Atlantic Fleet and for prospective commanding officers. Whale also served as a training platform for midshipmen during indoctrination cruises held late in the summer. On 29 September 1975, she stood out of Groton for another deployment with the Sixth Fleet. During that cruise, she took part in a major Second Fleet exercise, "Ocean Safari", and, after joining the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, took part in a succession of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral exercises with units of the navies of Greece, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. She completed her tour of duty with the Sixth Fleet during the second week in March 1976 and arrived at Groton on 25 March 1976.
Whale resumed normal United States East Coast operations until 9 September 1976 when she entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, for a refueling overhaul. That overhaul concluded on 7 July 1978. Whale then spent the remainder of 1978 in refresher training for the purpose of obtaining certification throughout the full range of her weapons system.
This section needs expansion with: History from 1979 to 1987. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
In the spring of 1979 Whale departed Groton for the Mediterranean,. She made stops in Sousse, Tunisia; La Spezia, LaMaddellena and Naples, Italy and Tangier, Morocco. While in the Mediterranean Whale participated in fleet exercises. 1979-Fall, 1980: The Whale was in an extended period of refit/repair (Selected Restricted Availability), in the floating drydock USS ARDM-4 in Groton, Connecticut. After refloating, workups, and training, she proceeded south for torpedo proficiency exercises, stopping for liberty at Port Everglades, FL. Go Go dancers from Butch Cassidy's greeted the Whale and her crew on arrival, and were heartily welcomed aboard. The Whale spent the remainder of 1980 and early 1981 on short training and test deployments, one of which concluded with the Thunderbuoy and Whitefish exercises. With a fresh coat of paint, and a new skipper, CDR E.D. Morrow, the Whale proceeded to the Mediterranean in June 1981, stopping on her way at Cartagena, Spain, which proved to be her only liberty port on this deployment. Whale spent the next six months in the Mediterranean Sea, taking part in the US Navy's defiance of Libyan president Mohammar Khadaffi's "Line of Death" in the Gulf of Sidra. Whale made periodic up-keeps at the submarine tender Orion, in La Maddelena, Sardinia. Early 1982 found the Whale back home in Groton, making frequent short training workup runs, honing the crew's proficiency to a fine tune. In May 1982 Whale proceeded on an Atlantic deployment, (pollywogs among the crew becoming "Bluenoses" on the way), and later a stop in Faslane, Scotland. Whale earned the Battle "E" for efficiency after this deployment. Early 1983 the Whale had a new skipper, Captain James E. Welsch. Mid 1983 Whale was suddenly given a double barrel patrol – a North Atlantic deployment immediately followed by an abbreviated Mediterranean patrol. This was due to the USS Tullibee being unable to handle her commitments. This deployment, dubbed the "Nor-Med Run", was quite active, with port visits in Holy Loch Scotland, Toulon France, La Spezia, and La Maddalena, Italy. USS Whale left La Maddalena on Christmas Day 1983 and returned to Groton in January 1984. 1984 was spent doing up keep, refit, drilling, and short training deployments, most notably spending a week in St Croix, Virgin Islands. In January 1985, USS Whale again went on patrol to the Mediterranean, with stops in Holy Loch Scotland, Brest France, La Maddalena Italy, as well as Rotterdam Netherlands, prior to Whale's being temporarily reassigned to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington for an overhaul period starting in November 1985. While undergoing overhaul in 1986, USS Whale crew members formed a unit softball team, which competed in and won the Northwestern Pacific Softball Championship. For a crew of roughly 120 to compete against much larger ships and commands, this was quite an accomplishment.
January 1988 found Whale in Bremerton completing its overhaul. She went through sea trials and left Washington sometime around June 1988 for her to return to her home port at Groton under the command of Commander J. W. Francis. Whale crossed the equator on 17 June 1988 and transited the Panama Canal on 19 June 1988.
This section needs expansion with: History from June 1988 to February 1989. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
Whale's next major deployment was to the Mediterranean from February through July 1989, during which she made stops in Scotland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. In 1990 Whale was sent on a North Atlantic deployment under the command of Commander Ronald Deering. Whale was awarded the last Battle Efficiency Award (Battle "E") from Submarine Squadron 10. She then was assigned to Submarine Squadron 2 and conducted a second "Northern Run" (i.e., North Atlantic deployment) in 1991.
In 1992, Whale participated in UNITAS XXXIII, an expedition around South America while under the command of Commander Andrew V. Harris, Jr., During UNITAS XXXIII she made port calls in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia. The port visit in Panama was a somber one due to the sudden loss of the ship's chief yeoman due to a heart attack. During UNITAS Whale again crossed the Equator and transited the Panama Canal (South to North).
In 1993 Whale visited Bermuda while transiting from the Autec Torpedo Firing Range, and Florida ports of call. Following the final Change of Command in Jan 1994 Whale conducted a scientific exercise under the ice cap at the North Pole and in the North Atlantic.
This section needs expansion with: History for 1994. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
Following a circumnavigation of the world, the Whale was deactivated while still in commission on 28 April 1995. Whale was placed in reserve, in commission, on 1 October 1995.
Decommissioning and disposal
Whale's scrapping via the U.S. Navy's Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington, began on 20 October 1995. She was officially decommissioned on 25 June 1996 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. Her scrapping was completed on 1 July 1996 and she was officially listed as scrapped on 29 September 1997.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.
- NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive Whale (SSN-638)
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