Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601)

insert image here
insert caption here
(insert link to larger image here)
Awarded:30 July 1958
Laid down:25 August 1958
Launched:18 December 1959
Commissioned:16 September 1960
Fate:submarine recycling
Stricken:30 April 1986
General Characteristics
Displacement:5946 tons surfaced, 6700 tons submerged
Length:382 feet
Beam:33 feet
Draft:29 feet
Powerplant:S5W reactor
Speed:20 knots surfaced, 35 knots submerged
Complement:112 officers and men
Armament:16 Polaris missiles, six 21-inch torpedo tubes, SUBROC
USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601), a George Washington-class submarine, was the only submarine of the United States Navy to be named for Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Her keel was laid down on 25 August 1958 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 18 December 1959 sponsored by Mrs. Hanson E. Ely II; and commissioned on 16 September 1960 with Commander Reuben F. Woodal commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Joseph Williams, Jr. commanding the Gold Crew.

The third nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine to join the fleet, and the first nuclear-powered ship built in Dixie, Robert E. Lee operated in and out of Newport News, Virginia, until 2 December 1960, when she got underway for the Narragansett Bay Operating Area for torpedo firing tests. Following the successful firing of five torpedoes on 6 December Robert E. Lee sailed for Cape Kennedy, arriving on 12 December. The submarine then loaded Polaris test missiles and ten days later conducted her first missile launch. The Polaris flew "hot and true."

In January 1961, she conducted additional simulated missile launches and on 15 January departed for the Bermuda Operating Area. There, joined by Torsk (SS-423) on 25 January, she engaged in antisubmarine training. Returning to Norfolk on 30 January, Robert E. Lee entered the Newport News drydock on 3 February for a month of yardwork. She departed Newport News on 17 March, loaded torpedoes at Yorktown, Virginia, on 25 March, and got underway for Cape Kennedy, arriving 9 April.

The nuclear-powered submarine conducted "special operations" out of Cape Kennedy during May and June, and in late June sailed for Holy Loch, Scotland, where she joined Submarine Squadron 14 on 10 July. She conducted practice torpedo firing during the first week of August and departed Holy Loch 9 August on her first deterrent patrol.

During the next two years Robert E. Lee completed nine more deterrent patrols. On 10 September 1963, the submarine entered the floating drydock Los Alamos (AFDB-7) and on 4 October resumed her normal patrol schedule. Continuing to operate out of Holy Loch into 1964, the ballistic missile submarine got underway on 27 November for her 16th patrol which terminated on 28 January 1965 at Mare Island, California.

On 22 February, Robert E. Lee entered the Mare Island Division of the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard for her first overhaul. Major items of work included refueling the reactor, reengineering of many ship systems to provide greater safety and reliability, modernization of the navigation system, and modification to the weapons system to give the submarine the capability of launching the improved Polaris A3 missile.

Emerging from overhaul after nearly a year and a half of work, Robert E. Lee got underway for sea trials on 12 July 1966. Sound trials and weapons system accuracy trials were conducted during the latter half of July, and on 5 August she entered San Diego, California, harbor for a five-day visit. Underway for the East Coast on 10 August, Robert E. Lee transited the Panama Canal on 20 August and arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, on 4 September.

During the remainder of September and the first week of October, the fleet ballistic submarine conducted shakedown operations off Cape Canaveral, Florida. On 10 October, with the Under-Secretary of the Navy on board as an observer, Robert E. Lee successfully fired a test Polaris A-3 missile. She returned to Charleston to commence a predeployment upkeep period at the Cooper River site. On 4 December, she sailed from Charleston on her 17th deterrent patrol, which terminated at Holy Loch on 30 January 1967.

By 4 October, Robert E. Lee had completed three more patrols. After drydocking in Los Alamos for minor repairs and hull surveillance, she resumed her patrol schedule on 1 November and completed her 21st patrol before entering drydock on 22 November for two weeks of repairs. She departed Holy Loch on 26 December for another patrol.

Robert E. Lee remained attached to Submarine Squadron 14 throughout 1969 and 1970. Continuing to operate out of Holy Loch, she completed her 33d deterrent patrol by 1 January 1971.

Robert E. Lee was drydocked for her second overhaul on 27 January 1971 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She did not leave the drydock until 11 December and, afterward remained berthed at Puget Sound for the remainder of 1971. For the first seven months of 1972, Robert E. Lee was engaged in post-overhaul trials and exercises on the west coast. In mid-August she transited the Panama Canal and arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on 14 September. She continued normal operations, this time on the East Coast, throughout 1972 and for the first seven months of 1973. Transiting the Panama Canal early in August, she arrived in San Diego, California, on 17 August and then moved on to Pearl Harbor, arriving 5 September. After a month in Hawaii, she sailed for Apra, Guam, and continued operations in that area into 1974.

Nine years of operational history go here.

Robert E. Lee was decommissioned 1 December 1983, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1986. Its hulk was stored in Bremerton, Washington, until it entered the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program. On 30 September 1991, it ceased to exist.


This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.