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USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609)

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Awarded:1 July 1959
Laid down:28 December 1959
Launched:2 February 1961
Commissioned:6 March 1962
Fate:submarine recycling
Stricken:6 September 1991
General Characteristics
Displacement:6900 tons surfaced, 8000 tons submerged
Length:410 feet
Beam:33 feet
Draft:32 feet
Powerplant:S5W reactor
Speed:20+ knots
Complement:two crews of 110 officers and men each
Armament:16 Polaris missiles, four 21-inch torpedo tubes
USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609), a Ethan Allen-class submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the President of the Republic of Texas. (Several ships have been named USS Houston for the city of Houston, Texas -- which was of course named in honor of Sam Houston.) Her keel was laid down on 28 December 1959 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 2 February 1961 sponsored by Mrs. John B. Connally, and commissioned on 6 March 1962 with Captain W. P. Willis, Jr. commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Jack H. Hawkins commanding the Gold Crew.

Following shakedown, the nation's seventh Polaris submarine fired her first missile on 25 April off Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Gold Crew, commanded by Commander J. H. Hawkins, then took over, completed its missile firing on 11 May 1962 and then departed from Cape Canaveral for its own shakedown training.

On her first patrol, Sam Houston, manned by the Blue Crew, operated continuously submerged for 48 days and two hours, then moored alongside the submarine tender Proteus (AS-19) in Holy Loch, Scotland. Following upkeep, the Gold Crew commenced its first patrol on 25 December, returning to Holy Loch in February 1963. The crews were again alternated, and Sam Houston departed on her third patrol in March. On this patrol, she was the first fleet ballistic missile submarine to enter the Mediterranean Sea where she joined the NATO forces. On a short operational visit to Izmir, Turkey, she became the first Polaris submarine to make a port-of-call during a patrol. With the two crews alternating every 90 days, Sam Houston completed six successful Polaris patrols by the end of the year.

By the end of 1964, Sam Houston had completed ten patrols. During 1965, she completed four additional deterrent patrols. During 1966, Sam Houston completed three more patrols, including her longest which lasted 71 days. On 10 August 1966, she returned to the United States for the first time since her deployment in 1962 and commenced a major overhaul at the United States Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On 30 October 1967, she got underway for sea trials, and, a month later, her Blue Crew began shakedown training. In January 1968, the Gold Crew conducted shakedown operations. Following further tests, she got under way for her 18th deterrent patrol, and put into Holy Loch on 25 May. By the end of the year, she was on her 21st patrol. During 1969, Sam Houston completed her 22nd through 24th patrols. In 1970, she continued to operate with Submarine Squadron 14 until shifting to the Mediterranean on 9 August to join Submarine Squadron 16.

She operated out of her advanced base at Rota, Spain, until October of 1972. On 27 November, she entered Charleston Naval Shipyard and began anextended in-port period, which included regular overhaul and the updating of her weapons and propulsion systems. As of May 1974, Sam Houston was still in port at Charleston, South Carolina.

Seven more years of history go here.

In 1981, in compliance with the SALT I treaty, the missile section of Sam Houston was decommissioned. Cement blocks were placed in the missile tubes, the missile fire control system was removed as was one of the ship's inertialnavigation systems. The ship was reclassified an attack submarine with hull classification symbol SSN-609 on 10 November 1980 and retained primarily for training, ASW exercises and other secondary duties. From September 1982 to September 1985, Sam Houston was modified in Bremerton, Washington, as an Amphibious Transport to carry frogmen or commandos. This included additional troop berthing, removal of some missile tube bases and the conversion of other missile tubes as air locks and stowage for equipment.

Deactivated while still in commission on 1 March 1991, Sam Houston began the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton the same day. She was formally decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 6 September and finished the recycling program on 3 February 1992. On the latter day, the ship was officially listed as scrapped.


This article includes information collected from the [[Dictionary of American Na val Fighting Ships]].