USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642): History, Patrols, Crews
The USS Kamehameha was a member of the Benjamin Franklin class of ballistic missile submarines (also known as “Boomers”). She was named in honor of King Kamehameha, who united the warring factions of the Hawaiian Islands under his reign. She is one of only two vessels in the history of the U.S. Navy to be named after a monarch.
The contract to build the Kamehameha was awarded to the Mare Island (Calif.) Naval Shipyard on Aug. 31, 1962. Her keel was laid down on May 2, 1963; she was launched on Jan. 16, 1965. She was commissioned on Dec. 10, 1965, with Commander Roth S. Leddick commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Robert W. Dickieson commanding the Gold Crew.
After her commissioning, the Kamehameha joined the Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Squadron 15 and was homeported at her forward base at Guam. She completed a number of deterrence patrols in the Western Pacific and received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her outstanding performance between July of 1968 and July 1970.
In July 1970, the Kamehameha was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet, joining Submarine Squadron 18 at Charleston, S.C. After a little less than a year of service in the Atlantic, she was ordered to Groton, Conn., for an overhaul. The overhaul was completed in October 1972 and the Kamehameha returned to the waters of the Atlantic.
In June 1973, the Kamehameha was transferred to Submarine Squadron 16, which was homeported at Rota, Spain. In 1978, she received her first Battle Efficiency “E” for outstanding combat preparedness. After six years at Rota, the Kamehameha returned to Charleston and rejoined Submarine Squadron 18.
After five years with Submarine Squadron 18, the Kamehameha was on the move again, joining Submarine Squadron 14. In 1985, she received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for a second time; she was also named the Atlantic Fleet’s Ballistic Missile Submarine Top Performer.
In November 1986, the Kamehameha began a major overhaul at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Naval Shipyard. It would be more than three years before she would return to the Atlantic for a deterrence patrol.
In the 1990s, most Benjamin Franklin-class submarines were preparing for retirement. The Kamehameha, however, was ordered back to Mare Island in July 1992 for conversion into a special operations attack submarine. Her ballistic missiles were removed and she was re-designated SSN-642. In August 1993, the Kamehameha arrived at Pearl Harbor to join Submarine Squadron One, where she would serve as a platform for Navy SEALs conducting special operations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans or the Persian Gulf. In her new role, the Kamehameha would win two more Meritorious Unit Commendations and her only Expeditionary Medal, for her service in Operation Restore Hope.
The longest-serving nuclear submarine in U.S. Navy history, the Kamehameha was decommissioned after 37 years of service on April 2, 2002. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. She entered the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Wash., in October 2001 and was declared scrapped on Feb. 28, 2003. Still, parts of her remain—items including her sail and statue of King Kamehameha were returned to Pearl Harbor.
Characteristics of the USS Kamehameha (Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Displacement: 6,494 tons
Length: 129.5 m (425 ft)
Beam: 10 m (33 ft) Draft: 9.6 m (32 ft)
Propulsion: S5W reactor
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h) surfaced, 21 knots (39 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 400 m (1,300 ft)
Complement: two crews of 14 officers and 126 enlisted men each
Armament: 16 missile tubes, 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Name: USS Kamehameha
Ordered: 31 August 1962
Laid down: 2 May 1963
Launched: 16 January 1965
Commissioned: 10 December 1965
Decommissioned: 2 April 2002
Struck: 2 April 2002
Motto: “Imua”/ “Kam do”
Fate: Submarine recycling
August 1962: USS Kamehameha ordered
May 1963: USS Kamehameha’s keel laid down
January 1965: USS Kamehameha launched
December 1965: USS Kamehameha commissioned
1970: USS Kamehameha wins Meritorious Unit Commendation; transferred to Atlantic Fleet
1985: USS Kamehameha named best performing ballistic missile submarine in the Atlantic Fleet
July 1992: USS Kamehameha begins refitting as an special operations attack submarine; re-designated SSN-642
April 2002: USS Kamehameha decommissioned
Crewmembers of the USS Kamehameha:
An unofficial list of crew members that served on the USS Kamehameha can be found on the unofficial navy website at: http://navysite.de. This list is compiled by former crewmembers that voluntarily register. Some quoted comments from former crewmembers are listed below; many more are available on the source website at the following Web address:
Joe Ferguson (served 1983—1986): “Great Experience.”
Bill Larusch (served Januar 1983—May 1986): “Some of the greatest memories and travels I have had. Great crew and great boat. Still keep in contact with a lot of shipmates. Wish we had another re-union.”
Dan Schreiter (served March 1983—December 1985): “in Cocoa Beach, lookout when we got the name “wet crew””