The USS Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Ethan Allen class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (commonly referred to as “Boomers”). She was the second ship in U.S. Navy history named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson.
The order to build the Thomas Jefferson was awarded to the Newport News (Va.) Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. on July 22, 1960. Her keel was laid down on Feb. 3, 1961; she was launched on Feb. 24, 1962. She was commissioned on Jan. 4, 1963, with Commander Leon H. Rathbun commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Charles Priest, Jr. commanding the Gold Crew.
The Thomas Jefferson was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and joined Submarine Squadron 14 once her shakedown cruise was completed. On Oct. 28, 1963, she began her first nuclear deterrent patrol, which ended at Holy Loch, Scotland, in December. She would operate out of Holy Loch for the next four years, completing 15 patrols and acting as the flagship of Submarine Squadron 14. In 1966, she returned to New London, Conn., and completed one more patrol before heading back to Newport News for her first overhaul.
The Thomas Jefferson’s overhaul was competed in June 1968, and her return to deterrence patrols came in October. On Dec. 5, 1968, she arrived at Rota, Spain, where she would operate for more than four years. The Thomas Jefferson made four deterrence patrols each year from 1969-72, as well as conducting special operations missions. She received two Meritorious Unit Commendations, in 1971 and 1972, during her stay at Rota.
The Thomas Jefferson completed 36 patrols in the Atlantic before being transferred to the Pacific Fleet in June 1974. She arrived at the Mare Island (Calif.) Naval Shipyard for another overhaul on July 1, a process that lasted until Nov. 17, 1975. After passing back and forth through the Panama Canal to test fire Polaris ballistic missiles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Thomas Jefferson returned to operational duty, based out of San Diego.
In the early 1980′s, the Thomas Jefferson underwent a major change. Cement blocks were placed in her ballistic missile tubes and her fire control and inertial navigation systems were also removed to comply with the terms of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) between the United States and the Soviet Union. She became an attack submarine, with the official re-designation of SSN-618 on March 11, 1981. From this point on, she was primarily used for training and other secondary duties.
The Thomas Jefferson would win two Battle Efficiency “E”s for outstanding combat preparedness during her career, during the 1979 and 1980 fiscal years.
The Thomas Jefferson was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 30, 1986. She entered the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Wash., and was declared scrapped on March 6, 1998.
Characteristics of the USS Thomas Jefferson
Type: Ballistic Missile Submarine
Displacement: approx. 7,900 tons submerged
Length: 410 ft 4 in (125.1 m)
Beam: 33.1 ft (10.1 m)
Draft: 27 ft 5 in (8.4 m)
Propulsion: S5W reactor – two geared steam turbines – one shaft
Speed: 16 knots surfaced, 21 knots (24 mph/39 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 1,300 ft (400 m)
Complement: 12 Officers and 128 Enlisted (two crews Blue and Gold)
Armament: 16 fleet ballistic missiles, 4 x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Name: USS Thomas Jefferson
Namesake: Named for the third President of the United States.
Ordered: 22 July 1960
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 3 February 1961
Launched: 24 February 1962
Commissioned: 4 January 1963
Struck: 30 April 1986
Fate: Ship and Submarine Recycling Program
July 1960: USS Thomas Jefferson ordered
February 1961: Keel of USS Thomas Jefferson laid down
February 1962: USS Thomas Jefferson launched
January 1963: USS Thomas Jefferson commissioned
October 1963: USS Thomas Jefferson begins first deterrence patrol
December 1968: USS Thomas Jefferson transferred to Rota, Spain
March 1981: USS Thomas Jefferson re-designated SSN-618
April 1986: USS Thomas Jefferson decommissioned
Crewmembers of the USS Thomas Jefferson:
An unofficial list of crew members that served on the USS Thomas Jefferson 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:
John Pike (served March 1968-1970):”Joined crew in Newport News, shipyards, and did 3 patrols with the gold crew. Finished enlistment with the Nautilus.”
Ed Foster (served March 1968-June 1972): “Greatest times, from Refit in N.P.News and 8 patrols afterwords. Miss the great guys I worked with. Learned to value whats important in life. Went on to become a Systems Eng. at Millstone NPP in Wtfd. CT,retired & loving it.”