The USS Will Rogers was the final member of the Benjamin Franklin class of ballistic missile submarines (also known as “Boomers”). It was named in honor of famed comedian Will Rogers, who was killed in a plane crash with famed aviator Wiley Post in 1935. It is the only vessel in U.S. Navy history to be named in his honor.
The contract to build the Will Rogers was awarded to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp.’s Groton (Conn.) Shipyard on July 29 1963. Her keel was laid down March 20, 1965; she was launched on July 21, 1966. She was commissioned on April 1, 1967, with Capt. R.Y. Kaufman in command of the Blue Crew and Commander W.J. Cowhill commanding the Gold Crew.
Assigned to the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, the Will Rogers completed her shakedown and training cruises with the test firing of a Polaris ballistic missile from the waters off Cape Canaveral on July 31, 1967. She began her first 70-day nuclear deterrent deployment later that year.
For the first five years of her operational career, 16 Polaris missiles served as the Will Rogers’ primary weapons system. In 1972, however, she entered dry dock for an overhaul. During this overhaul, the Polaris missiles were removed and replaced with the newer Poseidon ballistic missile system. In 1974, she returned to active duty and resumed deterrence patrols.
The Will Rogers was homeported at Groton, Conn., but in 1974 she was deployed to the Navy’s forward operating base at Rota, Spain. For the next four years, she operated out of Rota. She was later transferred to another one of the Navy’s larger forward operating bases at Holy Loch, Scotland. She would operate from Holy Loch for more than a decade.
The Will Rogers won two consecutive Battle “E”s for outstanding combat preparedness. She received those awards for the 1979 and 1980 fiscal years.
The Will Rogers was deactivated on Nov. 2, 1992. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on April 12, 1993; she entered the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Wash., and was declared scrapped on Aug. 12, 1994.
Characteristics of the USS Will Rogers (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 Will Rogers
Awarded: 29 July 1963
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut
Laid down: 20 March 1965
Launched: 21 July 1966
Commissioned: 1 April 1967
Decommissioned: 12 April 1993
Struck: 12 April 1993
Fate: submarine recycling
July 1963: USS Will Rogers ordered
March 1965: Keel of USS Will Rogers laid down
1972—74: USS Will Rogers rearmed with Poseidon nuclear missiles
1979: USS Will Rogers wins first Battle “E”
April 1993: USS Will Rogers decommissioned
Crewmembers of the USS Will Rogers:
An unofficial list of crew members that served on the USS Will Rogers 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:
Henry Krzykowsi (served July 1977—April 1982): “BY FAR THE BEST COMMAND I WAS AT. SO MUCH RESPECT FOR CAPT MARSH AND HIS LEADERSHIP.”
David Hurd (served March 1978—September 1980): “I HAVE SURE MISSED THE CREW OF THE “WILLY R”. THE CLOSEST THING TO A FAMILY I EVER HAD.”
Daniel Bernier (served March 1978—October 1986): “WISH I HAD KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE CREWS,BOTH WERE GREAT GUYS,SERVED BOTH BLUE THEN GOLD.”
July 1966: USS Will Rogers launched
April 1967: USS Will Rogers commissioned