The USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN 631) was the fourteenth of the Lafayette Class of Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines to be built by Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, CT. General Dynamics was awarded the contract on 20, July 1961. Her keel was laid on 18 August 1962.
She was launched on 2 November 1963 and christened by her sponsor, Mrs. David W. Griffiths of Arlington, Virginia, a great-granddaughter of President Grant, the great Civil War General. Mrs. Griffiths took two swings with the Champagne bottle to successfully spray the bow of the Grant and launch her down the ways into the Thames River. The National Anthem was played by the Atlantic Fleet Cruiser/Destroyer Force Band. The invocation was given by Captain J.J. Tubbs, the New London Submarine Base Chaplain. General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division President, J. William Jones, Jr., gave the Welcome followed by remarks from General Dynamics President Roger Lewis. The main address was given by Admiral H.P. Smith, Commander-In-Chief of the unified United States Atlantic Forces, Commander-In-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet and Supreme Allied Commander of the Atlantic (NATO).
The Grant was the fifth nuclear powered submarine to be launched by General Dynamics/Electric Boat during 1963, establishing a new production record for nuclear powered submarines. The Grant was 425 feet long with a beam of 33 feet and a draft of 32 feet. Her displacement was 6650 tons surfaced and 8250 tons submerged. She had a speed of 16 knots surfaced and 32 knots submerged. The Grant’s test depth was 1300 feet, but was reduced to 700 feet after dry-docking bent her keel. The Grant carried 16 Polaris A-3 Missiles. Each A-3 missile was propelled by a two stage, solid propellant rocket motor and had a range of 2500 nautical miles. The sub also had four 21” torpedo tubes in the forward torpedo room. The ship was manned by alternating Blue and Gold crews and had a compliment of 16 officers and 148 enlisted men. While one crew was at sea on patrol, the other crew was ashore training. The “boomer” submarine was fast, silent and almost constantly at sea. Her location was unknown making her virtually immune to sneak attack. The primary mission of the USS Grant was to present a hidden underwater missile-launching platform and thus represent a very powerful deterrent force to any hostile nation.
The first Commanding Officer of the Blue Crew was CDR John L. From, Jr. of Boise, Idaho. He was the former commander of the George Washington Gold Crew and was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation as the first sub commander to make five Polaris patrols. The Gold Crew Commanding Officer was CDR C.A.K. McDonald of Kezar Falls, Maine. He was the former commander of the Barbero, a conventionally-powered guided missile sub.
The Grant made her first sea trial in May of 1964 with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the Nuclear Powered Submarines, aboard. The sub steamed at full power, submerged and surfaced while running through the paces of a successful sea trial. Admiral Rickover was pleased with the conduct of sea trials and praised the performance of the ship’s crew.
Richard Cardinal Cushing made a visit to the USS Grant on 13 July 1964 as a part of a tour of the General Dynamics boatyard.
The Grant was commissioned on 17 July 1964 at 2pm in ceremonies at the Groton Shipyard after completing successful sea trials. The Grant was the 42nd atomic powered submarine and the 22nd Polaris vessel to be commissioned. She was the 10th Polaris sub to be built by Electric Boat. Vice Admiral Horacio Rivero, Director of Navy Program Planning was scheduled to be the main speaker at the commissioning ceremony. However, he was promoted to Vice Chief of Naval Operations succeeding the late Admiral Claude V. Ricketts, who had passed away in early July. In his place, Vice Admiral Elton W. Grenfell, Commander of the Atlantic Submarine Force was scheduled to speak. A last minute change of plans found Rear Admiral Vernon Lowrance, Deputy Commander of the Atlantic Submarine Force, as the stand-in to make the main address at the commissioning ceremony. Lowrance quoted President Lincoln when he spoke of General Grant, “He is the quietest fellow you ever saw . . . . the only evidence that he is in any place is that he makes things go. Wherever he is, they move.” Said Lowrance, “This is an apt description of a vital ingredient of our Polaris Force.” Lowrance also praised the womenfolk behind the submarine crews when he said, “I cannot leave the subject of the ship’s company – – the people ingredient of the ship – – without mentioning briefly the very strong feeling of gratitude, respect and pride that I feel for the fine women behind these men”. The Deputy Commander’s remarks about families at home came after he had praised the submarine crews who dedicate themselves to sailing the Polaris submarines. Also participating in the ceremony was Rear Admiral Redfield Mason, Commandant of the Third Naval District and Allan L. Dunning, Assistant to the President of Electric Boat. Two telegrams were read during the ceremony from Read Admiral I.J. Galantin and Rear Admiral W.A. Brockett that commended Electric Boat for delivering the SSBN631 eighteen days ahead of schedule. The 45 minute ceremony was conducted in stifling heat. True “Navy grit” was displayed by an enlisted sailor who crumpled to the deck from the withering heat after long minutes at attention. When offered assistance by a Navy nurse, the sailor waved her off and struggled to his feet to sweat out the rest of the grueling but traditional pomp and ceremony. The USS Grant, fully loaded, cost an estimated $110 million.
The USS Grant loaded missiles in Charleston, South Carolina at the Naval Weapons Annex located seventeen miles up the Cooper River from the Charleston harbor. After loading, she headed to Cape Canaveral for a test firing of a Polaris A-3 missile by both crews. Each crew observed the other crew’s firing from the deck of the USS Ault, a destroyer escort used as an observation ship. During the time surrounding the missile shots, both crews had the opportunity to ride out hurricane-condition weather at sea. For the less experienced crewmen, the rolling of the ship at periscope depth brought new meaning to the naval expression “batten down the hatches”.
After the Blue Crew made a successful missile shot, the Gold Crew took command of the sub and successful fired a second missile off the Cape. The Gold Crew pulled into Ft. Lauderdale for a little R&R prior to returning to the shipyards for a final time.
The Gold Crew sailed the USS Grant through the Panama Canal with the USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN 634) following close behind on Dec 31, 1964.
The USS Grant arrived in Pearl Harbor to hula girls and a band playing on the dock in January of 1965. After a brief change of command ceremony, the Blue Crew took charge of the boat and upon re-supplying with provisions, they made the first deterrent patrol.
The Blue Crew returned from the first deterrent patrol and tied the USS Grant up next to the submarine tender USS Proteus in Apra Harbor, Guam in the Marianas Islands.
Met by the Gold Crew in April of 1965, the beginning of “Change of Command” procedures got underway and were repeated every three months between the two crews. The off-duty crew would return by plane to the beautiful weather of the Island of Oahu and the sites of Waikiki and the Hawaiian Islands for a well deserved Rest and Relaxation (R&R). Some of the men lived off base. Many of the younger single men resided on Ford Island, the home of the Polaris Submarine Command Offices and training facilities for the off-duty men. The Ford Island Barracks was home for many.
The Polaris Training Facility was complete with several simulators including a floating “Control Room” platform and a complete “Polaris Missile Tube” for systems training. Many of the men completed Steinke-hood requalification at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, just across the harbor from Ford Island. The sailors attended many training programs including Small Arms Qualification on the firing range, Prisoner of War Training Program and many systems training courses.
On 11 June 1965, CDR Robert W. Dickieson relieved Captain John L. From as commanding officer of the blue crew in ceremonies at Ford Island. CDR Dickieson was commanding officer of the Sculpin previously. Captain From reported to the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff at Offut AFB in Nebraska.
At a ceremony on Ford Island on 30 July 1966, fifteen men on the Grant gold crewmen were awarded their dolphins by CDR C.A.K. McDonald. Wayne Harding, MM2, was presented an Excellent Pistol Shot Award. Russell Robinette, MM2, John Harmon, MM2, Eugene Parkos, STS2 and Joseph Cataldo, MM1 re-enlisted at the ceremony. After each patrol, each crew conducted awards ceremonies where many men were recognized for their efforts, rate promotions, course completions, etc. This became a regular ritual through the last patrol of the Grant in 1991.
On 14 August 1966, CDR and Mrs. D.V. Gorman announced the presentation of a personal derringer which belonged to General Ulysses S. Grant at a Gold Crew ships party at Fort Shafter NCO Club. CDR Gorman, owner of the derringer, was the commanding officer of the USS Ernest G. Small (DD-838), home-ported in Pearl Harbor. The priceless heirloom was said to have been carried by General Grant throughout the Civil War. The derringer was presented to the gold and blue crew skippers, CDR McDonald and CDR Herndon respectively, at a change of command ceremony in Guam in November. The pistol remained aboard ship as a memento of its namesake. CDR McDonald presented a ship’s plaque to the Gorman’s. CDR Gorman is an honorary member of the USS Grant Forum.
On 1 Oct 1966, Donald H. Strickland, a chief quartermaster aboard the USS Grant, became Army Warrant Officer Strickland, WO-1. Strickland had spent 19 years aboard submarines when he answered the call for men to operate and maintain the Army’s cargo vessels, floating cranes, self-propelled barges and landing craft in Vietnam. Strickland was among the first to apply and may have been the first nuclear submarine sailor to serve as an Army Warrant Officer in the Army/Navy conversion program.
On 21 Jan 1967, CDR McDonald of the Gold Crew, at an inspection ceremony on Ford Island, presented seventeen crewmen with certificates of advancement in rate; three were advancements to Chief Petty Officer. He also presented Good Conduct Awards to Edward G. Plourde, FTC and Norris D. West, EM1. This was Chief Plourde’s fifth Good Conduct Award, a truly noteworthy achievement. Captain H.G. Nott, Commander Submarine Squadron Fifteen Representative at Pearl Harbor, conducted the inspection. He complimented the crew for their outstanding appearance and their obvious high state of morale and readiness.
On 25 Jan 1967, John F. Hildenbrand, MM2, of the USS Grant gold crew, was re-enlisted at Ford Island by CDR McDonald. This was the 20th re-enlistment of Grant Gold crewmen in the past year. The overall average for the Grant gold crew was 82% during this time period. This was to be a tradition among men of the Grant. The Grant continued to have very high rates of retention through all 27 years of service.
In June of 1967, CDR Raymond E. Engle relieved CDR McDonald as the Commanding Officer of the Gold Crew. CDR Engle was the previous commanding officer of the Seadragon and was on the commissioning crew of the Nautilus. CDR McDonald reported to the Pentagon as Special Assistant (Submarines) to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development.
In June of 1968, the USS Grant became the first submarine in the history of the NEY Award’s Program to enter the finals in the annual Food Service competition. On October of 1968, CDR Thomas U. Sisson, Blue Crew Commanding Officer, presented Letters of Commendation to CS2 Lawrence Forehand, CS3 Loyal Wood, CS2 Michael Casey, SK1 Harvey Lawrence and LTJG Richard Hadley, the Ship’s Food Service Officer. Also recognized were the messcrew seamen, William Smith, Norman Schroeder, Robert Gargac, Robert Phelps and John Carter.
On 30 August 1968, an accident aboard the Grant resulted in the crushing of a gold crew petty officer’s arm under the periscope. This necessitated a major operation lasting over two hours in seas that were heavy due to Typhoon Wendy. The successful operation was performed by Lt Robert G. Wallace, the ship’s doctor. Four Grant crewmen were later honored for their actions which saved the life of the crewmember. Awarded the Navy Commendation Medal were HM1 Walter W. Dine, TMSN Dana E. Arskov and YN1 Thomas M. Asher and receiving a Letter of Commendation was MM1 Larry D. Haws. The awards were presented by Captain Marvin C. Scoggins, Jr., COMSUBRON 15 representative. Lt. Wallace who performed the successful operation was posthumously awarded the Navy Commendation Medal in December.
In May of 1969, Merwyn E. Salfel, ENC(SS), was re-enlisted by CDR Sisson, commanding officer of the Blue Crew. Chief Salfel had already completed nearly 14 years of active service.
The Gold Crew participated in an Art Appreciation program while on patrol in April of 1969. The National Gallery of Art had an extension program whereby they furnished lecture materials, textbooks, film presentations and actual color reproductions of famous paintings to participants. On Sunday afternoons, the crewmen participating could stroll through the corridors of the National Art Gallery by proxy. The Grant crewmen called their gallery the National Gallery Pacific Undersea Annex. CDR Engle of the Gold Crew reported that some 10% of the men had become art aficionados. The program had its beginning when a crew member wrote the curator of the gallery after reading an article in National Geographic magazine which mentioned the galleries extension program.
In May of 1969, the Gold Crew hosted a dependent’s cruise with borrowed dependents in Guam. Since it was impossible for the crew members dependents to travel 3300 miles to Guam from Hawaii, an invitation was sent out to Guam-based servicemen to bring their families for a guest cruise. Since many of the Navy men in Guam were members of the SSBN submarine support group, this gave them an opportunity to see the results of their efforts. The group of 130 guests were treated to a continuous brunch in the mess decks and were given tours of all spaces forward of the Reactor compartment. They were given the opportunity to listen to underwater biological sounds, control the submerged sub and look through the periscopes. The ship fired a water slug from one of the torpedo tubes as a demonstration for the guests.
After completing her 19th patrol in 1969, the USS Grant returned to Pearl Harbor in late August on her way to enter the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an extended refueling overhaul and conversion to the Poseidon Weapons System.
During the brief stay at Pearl Harbor, the ship conducted a dependents cruise on a Wednesday afternoon. Recollections are that the dependents were treated to a dive to 500 feet. Pre-overhaul testing was conducted by the nukes. Crewmen said their good-byes to friends in Oahu, shipped their belongings to the mainland, settled their accounts and headed back to sea. The Grant then transited to Puget Sound to begin a major overhaul. She arrived in the yards in late 1969.
The Grant underwent an extensive weapons upgrade capability to the Poseidon C-3 missile. The C-3 was a 65,000 lb. missile capable of carrying 14 Mirv individually targeted warheads. The two stage solid propellant rocket was 74 inches in diameter and 34 feet long. The weapon system had twice the accuracy and twice the explosive power of the A-3 Polaris missile. The Grant also went through reactor refueling operations during the overhaul.
In July of 1970, Charles Lawley, Jr., ET1, was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal by CDR Sisson for his professional skill, initiative, resourcefulness and dedication which contributed significantly to the successful completion of nine Polaris Patrols on the Gold Crew. Charles is a plank owner and made 18 patrols on the Grant.
Upon completion of the overhaul, the USS Grant again transited the Panama Canal to her new homeport in Charleston, South Carolina. She completed a shakedown cruise (DASO) and successfully launched her first Poseidon missile at sea.
The Grant is the fourth submarine to fire the new Poseidon missile. The others were the USS Von Steuben, James Madison and Daniel Boone, SSBN’s 632, 627 and 629 respectively.
The Grant was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation as a part of Submarine Squadron 15 for the time period July 1, 1968 through October 1, 1970 for the crew’s Cold War espionage efforts. This award was recently mentioned in the book, “Blind Man’s Bluff”.
In 1971, the Grant began deterrent patrols operating from Holy Loch, Scotland, while homeported in Charleston, South Carolina.
In June of 1973, at the invitation of CDR Adler, Commanding Officer of the Blue Crew, the 8th Greenock Company of Boys’ Brigade toured the Grant in Holy Loch.
In 1975, CDR Frederick N. Jerding relieved CDR R. W. Adler as the Blue Crew Commanding Officer. CDR Jerding was previously aboard the John C. Calhoun, Simon Bolivar and the James Madison.
In February of 1975, the USS Grant acquired an unusual mascot while in port in Holy Loch, Scotland. A 12 year old, 2072 pound Clydesdale horse named Cicero, became an official mascot. Cicero was a drum horse for the Royal Lifeguards came complete with two drums weighing 61 pounds each and a drummer to keep rhythm when Cicero is occupied with his daily duty at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. A picture of Cicero was hung aboard the Grant for the crew to admire. A photograph of General Grant is on prominent display at the calvary headquarters, the official home of Cicero at Buckingham Palace.
In August of 1975, CDR Thomas E. Hutt relieved CDR. H.E. Marxer of command in
Charleston, South Carolina. CDR Hutt took the ship to Holy Loch, Scotland and
completed 3 patrols before being detached for further duty in May of 1977. The ship
combined crews under Blue Crew CDR Jerding. During CDR Hutt’s command, the Grant
participated in training exercises with the British Navy and visited their port of
Rosyth, Scotland. They also provided training for a U.S. Navy carrier and another
submarine. The crew also pioneered a difficult repair to the reactor plant.
In February of 1976, Newport News Shipbuilding was awarded a $3.8 million contract to prepare to overhaul the USS U.S. Grant.
Upon completion of the 42nd patrol (23 patrols in Atlantic), the USS Grant entered Newport News Shipyard in Virginia for an extensive overhaul.
In January of 1979, CDR Donald E. Watkins took command of the Gold Crew after completion of the overhaul in which the two crews had been combined under the blue crew command. CDR Watkins previously served on the submarines Henry Clay, Snook and the James Madison. The Grant began undergoing DASO shakedown cruise after the overhaul in early 1979.
On 23 February 1979, CDR Winfred G. Ellis of Gales Ferry relieved CDR Frederick N. Jerding as the Blue Crew Commanding Officer in ceremonies aboard the Grant at the Navy Pier in Port Canaveral, Florida. CDR Ellis was previously aboard the submarines Catfish, Snook, Trepang, Billfish and Andrew Jackson. CDR Jerding reported to the Trident submarine project office in Washington, D.C.
On 26 May 1979, a C-3 missile was successfully launched from the Grant in the Eastern Test Range off Cape Canaveral, Florida. The firing of the missile culminated a two month post overhaul shakedown operation which included MK48 Torpedo certification, Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection, Operating Reactors, a Safeguard Exam and a month-long demonstration operation. The Gold Crew, under the command of CDR Donald E. Watkins began this on-crew shakedown period at the change of command ceremony on April 1st at Charleston, South Carolina. The first major evolution was MK-48 certification conducted at the Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center in the Tongue of the Ocean at the Bahaman Islands. The ship’s torpedo and fire control party demonstrated its ability to detect, track and determine an accurate firing solution under simulated war time conditions. After this evolution, the Grant Gold Crew enjoyed several days of fun in the sun during a port call visit to Port Everglades, Florida. The next evolution on May 5th, was conducted in conjunction with the Navy’s Special Projects Office and the Naval Ordinance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral. During this period, the Grant was host to numerous visitors including Congressman, Flag Officers, College Professors, ROTC and high school students as well as dependents and friends of the crew. The submerged C-3 missile launch on the 26th of May was witnessed by on-board guests including Congressmen Claude Leach (R-Louisiana), James Jeffries (R-Kansas), William Carney (R-New York) and Ike Skelton (D-Missouri). Also on board were RADM C.R. Larson, Director of Strategic Submarine Division and Trident Program and James P. Wade, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy. Approximately 25 dependents were among the 300 guests to view the launch topside from the USNS Range Sentenial.
The Blue Crew relieved the Gold Crew upon completion of the shakedown (DASO) cruise to begin their own shakedown operations under the command of CDR Ellis.
After 15 years absence, the Blue Crew sailed the USS U.S. Grant into New London, Connecticut on July 17, 1979. To commemorate the event, the Blue Crew enjoyed a Saturday afternoon cruise with their families and friends on the 21st. The guests enjoyed the rare opportunity to look out of the periscope and ride the sail planes. The USS Grant, now homeported in New London, is a member of Submarine Squadron Fourteen. She will begin making patrols from Holy Loch, Scotland with the Gold Crew in command.
In December of 1979, the Grant Gold Crew completed the 43rd deterrent patrol, the first deterrent patrol since her extensive overhaul. Of the 143 gold crew members completing the patrol, 94 individuals were making their first patrol. Fifty-four crewmembers completed their qualification in submarines during the patrol.
Prior to starting the 45th patrol from Holy Loch in late March of 1980, the Gold Crew conducted an unscheduled Defense Nuclear Security Inspection (DNSI) followed by a Nuclear Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (NWTPI). The crew was evaluated as outstanding (DNSI) and excellent (NWTPI) in all areas. The Grant also made a brief dry-dock to start the refit. The Grant made a port call to Wilhelmshaven, Germany in early May. On 6 May 1980, the Grant made a four-day port visit to La Spezia, Italy. This is the first time an SSBN has visited an Italian port. Prior to the Grants return to Holy Loch for change of command, the Gold Crew successfully passed an Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination.
Before beginning the 46th patrol, the Grant made a four-day port visit at Portland, England. The Blue Crew brought the boat into Her Majesty’s Naval Port on the 4th of July, 1980. A band greeted the Grant at the pier. All the ships in the harbor were decked out in holiday colors with a large U.S. flag on each British ship. The Admiralty held a 21-gun salute to honor Independence Day. The Grant returned the salute by a ship’s Honor Guard. The Blue Crewmembers were given tours of British ships as well as free tours of Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath and London. As the Grant eased out of port a few days later, she met a German Destroyer as she turned to the open sea. The German ship signaled a flashing light message wishing the Grant the best of luck and smooth sailing. Other highlights of the patrol included a “Blue Nose” Night for those crewmen first crossing the Arctic Circle.
On 23 July 1980, crewmembers and families of the Grant Gold Crew traveled to New York City to visit Grant’s Tomb and to pay homage to the ship’s namesake. The visit marked the 95th anniversary of the death of President Grant. Commander Watkins and Chief of the Boat John K. Carroll, ETCM(SS), commemorated the occasion by laying a wreath at the base of the National Memorial. Following the wreath laying, four crewmen re-enlisted in ceremonies at Grant’s Tomb. They were MSC(SS) Ernesto G. Urian, RM1(SS) Michael J. Behnke, MT2(SS) Dennis A. Hart and MS3(SS) David W. Miller.
In June of 1981, CDR Charles T. Weaver relieved CDR Winford G. Ellis as Commanding Officer of the Blue Crew in ceremonies at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton. CDR Weaver of Gales Ferry, Connecticut, was the previous commanding officer of the Patrick Henry and Ethan Allen as well as Sam Houston, Mariano G. Vallejo and the Simon Bolivar. CDR Ellis was named the prospective commanding officer of the USS Corpus Christi, SSN 705 under construction at Electric Boat.
Prior to the start of the 49th deterrent patrol, the Grant gold crew spent a month in dry-dock for a month long refit at Holy Loch alongside the USS Holland (AS-32). During this time, a Navy Technical Weapons Proficiency Inspection was conducted in which the crew received an overall grade of excellent. Upon completion of the patrol, an Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination was conducted with a grade of above average.
In August of 1981, CDR Wesley M. Sherer relieved CDR Donald E. Watkins as Commanding Officer of the Gold Crew in ceremonies at Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton. CDR Sherer of Freeport, Illinois, was the previous Executive Officer of the submarine Billfish. CDR Watkins will report to the strategic weapons systems section with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C.
In September of 1981, CDR Winfred G. “Jerry” Ellis was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding meritorious service as the commanding officer of the USS U.S. Grant Blue Crew.
The 51st Grant deterrent patrol was highlighted by a port call to Rosyth, Scotland near Edinburgh from December 16 to the 19, 1981. The Gold Crewmembers were hosted by the HMS Revenge, a British FBM submarine homeported in Rosyth.
In April of 1982, a joint project by the wives of the gold and blue crews, created a large banner emblazoned with the seal of the USS Grant.
During patrol 53, the Gold Crew hosted five Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy. All five left the Grant at the end of the patrol, “Qualified in Submarines”.
The Gold Crew received a grade of “Outstanding” on a Navy Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection (NWTPI) during patrol 55.
On 23 June 1983, CDR Joseph F. Sabatini relieved CDR Charles T. Weaver as commanding officer of the Grant Blue Crew at ceremonies at the North Lake at the Submarine Base. CDR Sabatini previously served on the submarines Blueback, Grampus, Stonewall Jackson, Tecumseh and most recently the submarine Ray. CDR Weaver will report to the staff of the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In December of 1983, the USS Grant returned to the Submarine Base in New London with the blue crew and CDR Sabatini successfully completing patrol number 58 in preparation for an overhaul.
In February of 1984, after completion of patrol 58 (16 patrols homeported in New London), the USS Grant entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a refueling overhaul. Both crews were combined into one command under CDR Sabatini for the overhaul.
The USS Grant got underway from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to begin sea trials on April 6, 1987. As the boat was leaving the harbor, heavy seas swept two Grant crewmen from the deck. Both men were washed by 12 foot waves into the sea. both men were tethered to the deck. LTJG David Jimenez, 24, was pulled from the 41 degree water by the Coast Guard rescue boat which had a difficult time returning the two miles to shore in the rough seas and low 1/4 mile visibility. He had a faint pulse and the Coast Guard administered CPR. Ninety minutes after being plucked from the frigid waters, LTJG Jiminez was pronounced dead at the Portsmouth hospital. The other Grant crewmen, Chief Torpedoman Larry V. Thompson, 37, remained missing despite an intensive search by the Coast Guard. The Chief was last seen tethered to the sub alongside in the sea. Attempts by a second Coast Guard rescue boat to come alongside to pull Chief Thompson from the sea proved impossible because of the 12 foot seas crashing over the sub. As the Grant kept moving along at about 5 knots, another Grant crewman crawled along the sub’s deck towards Thompson and cut him loose. Thompson bobbed once in the sea and then disappeared, even though their were two rescue craft within 25 feet of him. Search efforts continued until 7:17pm when the search was suspended due to darkness. A memorial service for both men was held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at 11am on Easter Monday, April 20, 1987.
After successful completion of the overhaul and sea trials, the Grant became operational in June of 1987. She docked at the Subase following the 41-month refueling overhaul.
On 9 June 1987, CDR William R. Hansell relieved CDR Joseph F. Sabatini as commanding officer of the Grant Blue Crew at ceremonies at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. CDR Hansell, a native of Broomall, Pennsylvania, previously served on the submarine Andrew Jackson as the Executive Officer. CDR Sabatini will take temporary interim command of the Gold Crew.
On 1 July 1987, CDR Michael P. McBride relieved CDR Joseph F. Sabatini as commanding officer of the Grant Gold Crew. CDR McBride, a native of Denver, Colorado, previously served as the Executive Officer on the USS Lafayette (SSBN 616) and also on the submarines Will Rogers (SSBN 659) and L. Mendel Rivers (SSN 686). CDR Sabatini will reside in Arlington, Virginia.
Following an extensive shakedown period, the Grant resumed patrols out of Holy Loch, Scotland in early 1988.
On 30 March 1990, CDR Kevin J. Carroll relieved CDR Michael P. McBride as the Commanding Officer of the Gold Crew in ceremonies at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton. CDR Carroll, a native of Oak Harbor, Washington, previously served as the Executive Officer of the USS Pargo (SSN 650) and on the submarines Pintado (SSN 672) and Seadragon (SSN 584).
On 10 August 1990, CDR Bruce L. Bullough relieved CDR William R. Hansell as Commanding Officer of the Blue Crew in ceremonies at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton. CDR Bullough, a native of Alabama, previously served as the Commanding Officer of the USS Jack (SSN 605), Executive Officer aboard the USS Tullibee and the Lafayette (SSBN 616), served on the submarines Daniel Webster (SSBN 626), George C. Marshall (SSBN 654), Sunfish (SSN 649) and also served aboard two diesel boats, the USS Tirante (SS 420) and the USS Grenadere (SS 525). The main address was delivered by RADM William P. Houley, Commander Submarine Group Two. RADM Houley was a member of the Grant Crew in 1963 when he reported aboard as LT Houley and became the DC Officer.
In March of 1991, the USS Grant Supply Department was awarded the Squadron Fourteen Blue “E” for fiscal year 1990.
On 1 October 1991, the USS Ulysses S. Grant and the USS Kamehameha along with eight other Poseidon submarines were on patrol when their ballistic missile systems were officially deactivated. The deactivation had been scheduled for months because of defense cuts and arms limitation agreements. With the retirement of the Poseidon ballistic missile system, the Groton for the first time in 25 years, no longer supports any ballistic missile submarines. The Grant and the Kamehameha were the last two submarines to leave on patrol from Holy Loch, Scotland, which the Navy is closing. The Grant and Kamehameha will be greeted dockside by family and friends as well as officials from Submarine Group Two in a special welcome at the subase.
The Grant glided quietly under the Gold Star Memorial Bridge as she completed her 72nd and last strategic patrol in October of 1991. Fitting headlines in the paper stated, “Poseidons Come In From The Cold”. The missile systems aboard the Grant were taken off alert at 12:01 am on Oct 1st. The era of the “Forty-One for Freedom” had come to an end. Thirty-one of the submarines that had been refitted to carry the Poseidon missile and most will be decommissioned and scrapped. Twelve of the forty-one were later refitted for the Trident-I missile and were scheduled to be retired in 1996.
On 7 November 1991, CDR Kevin J. Carroll, Commanding Officer of the Gold Crew assumed command of the Blue Crew from CDR Bruce L. Bullough. CDR Carroll will combine the personnel from both crews into one unit that will man the submarine until it is deactivated from service. CDR Bullough will assume duties at Commander Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet as Shipyard Representative in Groton.
The USS U.S. Grant (SSBN 631) will be officially deactivated in a message delivered to the crew by VADM Roger Bacon at the New London Submarine Base on 19 December 1991. The Vice Admiral said the the USS Grant and her crews had helped bring an end to the Cold War. A Deactivation Ceremony was held on the subase later that day. RADM Howard W. Habermeyer, Commander of SubGroup Two will be the main speaker. Frank Williams, president of the Ulysses S. Grant Historical Society, will also speak. CDR Carroll presented Frank Williams with the General Grant’s pistol that had been mounted in a glass case in the wardroom in 1966 when it was donated by Commander and Mrs. Donald V. Gorman. The pistol will now go on display at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. RADM Habermeyer and CDR Carroll were presented with wooden plaques commemorating the mission of the submarine. Each plaque was mounted on a metal plate that once designated the number of one of the submarine’s missile tubes. Each of the 16 tubes had three areas where a plate was mounted. The Grant’s Missile Technicians made 48 plaques and are distributing them to the missile technicians, fire control technicians and weapons officers on the last crew. A poem on the back of the Deactivation Brochure commemorated the Grants 27 years of service.
“One ship leaves the Navy today.
One ship of hundreds
Will feel the ocean one last time.
Yet she takes with her the knowledge
That she has served her nation and her men
as well as any ship could.
This one submarine which carries her name
The history of all such craft
That have ever flown our nation’s flag.
The Grant is before us now,
Twenty-seven years serving with pride.
What was once a smooth hull and pristine lines,
The newest and the best of all.
Now shows the scars from welder’s torch;
From repairs and patches made of necessity.
No innocent youth, this ship,
She wears her age well, with pride,
For even at the end,
She is among the best.”
Early in 1992, the USS Grant again transited the Panama Canal on it’s way to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she was deactivated after 27.9 years of service. The Grant was stricken from the Navy’s list of ships on 12 June 1992 and disposed of by the naval submarine recycling program on 23 Oct 1993.
The “History of USS Ulysses S. Grant SSBN 631” is printed above with the express approval of author Michael Arterburn from his publication of “USS Ulysses S. Grant SSBN 631 Ships Log Book” published June 1, 2007, 3rd Edition, Copyright 2002 by Arterburn Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.