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USS George Washington (SSBN 598)

- formerly USS SCORPION (SSN 589) -
- later SSN 598 -
- decommissioned -

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON was the Navy's first nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine. GEORGE WASHINGTON was originally scheduled to become USS SCORPION (SSN 589). During her construction she was lengthened by the insertion of a 130-foot missile section and was finished as fleet ballistic missile submarine.

In the early 1980s, the GEORGE WASHINGTON was redesignated as SSN 598 and her missile launch capability was disabled to comply with the SALT I treaty. The WASHINGTON mainly conducted training exercises in her new role. Decommissioned on January 24, 1985, and stricken from the Navy list on April 30, 1986, the GEORGE WASHINGTON spent the next years at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., awaiting to be disposed of through the Navy's Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program. Recycling of the GEORGE WASHINGTON was finished on September 30, 1998, however, her sail was preserved at the Navy's Submarine Force Museum at New London, CT.

General Characteristics:Awarded: December 31, 1957
Keel laid: November 1, 1958
Launched: June 9, 1959
Commissioned: December 30, 1959
Decommissioned: January 24, 1985
Builder: Electric Boat Co., Groton, Conn.
Propulsion system: one S5W nuclear reactor
Propellers: one
Length: 381.6 feet (116.3 meters)
Beam: 33.1 feet (10.1 meters)
Draft: 28.9 feet (8.8 meters)
Displacement: approx. 6,700 tons submerged
Speed: Surfaced: 15 knots, Submerged: 20 knots
Armament: 16 vertical tubes for Polaris missiles, six 21" torpedo tubes
Crew: 12 Officers and 128 Enlisted (two crews)

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Crew List:

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

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April 9, 1981110 miles south-southwest of Sasebo, JapanThe USS GEORGE WASHINGTON collides with the 2,350-ton Japanese freighter NISSHO MARU. As the submarine is surfacing, it runs into the underside of the freighter, damages its hull and causes it to sink in 15 minutes, killing two of the 13 crew of the freighter. The WASHINGTON suffers minor damage to a small section of its sail. The accident sparks a political furor in Japan, straining US-Japanese relations a month before a meeting between Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki and US President Reagan. The US is criticized because it took over 24 hours to notify Japanese authorities; the submarine and a US P-3 aircraft overhead did not make a rescue attempt, and the submarine was operating so close to Japan, less than 20 miles outside the 12-mile limit. The US Navy initially says the submarine surfaced but could not see any ship in distress due to fog and rain. On April 11, President Reagan and other US officials express regret over the accident, make offers of compensation and reassure the Japanese there is no cause for worry about radioactive contamination. Over the next several months as the controversy continues, the US Navy accepts responsibility to preclude lengthy litigation; is criticized for its preliminary report which says the submarine and the P-3 claimed not to have realized the freighter was sinking; and relieves and reprimands the commanding officer and officer of the deck of the submarine. On August 31, the Navy releases a final report which concludes the accident resultet from highly coincidental set of circumstances, compound by errors on the part of some members of the crew of the GEORGE WASHINGTON.

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About the Submarine's Name:

George Washington was born 22 February 1732 in Westmoreland County, Va. He was commissioned in the Virginia Militia in 1753, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel the next year, and fought brilliantly in the French and Indian War. Entering the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1759, Washington was an early advocate of independence. In 1775 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and demonstrated a profound appreciation of sea power as well as great military genius. After years of hardship and arduous struggle, he finally won a decisive victory at Yorktown. In directing Allied movements during this campaign, one of the great strategic operations of our history, Washington brilliantly employed the French Navy to cut off Lord Cornwallis from help by sea. He had sought a decisive combined operation like this for years, for he wrote "In any operations, and under all circumstances a decisive Naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle and the focus upon which every hope of success must ultimately depend."

The Treaty of Paris recognized American independence 20 January 1783. After attending the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and presiding over the Continental Convention of 1787, Washington was unanimously elected first President under the new Constitution and inaugurated 30 April 1789. His two terms in office laid the foundations for strong government under the Constitution. Returning to his home at Mount Vernon in 1797, Washington was recalled briefly to command the American army when war with France threatened in 1798. He died at Mount Vernon 14 December 1799.

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The photo below was taken by me on August 22, 2010. It shows the sail of GEORGE WASHINGTON preserved at the Navy's Submarine Force Museum at New London, CT. The sail carries 16 Polaris missile markings - one for each missile the submarine launched.

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