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USS Will Rogers (SSBN 659)

- decommissioned -

USS WILL ROGERS was the 12th and last BENJAMIN FRANKLIN - class nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarine. Generally similar to the LAFAYETTE - class, the twelve BENJAMIN FRANKLIN - class submarines had a quieter machinery design, and were thus considered a separate class.

Deactivated while still in commission on November 2, 1992, the WILL ROGERS entered the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington the same day. Formally decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list on April 12, 1993, she finished the recycling program on August 12,1994. When she emerged, she no longer existed as a complete ship and was classed as scrapped.

General Characteristics:Awarded: July 29, 1963
Keel laid: March 20, 1965
Launched: July 21, 1966
Commissioned: April 1, 1967
Decommissioned: April 12, 1993
Builder: Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT.
Propulsion system: one S5W nuclear reactor
Propellers: one
Length: 425 feet (129.6 meters)
Beam: 33 feet (10 meters)
Draft: 31.5 feet (9.6 meters)
Displacement: Surfaced: approx. 7,250 tons; Submerged: approx. 8,250 tons
Speed: Surfaced: 16 - 20 knots;Submerged: 22 - 25 knots
Armament: 16 vertical tubes for Polaris or Poseidon missiles, four 21" torpedo tubes for Mk-48 torpedoes, Mk-14/16 torpedoes, Mk-37 torpedoes and Mk-45 nuclear torpedoes
Crew: 13 Officers and 130 Enlisted (two crews)

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Crew List:

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

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Accidents aboard USS WILL ROGERS:

January 3, 1989Firth of ClydeThe British fishing trawler NEW DAWN collides with the USS WILL ROGERS suffering major damage to her hull. No injuries are reported.

According to Bill Koonts, former crewmember aboard the WILL ROGERS, "the trawler was following in close behind another one, except that they were running without lights. The skipper of the fishing boat tried to "split the difference" between the turtleshell, and our rudder, and rammed us!"

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About the Ship's Name:

Will Rogers - born on 4 November 1879 near the present town of Claremore, Okla. - received sporadic formal education between 1887 and 1898, when he left home to become a cowboy on the Eking Ranch in Lipscomb County, Tex., near the town of Highness. After managing his father’s ranch from 1899 to 1902, he sailed for South America, where he spent five months with the gauche of the Argentine pampas. Later in 1902, the still-restless Rogers sailed for South Africa, where he took a job breaking in horses for the British Army. While in South Africa, he began his show business career, where he joined “Texas Jack’s Wild West Show,” to be billed as “The Cherokee Kid.”

Joining the Writhe Brothers’ circus in 1903, he toured Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States the following year to appear at the St. Louis Exposition and receive his first vaudeville bookings in Chicago. He made his first appearance in New York in 1905 and, over the next 10 years, made three trips to Europe and traveled extensively in Canada and his native United States. During this time, he also made his first airplane flight in Atlantic City, NJ, as a passenger.

From 1916 to 1925, Rogers appeared occasionally with the famed Ziegfield Follies; he made his first motion picture in 1918 - ”Laughing Bill Hide” - and moved to California in 1919 to work in the Golden studios. The year 1922 proved a landmark one for the cowboy-humorist, as he began a weekly syndicated column which eventually reached a large readership through some 350 newspapers. He maintained this regularly featured column until his death in 1935.

From 1925 to 1928, Rogers traveled the length and breadth of the United States in a “lecture tour.” During this time he became the first civilian to fly from coast to coast with pilots flying the mail in early air mail flights. The National Press Club, Washington, DC, dubbed him “Ambassador at Large of the United States;” and, in 1927, he visited Mexico City with the transatlantic aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh as a guest of Ambassador Dwight Morrow. In subsequent years, Rogers gave numerous after-dinner speeches; became a popular convention speaker; gave benefits for victims of floods, droughts, or earthquakes. After the Great Depression hit the United States, Rogers gave radio talks on “unemployment,” with ex-President Collage, President Hoover, and former Presidential candidate Al Smith.

He made a trip to the Orient in 1931 and to Central and South America the following year. In 1934, he made a globe-girdling tour and returned to play the lead in Eugene O’Neill’s stage play, “Ha Wilderness.” Also during the period 1930 to 1935, he made movies for Fox studios and radio broadcasts for the Gulf Oil Company.

Through Rogers’ continuing series of columns between 1922 and 1935, as well as in his personal appearances and radio broadcasts, he won the loving admiration of the American people, poking jibes in witty ways at the issues of the day and prominent people--often politicians. He wrote from a non-partisan point of view and became a friend of presidents and a confidant of the great. Loved for his cool mind and warm heart, he was often considered the successor to such greets as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Artemus Ward.

An avid booster of aviation, Rogers undertook a polar flight with a fellow Oklahoman, Wiley Post, in the summer of 1935. It ended in tragedy. Post’s plane crashed at Point Barrow, Alaska, on 15 August 1935, killing Post and his passenger - Will Rogers.

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