Commissioned 10 March 1962 ~ Decommissioned 1 December 1983
Authorized by Congress: 1958
Built By: General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.
"Keel" laid: March 15, 1960. The keel plate was initialed by Peter Edison Sloane, grandson of Thomas A. Edison.
Launched: June 15, 1961. Sponsored by Mrs. John Eyre Sloane, Thomas A. Edison's daughter.
Commissioned: March 10, 1962
Displacement: 7900 tons
Length: 410 feet Beam: 34 feet
Number of missiles: 16 Polaris A-2s
Nuclear warheads per missile: One
Yield per warhead: 800 kiloton (The yield of the Hiroshima bomb was 16 kilotons; and the yield of the Nagasaki bomb was 22 kilotons.)
Missile Range: 1500 nautical miles
Other Armament: Four torpedo tubes forward
Reactor Plant: S5W
Type of propulsion plant: Two steam turbines driving reduction gears to a single shaft.
Shaft Horsepower: 15,000
Crew Members (Blue and Gold Crews): 140 (on each crew)
I was a member of the Blue Crew pre-commissioning unit and had the pleasure of "riding down the ways" on 15 June 1961. The following is the text from the pamphlet distributed to the attendees of the Launching ceremony:
"The Thomas A. Edison (SSB(N)6l0) is the eleventh nuclear submarine to be launched by General Dynamics Corporation's Electric Boat Division and the fourth such vessel designed to fire Polaris missiles.
A sister-ship of the Ethan Allen, which was launched here last year, the displaces 6,900 tons and is 410 feet long. The
The submarine is named in honor of Thomas Alva Edison, the famed inventor of a host of items including the electric light, phonograph and motion pictures. The sponsor, Mrs. John Eyre Sloane, is his daughter.
While best known for his inventive genius, Edison must also be counted as one of the fathers of modern naval research. In 1915 he became head of the Naval Consulting Board, now known as the Office of Naval Research, and rendered invaluable service to the nation in this capacity during World War I.
The keel for the Thomas A. Edison was laid here on March 15, I960 and the vessel is slated for commissioning sometime next year."
The prospective Commanding Officers for the "Blue" and "Gold" crews were Captain CHARLES YOUNG and Commander WALTER DEDRICK, respectively.
See bio on CDR. DEDRICK
Sea trials in Long Island Sound
Upon commissioning I switched to the "Gold" crew in order to again serve with my ex-commanding officer, Cdr. Walter Dedrick.
Below is the text from a brochure prepared at commissioning:
“The THOMAS A. EDISON is 410 feet long and displaces 6,900 tons. She is powered by a nuclear reactor and carries equipment unknown a few years ago, such as an inertial navigation system which enables the ship's position to be determined with pin-point accuracy. Equipped to launch the longer range Polaris missile, she contains within her hull more destructive force than that caused by all of the bombs dropped during World War II.
Two crews, designated "Blue" and "Gold", each consisting of about 12 officers and 100 enlisted men, alternately take the ship to sea. The use of two crews, enabling the ship to remain almost constantly within range of targets, provides the maximum deterrent capability at minimum expense.
An advanced design Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine, the THOMAS A. EDISON is a member of our nation's prime deterrent force. When on station, she will remain hidden in the depths of the ocean virtually immune from attack. Always ready to answer aggression with devastation, she serves as a constant reminder that free men have the willingness and the ability to defend their freedom. Her motto "Potentia Tenebras Repellendi" (Power to Repel the Darkness) well summarizes her mission.
Authorized by the Congress of the United States in 1958, the keel for the THOMAS A. EDISON was laid on March 15, 1960. During the keel laying ceremony, the keel plate was initialed by Peter Edison Sloane, grandson of Thomas A. Edison.
The ship was launched June 15, 1961 and was sponsored by Mrs. John Eyre Sloane, Mr. Edison's daughter. The THOMAS A. EDISON became an operational ship of the United States Navy during commissioning ceremonies on March 10, 1962.”
Following shakedown training off the eastern coast the EDISON loaded Polaris missiles at Charleston, SC, and embarked upon her first deterrent patrol on 7 November 1962.
She concluded her first patrol at Site One, at Holy Loch, Scotland, where she operated from for the next four years, completing 17 deterrent patrols.
SSBN-610 alongside USS HUNLEY (AS-31) 1963
In September 1966, her official home port was changed from New London, CT to Charleston, SC, in preparation for her first major overhaul. She ended her 17th patrol at Charleston on 15 October 1966 and began her overhaul on the 28th. She completed repairs on 9 May 1968; and, after post-overhaul sea trials and shakedown, she embarked upon her 18th deterrent patrol on 22 September 1968. Over the next five years, she operated out of New London and Rota, Spain, from which ports she conducted another 19 patrols in the Atlantic.
In June of 1973, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving in San Diego on 11 July. After a short period of operations with Submarine Group 5, she moved to Vallejo on 6 August to begin another overhaul, this time at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. On 30 November 1974, the EDISON completed repairs and, following shakedown in January and February of 1975, she transited the Panama Canal to fire test missiles near Cape Canaveral, FL. She concluded that mission in July and re-transited the canal on 8 August, 1975. EDISON carried out operations along the west coast until December of '75, at which time she headed for her new homeport in Guam and continued to conduct deterrent patrols from the base in Apra until 6 Oct. 1980. At that time she was reclassified an SSN to comply with the SALT I treaty and concrete blocks were placed in the missile tubes to disable the submarine's missile launch capability.
On 9 April 1962, 200 miles east of Norfolk, Va., EDISON collided with the USS WADLEIGH (DD 689) during antisubmarine warfare exercises. The submarines topside rudder was slightly bent and the destroyer's forward bottom plates were pierced. The EDISON was repaired at Newport News Shipbuilding in several hours while the WADLEIGH spent several weeks in dry-dock. According to the Navy the collision resulted from a misunderstanding between the two ships and occurred as the EDISON was surfacing. No one was injured.
On 29 November 1982, 40 miles east of Subic Bay, Philippines, EDISON collided with the USS Leftwich (DD 984) while conducting ASW excercises. The EDISON was at periscope depth preparing to surface; it damaged its sail and sail planes, but there was no flooding. After the collision the boat never submerged again. She went into Subic Bay for temporary repairs then made a 35-day transit across the Pacific to Bremerton WA, where she had home ported as an SSN. Kevin Masters was onboard during this incident and recalled: "We transiting back from the Philippines, with a make shift bridge, and no fairwater planes. Over 12,000 miles on the surface, in a sewer pipe. Talk about some green sailors..."
The original plan for EDISON, after some preliminary testing in the Philippines, was for it to become the test platform for the Seal Delivery system, as the EDISON was in the best material shape of the Ethan Allen Class boats, so it was chosen for this mission. The Navy had planned to decommission the 608 or 609, but after the collision it was decided to decommission EDISON instead.³
Image provided by Girard Lew,
shown standing next to the ensign.
I was still on active duty December 1, 1983 when the Edison was decommissioned, and was able to attend the ceremony on board the battleship Missouri. This is the text from the pamphlet given to attendees:
"USS THOMAS A. EDISON (SSBN 610) was built at Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, and was commissioned on 10 March 1962. Named for the prolific inventor, EDISON was the third submarine of the Ethan Allen Class and the eighth FBM Submarine to be commissioned.
During the following 18 years, EDISON completed fifty-four Strategic Deterrent Patrols, operating from submarine support facilities in Holy Loch, Scotland, Rota, Spain, and Guam, Marianas Islands. Her operational schedule was interrupted by overhauls at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1967 and 1974.
In October 1980, EDISON moved on to new missions and assignments with her re-designation as SSN-610 and homeport change to Bangor, Washington. As SSN 610, she participated in numerous operations and exercises which significantly contributed to Submarine Force and Fleet readiness.
From August 1982 through February 1983, EDISON conducted the first Western Pacific deployment by an ex-SSBN. During deployment, her crew enjoyed visits to Japan, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Upon return from WESTPAC, EDISON entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for inactivation after twenty-two years of proud and faithful service."
The USS THOMAS A. EDISON was stricken from the list of U.S. Navy ships on April 30, 1986, and disposed of by the Submarine Recycling Program on December 1, 1997.
This Steinway piano spent 22 years (1961-1983) aboard the EDISON, the only full size piano ever installed aboard a submarine conducting nuclear deterrent patrols. Part of the artifact collection of the Naval Historical Center on the Washington Navy Yard, it was temporarily loaned back to Steinway in return for a complete restoration. During the Summer of 2003, the piano was displayed at the Steinway Company Museum in New York in an exhibit celebrating the 150 years of the famous piano company. For full story: PIANO
Photo courtesy of Steinway Piano Company.
During the first Gold patrol, Capt. Dedrick asked me to paint a banner that we could drape around the sail upon our return to Holy Loch. He asked for a depiction of his favorite cartoon character, the Tasmanian Devil. The image at left is the result.
The 7½' x 4½' banner remained in the Dedrick family for the last 42 years, and was returned to my care in April of '05. It's now in the reunion "cruise box."
I left the boat upon our return from patrol, so I was not privy to the banner's later uses. It was altered with the addition of a sewed on halo and patch that reads "Angels," which was positioned over the word "Devils." The family's understanding was that there was some incident that reflected poorly on the Gold crew, and that this alteration of the banner was an indication of the crew's attitude adjustment.
I hope that a crewmember can confirm or elaborate upon this tale. Also, if anyone has a photo of the banner draped around the sail, I would appreciate a copy.
Thanks to Dick Hillman, we have his recollection of the event that prompted the CO to change the banner from Devils to Angels: "The Gold Crew had a ships party in Dunoon when we were in two section duty. The section that had the duty and missed the party complained about missing a good time so the Old Man allowed the duty section to have a similar party the following night. The second party got carried away. My understanding was that some tender sailors crashed the party and a brawl broke out. The Shore Patrol showed up and placed everyone under military arrest, including the Old Man - who was playing the piano during the party. Capt Dedrick announced to the Shore patrol: "I am the Commanding Officer" - but to no avail. The crew was rounded up and another brawl broke out on the pier, waiting for the Mike boat. I understand the CO was trying to break it up, and was also mixing it up with an Auxiliaryman who was fighting with one of the Yeoman.
The Squadron Commander held an informal Captain's Mast on the CO and directed him to conduct a similar activity on his crew. The Commodore also told Capt. Dedrick that his crew was not allowed to have any future ship's parties on the beach as long as they were part of his squadron. The Old Man held an informal Captain's Mast on his crew and said our punishment (restriction) started the day we left for patrol."
"The Gold Crew had a ships party in Dunoon when we were in two section duty. The section that had the duty and missed the party complained about missing a good time so the Old Man allowed the duty section to have a similar party the following night. The second party got carried away. My understanding was that some tender sailors crashed the party and a brawl broke out. The Shore Patrol showed up and placed everyone under military arrest, including the Old Man - who was playing the piano during the party. Capt Dedrick announced to the Shore patrol: "I am the Commanding Officer" - but to no avail. The crew was rounded up and another brawl broke out on the pier, waiting for the Mike boat. I understand the CO was trying to break it up, and was also mixing it up with an Auxiliaryman who was fighting with one of the Yeoman.
Frank Conahan amended the above account by stating that the fight between the Auxiliaryman and Yeoman was at the party, not on the pier. He recalls that the Auxiliaryman was a large guy and a lot of people tried unsuccessfully to get him off the Yeoman. But Captain Dedrick was bigger than the "A" ganger, and when the CO told him to stop, and he didn't, the Captain "decked" him.
There was an additional brawl on the pier which resulted in the local police being called in, and some crew-members ending-up in the unheated Dunoon jail.
So now you know ... the rest of the story!
The 1st Gold crew Missile Gang:
back - l to r: Johnston, Munson, & Cuthbertson
front - l to r: Rickman, Milazzo, & Flynn (Miller - not shown)
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