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SSGN-587 ship's patch - imageUSS Halibut with test bird - image

 


 

 

 

 

 


USS HALIBUT (SSG(N)587)

Launched 9 January 1959 by Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California; sponsored by Mrs. Chet Holifield, wife of Congressman Holifield of California.

Commissioned at Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 4 January 1960, LCDR Walter Dedrick in command. (see his Biography)

USS Halibut SSGN-587 Launch cover - image

       SSGN-587 pre-launch Jan 1959 - photo


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USS Halibut Commanding Officers

   LCDR W. Dedrick - Jan 1960 to June 1961
          CDR W. R. Cobean, Jr. - Jun 1961 to Nov 1962
      LCDR J. F. Mangold - Nov 1962 to Nov 1963
CDR H. S. Clay - Nov 1963 to Apr 1967

  CDR C. E. Moore - Apr 1967 to Nov 1969
   CRD J. E. McNish - Nov 1969 to Aug 1973
  CDR C. F. Larson - Aug 1973 to Jun 1976

 

USS HALIBUT had the distinction to be the first submarine in the world designed and built from the keel up to launch guided missiles, and could carry five Regulus II missiles in a hangar integral with the hull.  She is also the first submarine to carry the Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS).


 USS Halibut SSGN-587 under the Golden Gate, 1960 - image

While designed to carry the Regulus II missile, the program had been terminated just 17 days prior to HALIBUT'S commissioning.  So HALIBUT departed for her shakedown cruise 11 March equipped with Regulus I missiles. En route to the South Pacific, on 25 March, she became the first nuclear powered submarine to successfully launch a guided missile.

SSGN-587 launching regulus missile - image

This was also to be a goodwill cruise, and the first stop was the Devonport Dockyard in Auckland, New Zealand. See video: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/video/uss-halibut-nuclear-submarine.

After visiting a second NZ city, Wellington, HALIBUT then joined other units of the 7th Fleet, for port visits to Sidney and Melbourne, Australia. The occasion was to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.  

The submarine returned to Mare Island Shipyard 18 June, 1960, for a routine yard availability. After a short training cruise, she departed 7 November for Pearl Harbor and active service with Pacific Fleet.  On her first deployment she successfully launched her seventh consecutive Regulus I missile during a major Southeast Asia Treaty Organization weapons demonstration.  

After a short stay back in Pearl Harbor, HALIBUT began preparations for her second deployment on 1 May, 1961.  During the months that followed she participated in several guided missile launching exercises and underwent intensive training.  HALIBUT deployed for the third time to the Western Pacific in late 1961, establishing a pattern of training and readiness operations followed through 1964.  On 4 May 1964, HALIBUT departed Pearl Harbor for the last Regulus missile patrol to be made by a submarine in the Pacific - Polaris was now on line.

In September 1959, with the 1st patrol of GRAYBACK, an era of submarine history  began that would go unrecognized for almost 40 years. Five REGULUS submarines:   USS GRAYBACK (SSG 574), USS TUNNY (SSG 282), USS BARBERO (SSG 317), USS GROWLER (SSG 577) and USS HALIBUT (SSGN 587) deployed on 41 deterrent patrols under the earth's oceans over the course of 5 years.

 


USS HALIBUT (SS(N)587)

In February 1965, HALIBUT entered Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for a major overhaul, and on 15 August she was re-designated SS(N)587. 

USS Halibut SSN-587 plaque - image

After further modifications  HALIBUT began service in May 1966 with the Deep Submergence Group, involved in deep sea search & recovery.  Other "special operations" occupied HALIBUT until July 1968 when she was given the covert mission of locating K-129, a Soviet Golf II missile submarine, which sank the previous February.  Finding the sunken boat in waters three miles deep seemed impossible, but the mission ("Operation Sand Dollar") was accomplished and Lyndon Johnson awarded HALIBUT the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), the highest submarine award possible. 

HALIBUT'S success in locating and photographing K-129 resulted in President Nixon giving the go-ahead to the CIA's "Project Azorian." Howard Hugh's Global Marine, Inc. was contracted to design, build and operate the "Huges Glomar Explorer" in order to secretly salvage the sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor.

In late 1970 HALIBUT underwent further modifications to accommodate a special group of saturation divers using methods pioneered at SeaLab.  This "Special Projects" boat was now a part of Submarine Development Group One. 
 
In October of 1971 she set off on another Spec Op, this time to launch one of the most critical spy operations undertaken by submarines during the cold war.  Halibut was to locate and tap an underwater communications cable that ran from the Soviet missile submarine base at Petropavlovsk, on the Kamchatka peninsula, under the Sea of Okhost, to Fleet headquarters near Vladivostok (see below for detailed look at diving apparatus).

For the successful completion of this mission, called "Ivy Bells," she was awarded the Navy Unit Citation (NUC), and in 1972, for repeat operations in the Sea of Okhost, HALIBUT was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. For 1974 & 1975, HALIBUT was awarded two consecutive NUCs for continued Sea of Okhost operations.

Halibut awards

Details of HALIBUT'S previously classified missions can be found in Sontag and Drew's "Blind Man's Bluff".  For more on the sunken Golf II location and recovery attempt, read "Spy Sub" by Roger Dunham.

 

Diving rig used for operation "Ivy Bells"

Wilbur (Jerry) O'Neill, while working for Westinghouse in Annapolis MD, designed a semi-closed tethered diver breathing apparatus which became the USN Mark XI. Having learned that this apparatus was used from the Halibut during the episodes at the Sea of Okhost, he contacted me for verification. Diver Bob Jones volunteered the following:Mark XI dive pack - click to enlarge image

"The diving rigs we used on the first two missions ('71 & '72) were umbilical supplied and we got them from Westinghouse. They were called the "Abalone" or Mk 11. The rumored price was 3 million for 6 rigs!"

Jerry O'Neill was pleased to learn that his efforts contributed to the success of this mission, and he forwarded other images (below) that should be of interest to divers and those who were involved in this operation. Most of these images are from the SCUBA MK 11 MOD 0 - Operations and Maintenance manual, Deep Submergence Systems Office, April 1971.

 

 

HALIBUT DECOMMISSIONING

On 1 November 1975 HALIBUT commenced a pre-inactivation availability at Mare Island which culminated in her decommissioning on 30 June 1976, and subsequent transfer to the Reserve Fleet. During her 16 years of commissioned service Halibut completed 1,232 dives and 32 Regulus missile test launches.

She was stricken from the Navy Register on 30 April 1986.  The former HALIBUT entered the Navy’s nuclear powered ship and submarine recycling program on 12 July 1993, and on 9 September 1994 she ceased to exist as a complete ship. 
 

USS Halibut SSN-587 decomm. cover

 

~ For article-length histories of the Regulus I, Regulus II, and the submarine deployment era see: REGULUS-MISSILE.COM

USS Halibut power run  
On the surface - full steam ahead - during sea trials.


In Sydney Harbor with the British submarine HMS Anchorite outboard, and an exercise [red bird] Regulus I missile on the launcher - May 1960.


Halibut Liberty Pass 1960
Remember these?

Stern planesman G.E.Flynn [GSSN] - image
Intent on not loosing my "bubble."

GSSN Flynn next to Halibut sail Jun 1960 - image
Home from the sea - June 1960.

Shell back card for GSSN Flynn
Crossed the Equator April 9th 1960 en route to New Zealand & Australia


Regulus shot 4-4-60 - image
4 April 1960
 


If you have any questions or comments - please contact me.

Gary@BreweryGems.com


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