Every once in a while, you hear someone question whether or not America is exceptional. After all, not everything was invented here and there are many fine people all over the world who have made significant contributions.
But I look at one single example of what this country is capable of and say that it would be very hard to match what we have already demonstrated can be done when the need arises. That example of course is my favorite subject for the Year 2019, the Polaris Program.
Notwithstanding the phenomenal processes and elements that were created to achieve the goals or building a fleet like this while at the same time putting a man on the moon, the sheer magnitude of this accomplishment is even more impressive when you consider the time frame and the limits on engineering that existed.
We did not yet have the computers and interconnected networks that are so prevalent today. As I reviewed this article in All Hands Magazine, it occurred to me that it took less than ten years to build not only the ships of this group, but many other fast attack submarines at the same time. That is incredible!
When the Will Rogers was commissioned in April 1967, the powerful Trident Submarine concept was just in its infancy. But the boats that were included in the 41 for Freedom program will forever remain as a mark of American ingenuity and ability.
SEPTEMBER 1967 ALL Hands Magazine
Taking a Muster of the Fleet of FBM Submarines
W ITH THE commission of Will Rogers (SSBN 659) on 1 April, all 41 of the programmed Fleet ballistic missile submarines have joined the Fleet.
There have been three classes of Polaris submarines built since the beginning of the program. They are:
- George Washington (SSBN 598)—this class, of which five were built, had an Albacore hull and were, in fact, designed to be nuclear attack submarines. A 130-foot missile section was added, enabling them to accommodate 16 Polaris missiles. They are 380 feet long, with a 33-foot beam, and displace 5900 tons on the surface.
- Ethan Allen (SSBN 608)—Built specifically to carry Polaris missiles, these submarines are larger than the 598 class, with an improved hull design. Displacing 6900 tons standard, they are 410 feet long, 33 feet at the beam. Five of this class of Polaris-carrying submarines were built.
- Lafayette (SSBN 616)—the remaining 31 FBMs are of this class, the largest (more than 8000 submerged displacement tons) undersea craft ever built. They are 425 feet long and have a beam of 33 feet.
For the record, here’s a list of the 41 Polaris-firing submarines, with their dates of launching and commissioning.
|598 George Washington 9 Jun 1959 30 Dec 1959||629 Daniel Boone 22 Jun 1963 23 Apr 1964|
|599 Patrick Henry 22 Sep 1959 9 Apr 1960||630 John C. Calhoun 22 Jun 1963 15 Sep 1964|
|600 Theodore Roosevelt 3 Oct 1959 13 Feb 1961||631 Ulysses S. Grant 2 Nov 1963 17 Jul 1964|
|601 Robert E. Lee 18 Dec 1959 16 Sep 1960||632 Von Steuben 18 Oct 1963 30 Sep 1964|
|602 Abraham Lincoln 14 May 1960 11 Mar 1961||633 Casimir Pulaski 1 Feb 1964 14 Aug 1964|
|608 Ethan Allen 22 Nov 1960 8 Aug 1961||634 Stonewall Jackson 30 Nov 1963 26 Aug 1964|
|609 Sam Houston 2 Feb 1961 6 Mgr. 1962||635 Sam Rayburn 20 Dev 1963 2 Dec 1964|
|610 Thomas A. Edison 15 Jun 1961 10 Mar 1962||636 Nathanael Greene 12 May 1964 19 Dec 1964|
|611 John Marshall 15 Jul 1961 21 May 1962||640 Benjamin Franklin 5 Dec 1964 22 Oct 1965|
|616 Lafayette 8 May 1962 23 Apr 1963||641 Simon Bolivar 22 Aug 1964 29 Oct 1965|
|617 Alexander Hamilton 18 Aug 1962 23 Jun 1963||642 Kamehameha 16 Jun 1965 10 Dec 1965|
|618 Thomas Jefferson 24 Feb 1962 4 Jun 1963||643 George Bancroft 20 Mar 1965 22 Jun 1966|
|619 Andrew Jackson 15 Sep 1962 3 Jul 1963||644 Lewis and Clark 21 Nov 1964 22 Dec 1965|
|620 John Adams 12 Jan 1963 12 May 1964||645 James K. Polk 22 May 1965 16 Apr 1966|
|622 James Monroe 4 Aug 1962 7 Dec 1963||654 George C. Marshall 21 May 1965 29 Apr 1966|
|623 Nathan Hale 12 Jan 1963 23 Nov 1963||655 Henry L. Stimson 13 Nov 1965 20 Aug 1966|
|624 Woodrow Wilson 22 Feb 1963 27 Dec 1963||656 George Washington Carver 14 Aug 1965 15 Jun 1966|
|625 Henry Clay 30 Nov 1962 20 Feb 1964||657 Francis Scott Key 23 Apr 1966 3 Dec 1966|
|626 Daniel Webster 27 Apr 1963 9 Apr 1964||658 Mariano G. Vallejo 23 Oct 1965 12 Dec 1966|
|627 James Madison 15 Mar 1963 28 Jul 1964||659 Will Rogers 21 Jul 1966 1 Apr 1967|
|628 Tecumseh 22 Jun 1963 29 May 1964|
8 thoughts on “41 For Freedom – Fully Functional in less than 10 Years”
The commissioning date for Ethan Allen is off by six years.
Good eye. The ALL HANDS article was actually right but as I was converting the files over to this article, picked up a stay typo. It should be fixed now.
The commisioning date for Etahn Allen is correct. 8 August 1961. What do you think it is?
the first draft had an incorrect date. I fixed it.
I was a plank owner on the USS Lewis and Clark (SSBN644B) d
The article claimed that the remaining 31 were of the Lafayette Class. Weren’t there in fact Lafayette, Madison and Franklin Classes (616, 627, 640)? At any rate, having sailed on the 655, and being closely tied into the 41 for Freedom, I wrote a poem about them.
Thanks Steve. As I have told others, I only record what history told us at the time when I write these stories. Looking back through the many documents of the time, there was a distinct effort to claim the boats as one class by those in power at the time. I have spent hundreds of hours scouring through old Navy documents, Congressional Records, period literature and any other sources I can find from that age. Facts become funny things in when you are looking through the rear view mirror. I can’t argue with anyone that wants there to be a clearer definition since I was raised thinking the same way you were. The challenge for me when I write the stories I do is to be faithful to the quotes (distinguished in all of my articles by the font differential and by my identification of them as quotes). The only thing I know beyond any doubt is something I have come to accept after riding the planet for sixty four years and almost 11 months: you can’t change what happened in the past and history is often controlled by those that hold the pen when it is written. As long as I am writing, I am meticulous to make sure I stay faithful to what was written in the many sources I have found (even when I disagree with the content). Thanks for the feedback.
Thank you for your candor and your dedication to remain true to the craft. Your words of the history we share have long been the “facts” of those who maintained control what was written at the time. We who have created the characters of that play can relax and reminisce in our performances. With no one but ourselves as the authority, we create our own facts and pass those facts on to others. Thank you again for bringing these to us.