July 4th 2019 Post Number 776 – USS Ulysses S. Grant SSBN 631

July 4, 2019. This is the 776th Post on

theleansubmariner blog.

Sometime in the early morning hours of this day, the blog counter for number of “visits” went over 500,000.

A half million visits to the site since its founding in 2011.

The number of followers on the web site, Facebook and Twitter has really grown as well.

All of that is humbling and I sincerely thank you.

It seems appropriate that today’s post would be about an American hero and July the Fourth. The book “Eminent Americans” by Admiral Rickover was the inspiration for the series I have been posting this year about the submarines in the 41 for Freedom series. Progress has been good to date and the response has been very rewarding.

I have also updated the Page that lists all of the boats and included links to each story so that they will be even easier to navigate to. For my Cold War Boomer friends, hopefully this will be a good reference for you. Of course, many of the boats have their own Web Pages and I will do my best to link those within the pages I publish.


But today, on this day we celebrate America’s Independence, we are focused on an epic battle to preserve the union. This is the story about that struggle and the submarine named for one of the chief architects of the victory.

The USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631), a James Madison-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), American Civil War general and the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877).

On July 4th 1863, the nation’s attention was still on the smoldering battle field in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. For three days, the Southern Forces under Robert E Lee had tried to overcome the Union forces and bring the North close to a negotiated settlement. But on that July day, General Grant and his forces achieved a remarkable victory in Vicksburg Mississippi.

Ulysses S. Grant, victorious commander of the Union Army during the Civil War, and 18th President of the United States, was born 1822 at Point Pleasant, Ohio. He graduated from West Point in 1843; served under Taylor and Scott in the Mexican War; resigned his commission 1854. On the outbreak of Civil War he was commissioned Colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry, later Major General of Volunteers. His wise use of power afloat in combined operations, commencing with the occupation of Paducah, Ky., won impressive victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. His determination to win prompted Lincoln to appoint him supreme commander of the Union forces. His relentless campaign against Richmond, in which he continued to take full advantage of the North’s control of the sea, forced Lee to surrender at Appomattox. In 1867 Grant received an interim appointment as Secretary of War. In 1868 he was elected to his first of two terms as President. He devoted his later years to the writing of his “memoirs,” which were published in 1885, the year of his death.

Letter to General Ulysses S. Grant

Executive Mansion, Washington, July 13, 1863.

In this remarkable letter, President Abraham Lincoln congratulates General Grant for an important victory — the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1863. Lincoln differed with Grant about how to handle the campaign, but when Grant pursued his own strategy successfully, Lincoln frankly admitted that Grant was right.

Lincoln, who would not meet Grant in person until the following year, already wrote about him in glowing terms. In a May 26, 1863 letter to his friend Isaac Arnold, he referred to Grant’s possible capture of Vicksburg, saying, “his campaign from the beginning of this month up to the twenty second day of it, is one of the most brilliant in the world.”

In December 1866 the year after Lincoln’s death, Joseph Gillespie, a legal colleague of Lincoln’s from Illinois, mentioned this letter when writing to Lincoln’s law partner. “It required no effort on his part to admit another man’s superiority, and his admission that General Grant was right and he was wrong about operations in Vicksburg was not intended for effect as some suppose but was perfectly in character.”

Major General Grant

My dear General

I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did — march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

Yours very truly

A Lincoln

Admiral Rickover remembered Grant in this way:

It is Grant the soldier who is remembered and who personifies the Union Army as Lee did the Confederate. A comparison of the two men is fascinating. Lee came from a patrician background; Grant had a more common origin. Lee graduated with honors from West Point; Grant’s academic career was undistinguished. Lee was the embodiment of Southern landed aristocracy, which—although he personally detested it—was based on slavery, and he upheld the political doctrine of local sovereignty as the best way to maintain a traditional way of life. Grant is harder to capture but, over the years, his reputation has grown as the better strategist.

In many ways the two were alike. As cadets at West Point, both liked mathematics. As young officers in the Mexican War, both shared great promise, and both disliked the routine of the peacetime army. Each was devoted to his family and could not bear the thought of lonesome frontier duty. Both were good officers, understanding the dry-as-dust details behind the pounds of rations per man per day, and could take in a battle field with the sweep of the glasses. Finally, both generals under stood the privations of the man in ranks, and both in their own way won the loyalty of the fighting man.

Grant was a modern soldier. He learned rapidly on the field of battle. In the West he worked well with the Navy, using the ironclad river gunboats with vigor and imagination. Also in the West, where distances were great, he grasped the importance of railways, lines of supplies, and the telegraph. He recognized, too, the economic foundation of warfare.

As historian Charles Francis Atkinson has said, “There were soldiers more accomplished, more brilliant, more exact; but it would be difficult to prove that these generals or any others in the service could have accomplished the task which Grant brought to complete success. Singleness of purpose, and relent less vigor in the execution of the purpose, were the qualities necessary to the conduct of the vast enterprise of subduing the Confederacy. Grant possessed or acquired both. He had the most important qualities of a great captain; courage that rose higher with each obstacle, and the clear judgment to distinguish the essential from the minor issues of war.”

The Boat

Class and type: James Madison-class submarine

Displacement: 7,300 long tons (7,417 t) surfaced

8,250 long tons (8,382 t) submerged

Length: 425 ft (130 m)

Beam: 33 ft (10 m)

Draft: 32 ft (9.8 m)

Installed power: S5W reactor

Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines 15,000 shp (11,185 kW), one shaft

Speed: Over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)

Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)

Complement: Two crews (Blue and Gold) of 13 officers and 130 enlisted each

Armament: 16 × ballistic missile tubes (originally for Polaris missiles, later for Poseidon missiles

4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (all forward)

Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631) was laid down on 18 August 1962 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Div. of the General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 2 November 1963; sponsored by Mrs. David W. Griffiths, the great-granddaughter of General Grant; and was commissioned at Groton on 17 July 1964, Capt. J. L. From, Jr., in command.

Following shakedown, the fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarine got underway from Groton in early December 1964, bound for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal on New Year’s Eve, she arrived at Pearl Harbor in January 1965. The FBM submarine was deployed to Guam, in the Marianas, and operated from there into 1969. She conducted 18 deterrent patrols before returning to the east coast of the United States, departing the western Pacific in December 1970.

After an overhaul and conversion to carry Poseidon ballistic missiles at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington, Ulysses S. Grant was deployed to Holy Loch, Scotland in 1970, and operated in the European area until September 1977.

Returning home at that time, the submarine continued to operate with the Atlantic Fleet on deterrent patrols into 1980.

In the mid-1980s, Ulysses S. Grant underwent a refueling overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Kittery, Maine. After the overhaul period, the Blue Crew completed what was called “The best DASO (Demonstration and Shakedown Operation) in 10 years,” which concluded with the firing of a test missile on 31 July 1987. Ulysses S. Grant then returned to Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, where the Gold Crew, under the command of Commander Michael P. McBride, took Ulysses S. Grant through a non-firing second-half DASO. During that period, the Gold Crew enjoyed a luxury for a “boomer” crew, a swim call in the Caribbean.

On 7 April 1987, two crewmen of Ulysses S. Grant were swept off the submarine’s deck during heavy seas 3 mile off Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One was rescued but was pronounced dead upon rescue. The other remains presumed “lost at sea”.

In 1989, after the Blue Crew turned Ulysses S. Grant over to the Gold Crew while she was moored alongside the submarine tender USS Fulton, the Gold Crew took the submarine to Holy Loch, and Ulysses S. Grant operated on deterrent patrols out of Holy Loch for the remainder of her career.

Ulysses S. Grant was decommissioned on 12 June 1992 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day. Her scrapping via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton was completed on 23 October 1993.

More information on the Grant is here: http://ussgrant.com/

Mister Mac

4 thoughts on “July 4th 2019 Post Number 776 – USS Ulysses S. Grant SSBN 631

  1. As much as I love these posts in the 41 for freedom series, I actually post them on a few FB submarine pages I follow. I was never a Boomer sailor and I was hoping at some time you might be doing more on the fast boat side?

    1. Hi Patrick. All in good time. The anniversary year for the FBM program goes through this December. I haven’t decided how best to attack the Fast Attack submarines in general. You may find that I do have a few stories about fast boats I served on until that time (711 and 697). But thanks for reposting and following.

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