USS Henry L. Stimson SSBN 655 “to keep peace you must be strong to resist aggression”

In a world where politics has become more toxic than a bucket full of radioactive waste mixed with every known chemical harmful to mankind, the example that Henry L. Stimson provided is the one shining light that still stands out like a beacon.

Stimson was a war veteran, a statesman, a leader, and a man who let his principles lead his every footstep. He served under both Republican and Democrat Presidents in times of war and peace. He never hesitated to step up when his country needed him, even in the face of tremendous criticisms from people who had once claimed to be his friends. When Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped he and Colonel Knox to respectively lead the War Department and the Department of the Navy in 1940, his colleagues in the Republican Party tried to destroy him in the press and on the floor of the Senate. They were aided by many democrats who also sought a chance to even old scores.

But Stimson and Knox were exactly the right choices for their time. When the United States entered World War 2, both men ensured that the Army and Navy were well on their way to becoming the most powerful force on earthy. Freedom for millions was on the line as was the future of the United States. These men looked past party and saw only country. After studying his story more closely in newspaper articles and records from the time, I stand in awe of Henry L. Stimson.

Naming an SSBN in his honor was absolutely the right thing to do. I only wish I had half the courage this man demonstrated in the face of tremendous pressure.


USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655), a Benjamin Franklin class fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Henry L. Stimson (1867–1950), who served as U.S. Secretary of State (1929–1933) and U.S. Secretary of War (1911–1913, 1940–1945).

Construction and commissioning

The contract for the construction of Henry L. Stimson was awarded on 29 July 1963, and her keel was laid down on 4 April 1964 by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on 13 November 1965, sponsored by Grace Murphy Dodd, wife of United States Senator Thomas J. Dodd, and commissioned on 20 August 1966 with Captain Richard E. Jortberg commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Robert H. Weeks commanding the Gold Crew.

More about the boat from the boat’s web site:

“The crossed swords in the insignia of the USS HENRY L. STIMSON represent his belief that to keep peace you must be strong to resist aggression. During shakedown, both crews successfully fired two A-3 Polaris missiles in the Atlantic Missile Test Range. After final sea trials and torpedo fire control systems testing Henry L. Stimson was assigned to Submarine Squadron 16 and began her first operational deterrent patrol, departing Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 February 1967.

STIMSON received a Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) for meritorious service during the period from 19 August to 9 September 1970, while participating in an operation of great importance to the United States. Through the operation the STIMSON demonstrated conclusively the effectiveness and dependability of the Fleet Ballistic Missile System.

In November 1971, Henry L. Stimson commenced her first major overhaul period, at Newport News Shipyard and Drydock. Here HENRY L. STIMSON was converted to the more advanced and sophisticated Poseidon Weapons System. On completion of the Conversion Overhaul period in March 1973, two crews were once more reestablished on HENRY L. STIMSON.

In June 1973, both crews successfully completed their Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO). After Post Conversion Availability and final sea trials, HENRY L. STIMSON returned to perform as a major force in the prevention of nuclear war.

Starting in June 1973, HENRY L. STIMSON made 24 Poseidon patrols out of Rota, Spain until Submarine Squadron SIXTEEN moved to Kings Bay, Georgia in June 1979. Thereafter HENRY L. STIMSON made two patrols out of Charleston, South Carolina.

During the period from November 1979 to March 1980, STIMSON’s weapon system was again upgraded to support the TRIDENT-1 missile. The conversion was accomplished pier side at Port Canaveral, Florida. Successful Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO) by both crews after the ship conversion were climaxed by the launching of a TRIDENT C-4 missile. Following that conversion, the boat changed homeports to Kings Bay, Georgia, where she was based for the rest of her career. The ship deployed on her first TRIDENT-1 strategic deterrent patrol in May 1980.

In May 1982, HENRY L. STIMSON began its second major overhaul at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Two crews were reestablished on HENRY L. STIMSON on completion of the overhaul period in August 1984. Since completion of the post-overhaul period, USS HENRY L. STIMSON has completed twenty-eight TRIDENT strategic deterrent patrols.

STIMSON received her SECOND Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) for meritorious service during the period 25 April to 6 August 1988, for her participation in LANTCOOPEX 1-88, the first SSBN remote-site, rapid re-deployment, continuity of operations exercise.

STIMSON combined crews in May 1992 as a precursor to inactivation and was both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 5 May 1993. Henry L. Stimson went through the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington, and ceased to exist on 12 August 1994.”


About the man

Henry Lewis Stimson, born in New York City 21 September 1867, graduated from Yale in 1888. After graduate work and law school at Harvard, he entered the law firm headed by Elihu Root in 1891 and two years later became a partner. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Here he made a distinguished record prosecuting antitrust cases. After defeat as Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1910, Stimson was appointed Secretary of War in 1911. He continued the reorganization of the Army begun by Root, bringing it to high efficiency prior to its vast expansion in World War I.

Following the outbreak of war, he was a leader in the American effort to aid the stricken people of Belgium. After the United States became a belligerent, he served in France as an artillery officer reaching rank of Colonel in August 1918. His success in several important diplomatic assignments and as Governor-General of the Philippine Islands led to Stimson’s appointment as Secretary of State in 1929. His management of the Nation’s foreign affairs was highlighted by his strong opposition to Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the first aggressive step which led to World War II.

Returning to private life at the end of President Hoover’s administration Stimson was an outspoken advocate of strong opposition to Japanese aggression. In 1941 President Roosevelt returned him to his old post at the head of the War Department and he skillfully directed the tremendous expansion of the Army to the force of over 10,000.000 men which crushed Axis ground forces in Europe and the Pacific.

Stimson retired from public office 21 September 1945 and died at Huntington, N.Y., 20 October 1950.

From Admiral Rickover’s book Eminent Americans


NAMED FOR Henry L. Stimson (1867—1950), a man of notable achievements both in his vocation, the private practice of the law, and in his avocation which was public service of the appointive kind.

Born in New York City, son of a distinguished surgeon, Stimson received his education at Andover, Yale, and Harvard Law School. He was only 25 when Elihu Root took him into partnership. The young lawyer learned much from association with this commanding figure in the legal profession of whom it was said that he had been connected with every important case in New York since 1880. Root, who became a lifelong friend and mentor, taught him not only a highly effective trial technique emphasizing painstaking preparation, close reason~ ing and ‘systematic ordering of arguments—intellectual habits that proved useful to Stimson in the varied positions he later filled with great distinction—but living and working in Root’s office, as he later remarked, also made him aware of “the importance of the active performance of his public duties by a citizen of New York.” Though his steadily expanding practice kept him busy Stimson found time to participate energetically in local and State politics, his chief interest being better government.

In 1906 Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to his first public office, that of US. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Thereafter and until he finally retired in 1945 at 78, Stimson took frequent leave of absence from his lucrative private practice to assume public duties, serving under every President except Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding. He was the first to sit in the Cabinet of four Presidents (two Re publicans and two Democrats): as Secretary of War under William H. Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman, and as Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover. He served Calvin Coolidge as adviser on Latin American affairs, peace maker in Nicaragua and Governor General of the Philippine Islands.

All his public offices, except one, were appointive and came to him unsought. Stimson had no flair for politics of the elective kind. He lost his bid for Governor of New York in 1909. The only election he won was for delegate at large to the New York Constitutional Convention of 1915. There he worked tirelessly for reforms that would give the State a more honest and efficient government. Although in that year’s election the voters rejected the revised constitution, by 1926 almost 80 percent of the proposed amendments had become part of New York’s fundamental law and 30 other States had followed suit.

Politically, Stimson was identified with the reform or progressive element in the Republican Party. His views on government were formed early in life and changed very little. They are set forth in the autobiographical book, On Active Service in Peace and War, written conjointly with McGeorge Bundy and published shortly before Stimson’s death at 83. “His basic convictions were two—first that the primary and overriding requirement of all government was that it should not infringe the essential liberties of the individual, and second, that within this limitation government could and must be made a powerful instrument of positive action.” The restraint imposed by law on government in the interest of “the primary and essential liberties of the individual” was, to Stimson, “a fundamental principle of any decent society. But to construe this respect for personal freedom into an assertion that all government was evil seemed to him absurd.” He felt that “in the industrial civilization of the 20th century it was the duty of government to provide for the general welfare wherever no private agency could do the job.”

Given this point of view, Stimson could serve Theodore Roosevelt loyally as US. Attorney and Franklin D. Roosevelt equally loyally as Secretary of War. Under the Republican Roosevelt, his task was enforcement of Federal laws which had been enacted to protect our society against harmful actions of large and powerful private organizations; under the Democratic Roosevelt, his task was mobilization of the country’s industrial potential in support of a war we fought against powerful nations threatening our free society. He accomplished both tasks extremely well.”

Name: USS Henry L. Stimson

Awarded: 29 July 1963

Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut

Laid down: 4 April 1964

Launched: 13 November 1965

Sponsored by: Grace Murphy Dodd

Commissioned: 20 August 1966

Decommissioned: 5 May 1993

Struck: 5 May 1993

Fate: Scrapping via Ship and Submarine Recycling Program completed 12 August 1994

Class and type: Benjamin Franklin class nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine

Displacement: 7,250 tons surfaced

8,250 tons submerged

Length: 425 feet (130 m)

Beam: 33 feet (10 m)

Draft: 31.5 feet (9.6 m)

Installed power: 15,000 shp (11,185 kW)

Propulsion: One S5W pressurized-water nuclear reactor, two geared steam turbines, one shaft

Speed: 16–20 knots surfaced, 22–25 knots submerged

Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)

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

Armament: 16 × ballistic missile tubes with one Polaris, later Poseidon, later Trident I ballistic missile each

4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

You can read more about the Stimson story here:

Mister Mac


11 thoughts on “USS Henry L. Stimson SSBN 655 “to keep peace you must be strong to resist aggression”

  1. Thanks Nick. Enjoyed the read.

    Dave Violette Cell: 704-651-6320

    On Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 8:20 AM Nick Nichols, Webmaster 655 wrote:

    > Mister Mac posted: ” In a world where politics has become more toxic than > a bucket full of radioactive waste mixed with every known chemical harmful > to mankind, the example that Henry L. Stimson provided is the one shining > light that still stands out like a beacon. Sti” > > *Stimson Shipmates,* > > *Many of you have indicated to me that you really enjoy reading the blog > of theleansubmariner. Well here’s the newest post and it’s about our boat. > Please read and enjoy! If you have a comment in can be made at the end of > the post.* > >

  2. Nick:

    I would appreciate if you could modify this great article, but it doesn’t adequately cover STIMSON’s last few months. Some important stuff happened. This appears about ½-way down at the end of the section about the ship:

    “STIMSON combined crews in May 1992 as a precursor to inactivation and was both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 5 May 1993. Henry L. Stimson went through the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington, and ceased to exist on 12 August 1994.”

    I happen to think this stuff is very important to us crew members. For one thing, you can call me hard core, but it is an insult to not fully capitalize our ship’s glorious name. (I have always understood that U. S. Navy warships’ names are fully capitalized.)

    “STIMSON combined crews in May 1992. The STIMSON went to King’s Bay for 6-weeks of maintenance. The ship was to be deactivated in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA, but unlike many previous ships that were towed, STIMSON was to make the transit under its own nuclear power. This was primarily because the STIMSON’s 16 TRIDENT I missiles were needed in the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force.

    However, the ship’s diving certification was about to expire. To ensure it was safe to transit submerged the ship drydocked in Kings Bay, the first ship to ever enter that dock. The work mainly consisted of recertifying hull welds to ensure their integrity and ship safety. Upon leaving Kings Bay, the STIMSON had one operational mission left in her: While transiting toward the Panama Canal. STIMSON provided intelligence and data to the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement groups concerning drug smuggling operations out of South and Central America.

    The ship then transited the Panama Canal carrying its 16 missiles to the Pacific Fleet, the first time missiles of any type had been carried through the canal in more than 20 years.

    Upon arrival at Trident Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington, STIMSON offloaded its missiles then shut down the reactor for the last time.

    STIMSON’s reactor plant was then defueled. Inactivation and decommissioning followed. STIMSON was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 5 May 1993. The HENRY L STIMSON went through the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington, and ceased to exist on 12 August 1994.”

    I have no idea where this came from or whether it’s engraved in Plutonium somewhere. So, if this turns out to be too hard, that’s okay. Don’t worry about it. (But there is so much more in those last few months!)



    1. A quick response. I never intentionally set out to insult any ship or crew. The Capitalization issue is something that I do not feel compelled to change. Frankly, I have been writing stories about ships and submarines for a number of years and have not seen this as either a tradition or custom. Just for fun, I reached behind me and picked up my copy of the volume called UNITED STATES SUBMARINES published by the NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE (2004) and not one single submarine is listed with all caps. Then to be doubly sure, I opened up my US Navy (A complete history) published by the Naval Historical Foundation in 2003 and as I suspected, the names of ships and submarines are also not written in all caps. There are examples of other sites such as the Naval Heritage and History web site that do show all caps. But I assure you that I can find nothing that requires that to be done. Lastly, I opened up a copy of a book by Rear Admiral McKinney who did forty four years as a submariner. He also does not capitalize the names of any of the boats he sailed on or commanded. So sorry about your thoughts about me changing my writing style. Not going to happen shipmate.

    2. Mr. Sam, Thanks for the additional info on the last days of our Boat however you are Too Hard Core on the CAPITALIZATION thing in my opinion. Also Technically speaking I suppose Stimson was a “Submarine“ very much capable of War ….not so much a War “Ship”. WarBoat perhaps.
      Mr. Mac – thank you for Standing Down Sir.

  3. Nick,


    Nice post – thanks.


    Did you ever hear the story about when the boat ran aground!  If you would find it interesting, I'll tell you.




    Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2019 at 4:15 AM

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