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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Patch contributed by Mike Smolinski
Radio Call Sign: November - Sierra - India - Golf

Whale (SSN-638)

Sturgeon Class Attack Submarine: Laid down, 27 May 1964, at General Dynamics Corp., Quincy, MA; Launched, 14 October 1966; Commissioned, USS Whale (SSN-638), 12 October 1968; Decommissioned and simultaneously struck from the Naval Register, 25 June 1996; Final Disposition, disposed of through NPSSRP (Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA., 29 September 1997.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 3,640 t., Submerged: 4,640 t.; Length 292' 3"; Beam 31' 8"; Draft 28' 8"; Speed, Surfaced 15 kts, Submerged 25 kts; Depth limit 1,300'; Complement 108; Armament, four 21" torpedo tubes amidships aft of bow, MK 48 Torpedoes, UUM-44A SUBROC, UGM-84A/C Harpoon, MK 57 deep water mines, MK 60 CAPTOR mines; Combat Sensors, Radar, BPS-14/15 surface search, Sonars, BQQ-5 multi-function bow mounted, BQR-7 passive in submarines with BQQ-2, BQS-12 active 7, TB-16 or TB-23 towed array, EW Systems, WLQ-4(V), WLR-4(V), WLR-9 ; Propulsion System, one S5W nuclear reactor, two steam turbines, one propeller, 15,000 shp.
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SizeImage DescriptionContributed By
X304kSix page PDF of the Whale (SSN-638) & Sunfish (SSN-649) christening on 14 October 1966.USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
638 & 649235kSunfish (SSN-649) & Whale (SSN-638) are tied to the pier after launching on 14 October 1966.General Dynamics photo courtesy of Dale Hargrave.
Photo added 12/10/16.
Whale31k Commemorative post mark on the occasion of the double launching of the Whale (SSN-638) & Sunfish (SSN-649) at General Dynamics Corp., Quincy, MA., 14 October 1966.Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Whale90k Commemorative post mark on the occasion of the launching of the Whale (SSN-638), 14 October 1966.Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Whale109kPort quarter bow view of the Whale (SSN-638) underway, probably during her alpha sea trials off the New England coast, late 1966.Official USN photo courtesy of Wendell Royce McLaughlin Jr.
Whale181kWhale (SSN-638) reached the North Pole on 6 April 1969 and surfaced there in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary's arrival there.USN photo # NPC K-71474 (B) 4-4-69 courtesy of US Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory & Scott Koen &
Whale152kWhale (SSN-638) surfaced on Easter Sunday at the North Pole, 6 April 1969.USN photo # K-71473, Photographed by PHC B.M. Andersen, courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, courtesy of
Whale207kFrozen Whale (SSN-638) on 6 April 1969.USN photo # NPC K-71474 courtesy of Scott Koen &
Whale911k Whale (SSN-638) returned to warmer waters after completing historic patrol of Arctic in which she became the fifth US undersea craft to reach North Pole. USN photo courtesy of Bill Gonyo.
Whale27k Commemorative post mark issued on the occasion of the Whale's (SSN-638) surfacing at the North Pole on 6 April 1969.Courtesy of Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).
Sturgeon Class43k Oil on canvas painting by the artist Jim Christley entitled "Trailing".
During the Cold War the US Naval Submarine Force was tasked with keeping tabs on Soviet Naval movements in particular, the Soviet Submarine Force. Submarines of the Sturgeon Class were well suited to this task and often trailed Soviet submarines for days reporting on their movements and recording noise signatures. In this image, such a trailing has turned into a close aboard encounter as a Soviet Viktor III Class has turned to port to check his baffles (to listen to see if anyone is immediately astern). A trailing Sturgeon has stopped his screw and gone quiet. Extending far behind the US submarine is its towed array sonar which assists in giving a clear picture of the ocean's acoustics
Photo & text courtesy of
Submerged submarines145kSubmerged submarines in tandem.USN photo courtesy of Robert Hall.
Whale513kTewelve page Welcome Aboard PDF of the Whale (SSN-638), circa 1978.USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
Whale185kSurfaced Whale (SSN-638) underway.USN photo courtesy of Scott Koen &
Whale100kWhale (SSN-638), arriving at New London, CT., Friday morning, 9:49am, 12 July 1991, passing the old State Pier. Photo by Ken Hart.
Whale25k Close-up of Whale (SSN-638) about to pass beneath the Gold Star bridge enroute to the base, Friday morning, 12 July 1991. Photo by Ken Hart.
Whale89kStern view of Whale (SSN-638), alongside at Groton, 13 July 1991.Photo by Ken Hart.
Whale86k Whale (SSN-638) at Groton, pier 4 south, 13 July 1991. Photo by Ken Hart.
Whale64kUndated bow view of what appears to be the Whale (SSN-638) underway.USN photo courtesy of Bill Gonyo.
Text i.d. courtesy of Joe Knowles, John Eldridge (CTR), Dave Johnston (USNR).
Whale136kWhale (SSN-638), underway, date and place unknown.USN photo.
Spent Fuel569kSealed reactor compartments are shipped by barge out of Puget Sound Naval Base down the coast and along the Columbia River to the port of Benton. There the radioactively-contaminated hull sections are transferred to special multiwheeled high-load trailers for transport to the Hanford Reservation in Washington State. Pictured below is the burial ground for spent fuel of the following 77 nuclear reactor submarines as of March 2003:
Patrick Henry (SSBN-599),
Snook (SSN-592),
George Washington (SSBN-598),
Scamp (SSN-588),
Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601),
Thomas Jefferson (SSBN-618),
Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600),
Dace (SSN-607),
John Adams (SSBN-620),
Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602),
Barb (SSN-596),
Ethan Allen (SSBN-608),
Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610),
Pollack (SSN-603),
Glenard P. Lipscomb (SSN-685),
James Monroe (SSBN-622),
Skipjack (SS-585),
Nathan Hale (SSBN-623),
Plunger (SSN-595),
Shark (SSN-591),
Lafayette (SSBN-616),
Sam Houston (SSBN-609),
Jack (SSN-605),
Haddo (SSN-604),
Tinosa (SSN-606),
Guardfish (SSN-612),
Permit (SSN-594),
Queenfish (SSN-651),
Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631),
John Marshall (SSBN-611),
George C. Marshall (SSBN-654),
Flasher (SSN-613),
Guitarro (SSN-665),
Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617),
George Washington Carver (SSBN-656),
Tecumseh (SSBN-628),
Halibut (SSGN-587),
Will Rogers (SSBN-659),
Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655),
Daniel Boone (SSBN-629),
Greenling (SSN-614),
John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630),
Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633),
Skate (SSN-578),
Sargo (SSN-583),
Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657),
Sturgeon (SSN-637),
Benjamin Franklin (SSBN-640),
Swordfish (SSN-579),
Seadragon (SSN-584),
Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634),
Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641),
Hammerhead (SSN-663),
Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658),
Tullibee (SSN-597),
Lewis & Clark (SSBN-644),
Pargo (SSN-650),
Seahorse (SSN-669),
Gurnard (SSN-662),
Flying Fish (SSN-673),
Gato (SSN-615),
Puffer (SSN-652),
Seawolf (SSN-575),
Baton Rouge (SSN-689),
Bergall (SSN-667),
Whale (SSN-638),
Henry Clay (SSBN-625),
James Madison (SSBN-627),
Finback (SSN-670),
Spadefish (SSN-668),
Sunfish (SSN-649),
George Bancroft (SSBN-643),
Grayling (SSN-646),
Pintado (SSN-672),
Tunny (SSN-682),
Archerfish (SSN-678),
& Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624).
USN photo & partial text courtesy of & submitted by Jack Treutle (of blessed memory).

Commanding Officers
01CDR. Wolff Jr., William Martin, USN12.10.1968 - 24.01.1970 First Date in Commission
02CDR. Mayberry Jr., Thomas Alfred, USN (USNA 1953)24.01.1970 - 22.07.1972
03CDR. Curtis III, Guy Haldane, USN (USNA 1959) :RADM22.07.1972 - 11.07.1975
04CDR. Brooks, Linton Forrestal, USN11.07.1975 - 10.10.1978
05CDR. Morse, Clayton Kavanagh, USN (USNA 1963)10.10.1978 - 22.02.1981
06CDR. Morrow, Emil David, USN (USNA 1964)22.02.1981 - 24.03.1983
07CDR. Welsch, James Edward, USN (USNA 1967)24.03.1983 - 18.10.1985
08CDR. Francis, John Willi (Jack), USN18.10.1985 - 26.06.1989
09CDR. Deering, Ronald Dean, USN26.06.1989 - 23.11.1991
10CDR. Harris Jr., Andrew Vanvleet, USN23.11.1991 - 21.01.1994
11CDR. Pugh, Kenneth Scott, USN (USNA 1976)21.01.1994 - 01.07.1996 Last Date in Commission
Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler

View the Whale (SSN-638)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
FAS--SSN-637 Sturgeon class

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