Naval History and Heritage Command

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Columbia VIII (SSN-771)


The eighth U.S. Navy ship named Columbia. Frigate Columbia was burned on the stocks in 1814 while under construction at Washington Navy Yard, D.C., to prevent her from falling into enemy hands. The first three ships named Columbia were named for the capital of South Carolina. The first Columbia, a ship-rigged sailing frigate, served from 1836–1861. The second Columbia, a screw steamer, was captured by the U.S. Navy while operating as a Confederate blockade runner on 3 August 1862, and served from 1862–1863. The third Columbia, a Confederate ironclad ram, was seized while under construction in February 1865, and served from 1865–1867. The fourth Columbia (Cruiser No. 12) was named for the District of Columbia, reclassified to a heavy cruiser (CA-16) on 17 July 1920, renamed Old Columbia on 17 November 1921, and served (with brief interruptions) from 1894–1922. The fifth Columbia, transport Great Northern, was acquired on 3 August 1921 as a miscellaneous auxiliary (AG-9) but known as “Administrative Flagship, U.S. Atlantic Fleet,” renamed Columbia -- for the capital of South Carolina -- on 17 November 1921, and served from 1921–1922. The sixth Columbia, a light cruiser (CL-56), was named for the capital of South Carolina, and served from 1942–1959. The seventh Columbia was laid down as merchant tanker Falcon Lady in 1971, placed in service with the Military Sealift Command as oiler Columbia (T-AO-182) -- for the capital of South Carolina -- on 15 January 1976, reclassified to a transport oiler (AOT-182) on 30 September 1978, and served from 1976–1983. The eighth Columbia was named for the capital of South Carolina and cities in Illinois and Missouri.


(SSN-771: displacement 6,927; length 362'; beam 33'; draft 31'; speed 25 knots; complement 110; armament 12 Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes for UGM-109 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles and UGM-84 Harpoon submarine launched anti-ship missiles, and four torpedo tubes for Mk 48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) torpedoes; class Los Angeles)

The eighth Columbia (SSN-771) was laid down on 21 April 1993 at Groton, Conn., by General Dynamics Electric Boat; launched on 24 September 1994; sponsored by First Lady of the United States Hillary R. Clinton; and was commissioned on 9 October 1995 at Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., Cmdr. Dale R. Govan in command.

On 20 August 1998 the U.S. launched Operation Infinite Reach (Resolute Response) — two simultaneous retaliatory raids in response to the twin al-Qaeda attacks. Guided missile cruisers Cowpens (CG-63) and Shiloh (CG-67), destroyers Elliott (DD-967) and Milius (DDG-69), and Columbia, operating with the Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Carrier Battle Group sailing in the North Arabian Sea, fired 73 BGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) at the Zhawar Kili al-Badr terrorist training and support complex, located 30 miles southwest of Khowst, Afghanistan. Destroyers Briscoe (DD-977) and Hayler (DD-997), steaming in the Red Sea, launched six more TLAMs against the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum, Sudan. Intelligence analysts suspected the plant of having ties to Usama bin Laden, and of manufacturing precursor chemicals for the deadly VX series of nerve gas. The Sudanese and critics, however, claimed that the plant did not produce VX. Additional ships involved in these actions included amphibious assault ship Essex (LHD-2), dock landing ship Anchorage (LSD-36), and amphibious transport dock Duluth (LPD-6), with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. Forward deployed Lockheed EP-3E Aries IIs of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1 and P-3C Orions of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 operated as part of Task Force 57. The attacks killed at least 11 terrorists. Abraham Lincoln evaluated the “pivotal” role of her command, control, communications, computers, and information suite in the two simultaneous operations on two separate continents, and in the dissemination of the initial battle damage assessment.

Columbia, Cmdr. Duane R. Ashton in command, deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (6 December 2002–6 June 2003) and on 21 and 22 March she joined 29 other U.S. and British ships and submarines that fired TLAMs against Iraqi military targets.

Columbia VIII (SSN-771) 1995-030606-N-3707W-001
Crewmen moor Columbia when they return triumphantly from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom to Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hi., 6 June 2003. Commercial tug Tiger 1 pushes the submarine to her berth, and the rattlesnake jack, a flag dating from the American Revolution and bearing the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” snaps defiantly in the breeze. (Journalist 2nd Class John Watts, U.S. Navy Photograph 030606-N-3707W-001, Navy NewsStand)
Columbia VIII (SSN-771) 1995-111221-N-UK333-045
Columbia returns from a deployment to the Western Pacific to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hi., 21 December 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge, U.S. Navy Photograph 111221-N-UK333-045, Navy NewsStand)
Columbia VIII (SSN-771) 1995-111221-N-UK333-093
Sonar Technician 1st Class Philip Martinez’s wife greets him with a kiss when Columbia returns, 21 December 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge, U.S. Navy Photograph 111221-N-UK333-093, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

29 September 2015

Published: Thu Jan 26 09:16:06 EST 2017