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George Washington III (SSBN-598)



George Washington (SSBN-598) underway at sea, 30 June 1960. Copyright Owner: National Archives. Catalog #: K-24806. 

The third U.S. Navy ship named for George Washington (1732–1799), Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States.

In addition, six ships have been named Washington in honor of the first President. The first Washington -- while never part of the Continental Navy -- was a 160-ton schooner named Endeavor, acquired by Gen. Washington in 1775, fitted out and re-rigged as a brigantine, and served in 1775. The second Washington, a row galley, served from 1776–1778. Frigate Washington was launched on 7 August 1776 but never completed, and she was destroyed by fire on 7 May 1778. The third Washington, a lateen-rigged, two-masted galley, also served in 1776. The fourth Washington, a ship-of-the-line, served from 1815–1843. The fifth Washington, a revenue cutter, served from 1833–1837. The sixth Washington, also a revenue cutter, served from 1837–1861.


(SSBN-598: displacement 5,600; length 382'; beam 33'; draft 29'; speed 20+ knots; complement 120; armament 16 Polaris A-1 submarine launched ballistic missiles; class George Washington)

The third George Washington (SSBN-598) was laid down on 1 November 1957 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 9 June 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Ollie R. Anderson, wife of Robert B. Anderson, Secretary of the Treasury, and commissioned on 30 December 1959, Cdr. James B. Osborn (blue crew) and Cdr. John L. From Jr. (gold crew) in command.


Model of the ballistic missile submarine USS George Washington

Rear Admiral William F. Rayborn, USN (left), and Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN, Chief of Naval Operations. Examine a cutaway model of the ballistic missile submarine George Washington (SSBN-598), July 1959. Official U.S. Navy photograph. Catalog#: USN 710496.

The first of a class of ballistic missile submarines, George Washington sailed from Groton on 28 June 1960 for Cape Canaveral, Fla., where she loaded two solid propellant Polaris missiles. Standing out into the Atlantic Missile Test Range with Rear Adm. William F. Raborn, head of the Polaris submarine development program on board as an observer, the nuclear powered submarine made history on 20 July 1960 when she successfully launched the first Polaris from a submerged submarine. At 1239, George Washington's commanding officer sent President Dwight D. Eisenhower the message: "Polaris from out of the deep to target. Perfect." Less than two hours later another missile from the submerged submarine homed in on the impact area 1,100 miles down range.

George Washington returned to Cape Canaveral to embark her gold crew, and on 30 July 1960 duplicated her earlier successes by launching two more missiles while submerged. Shakedown for the gold crew ended at Groton on 30 August and the submarine got underway from that port on 28 October for Charleston, S.C., to load her full complement of 16 Polaris missiles. There she received the Navy Unit Commendation, covering the period of 9 June 1959–20 July 1960, after which her blue crew took over; and George Washington embarked on her first patrol.

The submarine completed her first patrol after 66 days of submerged running on 21 January 1961 and put in at New London, Conn. The gold crew took over; and she departed on her next patrol on 14 February. After the patrol George Washington entered Holy Loch, Scotland, on 25 April 1961. Through 1964 she continued to conduct classified deterrent patrols from that port, alternating her two crews. Four years after her initial departure from Groton she put in to refuel, having steamed 100,000 miles.

After overhaul and refueling at Electric Boat in 1965, George Washington resumed her patrols and served as a deterrent to global war for the next twenty years.

George Washington was decommissioned on 24 January 1985, stricken on 30 April 1986, and later transferred to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., for scrapping. She was disposed of by submarine recycling on 30 September 1998.

Detailed history pending.

Mark L. Evans
20 June 2018

Polaris Missile

The first firing of a Polaris missile from George Washington (SSBN-598) shot from beneath the surface, July 1960. Copyright Owner: National Archives. Catalog #: K-25571.

Published: Fri Aug 23 13:39:19 EDT 2019