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Guitarro II (SSN-665)


A member of the guitarfish family of rays, which inhabits warm shallow waters across the world.

Guitarro’s insignia. (Guitarro Commissioning Booklet, Ship History File, Naval History and Heritage Command)
Caption: Guitarro’s insignia. (Guitarro Commissioning Booklet, Ship History File, Naval History and Heritage Command)


(SSN-665: displacement 4,103 (surfaced), 4,634 (submerged); length 292'0"; beam 31'0"; draft 29'0"; speed 20 knots; complement 130; armament 4 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Sturgeon)

The second Guitarro (SSN-665) was laid down on 9 December 1965 at Vallejo, Calif., by Mare Island Naval Shipyard; launched on 27 July 1968; and sponsored by Mrs. John M. Taylor, wife of Vice Adm. John M. Taylor, USN (Ret.). At 1600 on 15 May 1969, workmen who had been assigned to calibrate instruments on board Guitarro filled her aft ballast tanks with approximately five tons of water. A half hour later, another construction team, unware of their counterparts’ activities, filled the ballast tanks at the bow in order to bring Guitarro to within a half degree of trim. Despite warnings from the security watch that the boat was already riding low enough in the waves that water was sporadically pouring into an unopened manhole, they continued their work, still wholly ignorant of what was transpiring at the other end of the vessel.

The group toiling forward on board Guitarro departed for lunch at 2000, unaware that the other work crew had already completed their calibrations and begun the process of emptying the aft ballast tanks. Both teams experienced a rather rude shock when at 2030 the ship suddenly dipped sharply down in the water, and each group scrambled to seal the hatches, but the lines and cables running through the hatches prevented them from doing so. Thus, Guitarro sank at the pier at 2055. In a profession where failing to break a champagne bottle across the bow at a ship’s christening is considered a sign of bad luck, one can only imagine how her prospective officers and men interpreted this particular omen. Additionally, wags privately called the boat “The Mare Island Mud Puppy.”

Guitarro after her sinking at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Calif., showing medium harbor tug Satanta (YTM-270) positioned against the boat’s sail to prevent her from capsizing. (U.S. Navy Photo No. MSA 91770-5-69)
Caption: Guitarro after her sinking at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Calif., showing medium harbor tug Satanta (YTM-270) positioned against the boat’s sail to prevent her from capsizing. (U.S. Navy Photo No. MSA 91770-5-69)

Guitarro’s commissioning would be delayed due to the estimated $15.2 to $21.85 million in repairs. In the interim, the House Committee on Armed Services appointed three of its members to a Special Subcommittee to investigate Guitarro’s sinking. After inspecting all available records at Mare Island and collecting approximately 605 pages of sworn testimony, they issued their findings on 30 June 1969, concluding that the immediate cause of the sinking was “the culpable negligence of certain shipyard employees.” They also noted other significant contributing factors, not the least of which was “inadequate coordination of both the ship construction activities and the assignment of specific responsibilities.” One thing that stood out to the investigators, in particular, was the decision to trim the boat by filling the ballast tanks with water, rather than using concrete weights. “To put water into a main ballast tank,” one experienced submariner testified, “to a person in submarines, is—you don’t do this unless you want to submerge, or unless it is a very deliberate, controlled evolution.”

Ultimately, the committee recommended that control and responsibility for all shipyard construction be centralized to avoid a repeat of this incident. Cmdr. William G. Lange, Guitarro’s prospective commanding officer, had suggested something very similar to the shipyard representatives at a meeting on 15 March 1969, two months before the mishap. According to the committee, a memo from that meeting reveals that the shipyard representatives had waved off Lange’s argument, claiming that the yard “had been building ships for a long time without the need for such a procedure and no one had been killed or equipments [sic] damaged yet.” Lange countered: “They had been lucky.” The committee pithily noted at the end of their own report that, “On May 15, the shipyard’s luck ran out.”

Guitarro was finally commissioned on 9 September 1972, Cmdr. Lange in command, and was assigned to Submarine Squadron Five and Submarine Division 52. Although she was to be homeported out of San Diego, Calif., her first destination upon leaving the shipyard on 21 September was Bangor, Wash., where she conducted her Weapons System Accuracy Tests (WSAT), as well as Acoustic Trials at the nearby Carr Inlet Acoustic Range (21 September–14 October). Reaching San Diego on 17 October, she began an aggressive period of training and weekly operations in local waters that would last the remainder of the year. Despite the rather cramped confines of the boat’s interior, she was able to host a Dependents Cruise on 6 December, giving the family and guests of her crew a rare glimpse into the inner-workings of one if its active-duty submarines.

Weekly operations out of San Diego continued well into February 1973 until Guitarro finally got underway for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to participate in a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) operation evaluating the effectiveness of the SQS-26 Sonar, which was mounted on a number of the U.S. Navy’s frigates and cruisers, and absolutely crucial to the surface fleet’s ASW operations. While at Pearl Harbor, the submarine also conducted training sessions on the Mk. 48 torpedo, as well as a UUM-44 SUBmarine ROCket (SUBROC) operation test. She did not return to San Diego until mid-April, whereupon she cruised to Mare Island Naval Shipyard to undergo her post-shakedown availability (PSA). In contrast to many surface ships, Guitarro’s PSA proved fairly short. By the end of June she was back in San Diego, having not only completed her PSA, but also visits to Bangor to complete her certification to carry Mk. 48 torpedoes, and to Nanoose, B.C., for a brief respite.

Having passed all required inspections and examinations, Guitarro was now finally ready to begin her deployment preparations. During the summer months of 1973, she engaged in a ten-day underway period in company with Pintado (SSN-672) and radar picket submarine Sailfish (SSR-572), as well as a period of upkeep alongside submarine tender Dixon (AS-37). In September, she deployed to the Western Pacific as part of the Seventh Fleet, Submarine Group Seven, spending approximately 68 days at sea before sailing to Guam for three weeks of upkeep, and then to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, for nine days of liberty. More operations followed in December, including a Crossing-the-Line ceremony on 17 December 1973. Held every time a ship crosses the equator, those who have never transited between northern and southern hemispheres (the so-called “Pollywogs” or just “wogs”) undergo a series of secretive, occasionally degrading rituals, all in the name of becoming faithful members of King Neptune’s court (the so-called “Shellbacks”). It is unknown as to whether or not submarines conduct the same sort of rituals as the surface ships (the raucous nature of “wog beauty contests” are not particularly conducive to maintaining silent operations), but nonetheless, the ceremony proved a reminder that King Neptune reigned below the surface as well as above.

Although such rituals occur on board naval vessels of any number of nations, we should not discount their importance to those individuals who crewed U.S. submarines. As stressful and sometimes exciting as submarine operations can sometimes be, there are also very long stretches of tedium. Whereas the crews of surface ships often have the opportunity to break-up the arduousness of a deployment with occasional visits to exotic ports throughout the world, submariners spend months lurking beneath the waves in the cramped confines of their vessels, their view of the world outside its hull restricted to whatever the periscope or the sonar might show.

Moreover, unlike many ballistic missile submarines, which rotated between two crews throughout the year, fast attack submarines had only one crew, making it very difficult for them to maintain some semblance of a social and family life. Communications with loved ones, when permitted, were restricted to brief electronic communications, a far cry from the veritable flood of mail that surface ships receive. Thus, even small pleasures, such as daily movie nights, occasional pranking, and Crossing-the-Line ceremonies, were important to maintaining crew morale and, indeed, strengthening the bonds of unity on board.

Guitarro’s deployment extended into the first two months of 1974, and she spent January engaged in a significant operation for the Seventh Fleet. At the end of the month and for the rest of February, the submarine slowly made her way back to her homeport, visiting Subic Bay and Guam en route. After completing her post-deployment shakedown in March, she spent the next month in upkeep and then stood out for a variety of activities including torpedo firing exercises, opposed sorties, and services for destroyers, patrol aircraft, and Lockheed S-3 Vikings. While not the same as chasing Soviet submarines or monitoring weapons tests, the importance of these activities should not be discounted. Submarines were, after all, not the only vessels to assume ASW duties; surface ships (particularly destroyers) and aircraft such as the Viking were also designed for and heavily engaged in these sorts of operations. To develop the skills necessary for their crews to perform these tasks, it fell to U.S. submarines to provide that service.

In July 1974, Guitarro entered the floating dry dock San Onofre (ARD-30) for a routine interim docking, after which she conducted sea trials, calibrations, and training in mid-August. For the rest of the year, the boat participated in additional ASW evolutions to test and develop tactics for the submarine AN/SQR-19 Tactical Towed Array Sonar system and new sonar data processing equipment. At the beginning of 1975, she conducted her WSAT and Mk. 48 torpedo firings, as well as a series of instrument tests at Dabob Bay, Wash., and Nanoose. She then underwent a period of upkeep and inspections prior to deploying on 1 April.

Between April and August 1975, Guitarro undertook two extended missions at sea with a three-week refit at Guam in between. On 1 August, she entered Subic Bay for another refit and then sailed to Hong Kong for a few days before engaging in a Seventh Fleet exercise in support of a carrier task force. Once this was complete, the submarine visited Pusan, South Korea, Yokosuka, Japan, and Pearl Harbor, en route to her home port. After spending most of October in post-deployment stand-down, she provided services to Submarine Command Pacific (ComSubPac) for a prospective commanding officer’s course in torpedo firing exercises and then underwent a successful technical proficiency and technical standardization inspections. She concluded the year’s operations with a week of type training during which she hosted Rear Adm. John G. Williams, Jr., Commander, Submarine Group Five, and Rear Adm. Henry P. Glindeman, Commander, Carrier Group Seven.

In contrast to the prior year, Guitarro spent all of 1976 operating off the West Coast for sum total of 86 days at sea. That is not to say, however, that it was any less busy for her, as she spent the majority of the first two months preparing for a major fleet exercise. Following a period of upkeep alongside Dixon in February, the increasingly seasoned boat participated in Valiant Heritage (FleetEx 1-76) throughout March. Conducted in conjunction with exercise Solid Shield (which took place off the East Coast), this exercise involved over 41 ships, 200 aircraft, and 18,000 servicemembers from five nations simulating an escalation of the Cold War, beginning with ship tracking exercises and culminating in an all-out “attack” on San Diego.

At the end of this exercise, Guitarro underwent another period of upkeep alongside Dixon and also an inspection conducted by the Board of Inspection and Survey. She then spent most of June 1976 operating off the coast of southern California, the last time she would do so prior to her regular overhaul. Departing San Diego in late July, she steamed northwards visiting Alameda, Calif., and Astoria, Ore., en route. Upon arriving in Bremerton on approximately 1 August, she immediately commenced her regular overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Guitarro remained in overhaul for nearly 11 months, and, somewhat appropriately, regained her independence from the shipyard on 4 July 1977. The boat remained in the Puget Sound area for the next month, however, in order to conduct her refresher training and WSAT. In August, she finally returned to San Diego, where more refresher training awaited in addition to normal operations off the coast of southern California. Following a period of post-overhaul upkeep alongside Dixon in October, she steamed northwards once more for a series of tests, including her Mk. 48 torpedo certification at Nanoose, and underwater range and sound trials at Carr Inlet. On her return journey south, she briefly visited Seattle, Wash., and then arrived in San Diego on 16 December, where she would spend the remainder of the year in holiday upkeep alongside Dixon.

The year 1978 marked the beginning of an important phase in Guitarro’s career, when in mid-January she participated in ReadiEx (Readiness Exercise) 1-78, an advanced fleet ASW evolution. The following month, she proceeded to Pearl Harbor for an intensive period of operations and weapons testing at the Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range and the Barking Sands Underwater Range Expansion. While conducting operations there, the boat underwent a number of troubleshooting scenarios to her Mk. 117 fire control system. Her weapons capabilities also underwent rigorous examination, the most significant of which was the successful test firing of a UGM-84A Harpoon submarine-launched, all-weather, over-the-horizon anti-ship missile, one of the first times that a Pacific fleet submarine had ever done so (the Navy had only just installed Harpoons on board fast attack boats in 1977).

Guitarro returned to San Diego briefly in late March 1978, but it was not long before she was returning to Pearl Harbor to participate in ASW exercises in Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac) ’78, a multi-national, multi-threat scenario series of maritime evolutions. She subsequently transited back to San Diego where she spent May and June having her fire control equipment modified. Much as she had done with Harpoon, Guitarro was to serve as a test platform for one of the U.S. Navy’s latest weapons: the UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. Although normally they were launched from vertical tubes on board submarines, the early Tomahawks were purposely designed to be launched from the narrow confines of a submarine torpedo tube. Guitarro was not the first fast attack submarine to launch a Tomahawk – that honor went to Barb (SSN-596) on 1 February 1978) – she would be heavily engaged in its testing and development nearly four and half years (July 1978–December 1982), launching nearly 35 missiles total, two of which she launched that July. The submarine followed this up with another successful test firing of a Harpoon the next month and a period of upkeep alongside Sperry (AS-12) in September. She spent the remainder of the year carrying out local operations (including FleetEx 1-79) and holiday upkeep with Dixon.

Guitarro launches a Tomahawk during one her many tests of the weapons system. (Guitarro Inactivation Ceremony Booklet, NHHC Archives)
Caption: Guitarro launches a Tomahawk during one her many tests of the weapons system. (Guitarro Inactivation Ceremony Booklet, NHHC Archives)

Tomahawk testing continued to occupy Guitarro throughout 1979. On 14 and 22 February of that year, she successfully launched two of the missile’s anti-ship variants (TASM) during a contractor demonstration and technical evaluations. She then entered a two-month shipyard restricted availability at Mare Island on 8 March to repair her equipment and recertify her Submarine Safety systems. After returning to San Diego (28 April), the submarine participated in ReadiEx 3-79 in early June (7–15 June) and then took part in another Tomahawk test off San Clemente Island, Calif., on 28 June. She followed this up with four more tests in July and August. During the first of these on 17 July, the submarine utilized the Outlaw Shark Tactical Display Data System for the first time to provide targeting data to the missile. The next two tests (19 July, 7 August) proved less successful, as the TASM and one land attack missile (TLAM) experienced malfunctions after launch. For the fourth and final test during the week of 9 August, a TASM was fired at the Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility.

Upon completing the missile tests, Guitarro entered tender availability for a month and then participated in Kernel Potlatch II in late September 1979 as part of a multinational force operating off the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. At the exercise’s conclusion, she visited Bangor while en route to San Diego. Her stay in her homeport would be brief, as she soon departed to conduct ASW operations in the Pacific. The submarine finally surfaced in December to visit Pearl Harbor and then to return home to San Diego for the holidays. She would get underway again early in 1980 to participate in ReadiEx 2-80 and then enter a month-long upkeep alongside Dixon to prepare for her upcoming deployment.

Guitarro’s deployment had been assigned with very little advanced notice, but she still managed to depart on time to participate in RimPac ’80 in a support role for a carrier battle group. Afterwards, she made a port visit to Pearl Harbor for a week and then conducted an extended training cruise. At the end of April 1980, the boat sailed to Yokosuka for repairs before making her returning to San Diego. Upon arriving back at her homeport on 17 May, she immediately began preparing for another Tomahawk missile test at the end of the month followed by ReadiEx 3-80 and midshipmen training cruises throughout June.

The second half of 1980 proved equally busy for Guitarro. After a spending most of July in upkeep, she took part in more Tomahawk testing and additional at-sea operations. Later that October, she engaged in a simulated underwater rescue mission, serving as the mother vessel for deep submergence rescue vehicle Avalon (DSRV-2). At the end of the year, she participated in PacSubASWEx, a submarine vs. submarine exercise intended to help formulate new tactics for submarine encounters. She then carried out one final contractor test for the TASM variant of the Tomahawk and returned home for holiday leave.

As with prior years, Guitarro spent much of 1982 engaged in Tomahawk testing. During the year, she fired missiles ten times (some involving over-the-horizon targeting) using both the TASM and TLAM variants. This proved a particularly critical phase in the Tomahawk’s development, as the missiles were nearly ready to be deployed across the submarine fleet, replacing at least some of the torpedoes in their forward tubes (in a sign of things to come, all Los Angeles-class subs laid down that year would have vertical tubes).

In addition to testing the Tomahawk missiles, Guitarro also assisted the British Royal Navy with its Harpoon interoperability tests and visited Alameda, Calif. During the spring months, she participated in RimPac ’82 en route to Hawaii for an eight-day port visit to Pearl Harbor and a Mk. 48 torpedo firing exercise off Kauai. She continued her heavy workload into the summer month with further testing of the Tomahawk, participation in PacSecEx 2-82, and a week of submarine prospective commanding officer operations. By the end of the year, preparations were well underway for her upcoming deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Prior to her deployment, Guitarro briefly got underway in January 1983 for ReadiEx 2-83 and Mk. 48 torpedo exercises. She then deployed in February, first setting a course for Subic Bay to undertake repairs, and then making her way to the Indian Ocean for operations and to provide support for the America (CV-66) Battle Group. Near the beginning of May, she engaged in ASW operations as part of MultiplEx 83-2 and then steamed to Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, for a two-day port visit. From there, she proceeded to Perth, Australia, for a port call and then to Subic Bay for upkeep. Upon departing the latter port in June, she participated in Valiant Blitz 83-3 and then cruised to Guam. The submarine arrived back in San Diego in August and spent the next two months in upkeep. Although she briefly left port for ReadiEx 83-7 in October and ASW aircraft services in November and December, she would spend much of the remaining year in port preparing for regular overhaul scheduled for the next year.

In the first half of 1984, Guitarro continued to provide ASW services, as well as undertaking special tasks for the CNO. She also participated in CompTUEx 84-2 in January and various other exercises off the Pacific Northwest during the months of February and March, visiting Bangor and Alameda while engaged in the latter. April and May predominantly involved local operations off southern California including a dependents cruise and prospective commanding officers operations. Near the end of May, the submarine had to commence prematurely her regular overhaul when her battery suffered a major casualty, forcing her to remain surfaced en route to Mare Island. Once she had arrived, the overhaul commenced on 8 June in order to update the boat’s electronic support measures, sonar, navigation, and fire control capabilities.

Although regular overhauls can be rather prolonged affairs for surface ships, they pale in comparison to the amount and effort required to overhaul a submarine. The innate complexities of submarine technology coupled with the need to construct a virtually flawless exterior hull that can withstand the pressures of the deep makes it next to impossible to add or remove some equipment without literally cutting the boat in half and then essentially rebuilding it. Suffice to say, none of this could be accomplished without thorough inspections and testing at every step to ensure the continued safety of the submarine and her crew.

When Guitarro finally left Mare Island in May 1986, she returned to San Diego and joined Submarine Squadron Three. Following a change of command, she conducted acoustic trials throughout June and July, first at the Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility and then at Carr Inlet. She then spent most of August and September providing ASW services, as well as undergoing inspections such as an underway material inspection. At the end of the year, the submarine participated in ReadiEx 1-87 to prepare Kitty Hawk (CV-63) for deployment.

There was still much work to do before Guitarro herself would be ready to deploy. Throughout January 1987, the submarine provided services to the various Pacific Fleet commands and conducted intensive crew training. While engaged in operations in February, she suffered a casualty to an electrical distribution switchboard that would take over a month to repair. After completing repairs to this, she spent the next three months (March-May) undergoing upkeep and numerous inspections to ensure that she would be ready to tackle the challenges she would face on her upcoming deployment. Once all of that had been completed, she sailed out from San Diego on deployment in June, the first time that she had done so in nearly four years. For the next six months, she engaged in extended periods of operations, both independently and in the service of both the Ranger (CV-61) and Kitty Hawk battle groups. On the occasions when she did surface, she visited Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Guam, Yokosuka, and Sasebo, Japan. Guitarro  finally arrived home in December, having been at-sea for close to six months.

For the first quarter of 1988, Guitarro largely conducted local operations including providing training services to Navy ships and aircraft. In May, she became one of the first submarines to install and operate the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS), conducting a thorough evaluation of the still developing technology over the course of the year. Beginning in July, the submarine returned to sea for two months of ASW exercises, after which she underwent a series of inspections in September and then a selected restricted availability from October onwards. When she finally exited in 1989, she prepared for another six-month deployment, getting underway around September of that year.

Guitarro off the coast of southern California, 17 March 1988. (DIMOC #DN-SC-08-09845)
Caption: Guitarro off the coast of southern California, 17 March 1988. (DIMOC #DN-SC-08-09845)

Even as Guitarro plied her stealthy trade beneath the waters of the Pacific, the world on the surface was changing rapidly. The East Bloc was slowly crumbling, with a number of communist leaders being removed from power and the parties dissolved, while in the U.S.S.R., Mikhail S. Gorbachev struggled to enact political reforms amidst a stagnant economy and internal opposition from members of his own party. The geopolitical situation in Europe irrevocably changed when Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. At the Malta Summit (2–3 December 1988), Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush declared the Cold War to be at an end, and agreed to take steps to thaw relations between their two nations, including greater cooperation between their two navies.

These significant changes did not affect Guitarro at first. After spending much of January 1989 in upkeep alongside Proteus (AS-19) in Guam, she sailed to Pearl Harbor (5–6 February) and then to San Diego, arriving on 14 February. At the end of her post-deployment upkeep, the submarine engaged in operations with a Sea, Air, and Land [SEAL] Team (12–16 March) and training with other submarines as part of a KiloEx (19–23 March). Following another upkeep period (24 March–8 April), she got underway for ReadiEx 90 (9–18 April), which tested the interoperability of participating U.S. and allied forces.

Beginning in late April 1990, Guitarro was once again called upon to participate in Tomahawk missile tests. After an initial period of testing (24 April–1 May), she entered an intermediate maintenance activity (IMA) upkeep with Dixon. Upon returning to sea, she resumed her to testing, which culminated in launching a submarine-launched cruise missile in mid-June, as well earning her Mk. 48 Advanced Capability Recertification (12–21 June). This was followed by a KiloEx (25 June–1 July) and nearly a month of orientation cruises for midshipmen, (2–4, 10–13, 16–19, 23–26 July). The final cruise was particularly noteworthy, as two groups of female midshipmen were among those who received submarine warfare demonstrations.

Following more upkeep with Dixon (28 July–22 August 1990), Guitarro participated in another series of training operations with the SEALs (4–9 September) and underwent a surprise naval technical proficiency inspection (13–14 September). She also conducted a tactical readiness exam (17–24 September) and a mine readiness certification inspection (27–29 September), the latter of which certified her to conduct mining operations, a rarity for a submarine at this time.

In a sign that the Cold War was truly over, Guitarro had the honor of hosting Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, General of the Soviet Army/Chief of Soviet General Staff, Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Charles R. Larson, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, on 4 October. The U.S.’s willingness to allow a Soviet general and his staff on board a submarine represented a dramatic shift from the heightened tensions of the 1980s.

Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev (lower left) examines Guitarro’s equipment with Adm. Charles R. Larson (center) and Gen. Colin Powell (lower right) as one of his aides and Cmdr. John F. Teply looks on. (Guitarro Inactivation Ceremony Booklet, NHHC Archives)

The remainder of the year was less eventful. Immediately following Gen. Moiseyev’s visit, Guitarro proceeded to San Francisco for Fleet Week (7–11 October 1990). During her return cruise to San Diego, she participated in ReadiEx 90 and then commenced her scheduled preservation upkeep coordinated effort (16–29 October). Consequently, she spent over a month in IMA upkeep with Dixon (30 October–5 December), as well as a period drydocked in San Onofre (13–28 November). When the submarine finally completed this, she briefly got underway for a CNO project (6–10 December) and an underway material inspection (12–14 December) before initiating her holiday leave on 17 December.

Guitarro spent much of January 1991 preparing for inspections and exercises. Beginning on 3 January, she conducted four days of independent operations (3–6 January) and then entered upkeep for nine days (7–16 January). Once her upkeep was complete, the submarine commenced a period (17 January–4 February) of fleet exercises that included ReadiEx 91, a KiloEx, and Coordinated ASW Services and Training (CAST). She then underwent a major inspection (5–6 February) and then another lengthy upkeep period (7 February–10 March). When the boat finally set out again, she participated in a TorpEx (11–15 March), SEAL team operations and training (22–26 March), and another KiloEx (27–29 March).

At the end of the month, Guitarro began preparations for her final overseas deployment (30 March–9 April 1991). The deployment itself lasted nearly two months, with the boat operating independently for the entirety of that time. When she finally surfaced and returned to port, she spent over a month in port on leave and IMA upkeep (7 June–14 July), including six days in dry dock (3–8 July). Once she completed the upkeep, the submarine spent the remainder of July engaged in a midshipmen orientation cruise (15–19 July) and CompTUEx 91 (22–25 July). Shen then conducted a tactical weapons proficiency and operations evaluation for the Mk. 48 Advanced Capability (AdCap) torpedo and sailed north to Esquimalt, B.C. (9–13 August). After arriving there, she made her final liberty visit to Victoria, B.C. (14–15 August). En route back to San Diego (16–20 August), Guitarro again provided CAST services to ASW aircraft. Although her crew would remain busy over the next week preparing for a mid-term engineering evaluation (27 August–5 September), the boat herself was scheduled for deactivation on 13 September.

Whereas surface ships are decommissioned upon the end of their active service careers, submarines must first go through an inactivation period in which they are de-fueled, their equipment is removed, and they are preserved for towing. Owing to the sensitive nature of these tasks, it is often not possible to hold a public ceremony for a submarine’s decommissioning. Thus, inactivation ceremonies serve as substitute, offering the crew and their families the opportunity to celebrate a boat’s many years of service. In Guitarro’s case, four of her seven commanding officers attended the ceremony, in addition to crew members past and present.

Four days later, on 17 September 1991, Guitarro departed San Diego for the final time with her crew and their dependents embarked. As is often the case with submarines, the so-called “Mare Island Mud Puppy” was to return to her spawning ground at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard to be decommissioned. Although her difficult birth had earned her the sort of notoriety that most submariners shun, for the most part, her life in the “silent service” was one of quiet distinction, whether contributing to the development of the Tomahawk, providing ASW services, or conducting missions that will forever, by their very nature, remain among the mysteries of the Deep, known to only those who carried them out.   

Decommissioned on 29 May 1992 Guitarro was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. On 18 October 1994, she was disposed of through the Navy’s submarine recycling program.

Guitarro received a Navy Unit Commendation, two Meritorious Unit Commendations, and two Navy “E” Ribbons.

Commanding Officers Dates of Command
Cmdr. W. Gordon Lange 9 September 1972–12 October 1974
Cmdr. Alvin H. Pauole 12 October 1974–6 May 1978
Cmdr. Scott A. van Hoften 6 May 1978–18 July 1981
Cmdr. Burton M. Saft 18 July 1981–30 May 1986
Cmdr. Mark R. Kevan 30 May 1986– circa February 1989
Cmdr. John F. Teply circa February 1989–9 April 1991
Cmdr. Robert S. Brown 9 April 1991–29 May 1992


Martin R. Waldman, Ph.D
3 October 2018

Published: Wed Oct 03 10:42:59 EDT 2018