Naval History and Heritage Command

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San Francisco III (SSN-711)


A city in California.

The third U.S. Navy ship named San Francisco. The first San Francisco (Cruiser No. 5) was reclassified to CM-2 on 17 July 1920, and served (with some interruptions) from 1890–1937. The second San Francisco, a heavy cruiser (CA-38), served from 1934–1959.


(SSN-711: displacement 6,145; length 362'; beam 33'; draft 32'; speed 25 knots; complement 110; armament UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, UUM-44 SubRoc antisubmarine missiles, UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk 48 torpedoes—four torpedo tubes; class Los Angeles)

The third San Francisco (SSN-711) was laid down on 26 May 1977 at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched on 27 October 1979; sponsored by Mrs. Lucille W. Kaufman, wife of Vice Adm. Robert Y. Kaufman, Director, Command and Control, Chief of Naval Operations; and commissioned on 24 April 1981, Cmdr. J. Allen Marshall in command.

San Francisco III (SSN-711)
A nearly port quarter view of San Francisco on the surface as she completes sea trials, 31 March 1981. (U.S. Navy Photograph 1180787, San Francisco (SSN-711), Ships History, Naval History and Heritage Command)

San Francisco smashed into an undersea mountain in the vicinity of the Caroline Islands, about 750 miles southwest of Guam, at approximately 1600 on 7 January 2005, while en route to visit Brisbane, Australia. The boat steamed at flank speed at a depth of about 525 feet when she struck the seamount, which did not appear on the chart her crewmen used to navigate. Twenty-four-year-old MM2 Joseph A. Ashley of Akron, Ohio, sustained a severe head injury, and died on 9 January. Another 97 of the 137 men on board reported injuries ranging from broken bones, lacerations, bruises, back trauma, and muscle strains, 23 of whom were unable to stand their watches. 

The boat surfaced, and a medical officer and his team boarded San Francisco and assisted some of the casualties while she came about and made for Guam. Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island (WPB-1349) and Military Sealift Command-manned container and roll-on-roll-off support ship GySgt. Fred W. Stockham (T-AK-3017) rendezvoused with San Francisco and escorted her back to Guam, and ammunition ship Kiska (AE-35) also supported the submarine. San Francisco returned to Apra Harbor on 10 January, where 29 of her men were treated at Naval Hospital Guam, three of whom were admitted overnight for further evaluation and treatment. Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Commander Seventh Fleet, relieved Cmdr. Kevin G. Mooney of his command following a non-judicial punishment held in Yokosuka, Japan, on 12 February. 

“Although the grounding incident compelled me to punish [him] and remove him from command, in my opinion it does not negate 19 years of exemplary service,” the admiral wrote. “Prior to the grounding incident, USS San Francisco demonstrated a trend of continuing improvement and compiled an impressive record of achievement under [Mooney’s] leadership. Moreover, the crew’s post-grounding response under his direct leadership was commendable and enabled [the sub’s] recovery and safe return to port.” 

On 9 May 2005, the Navy released its report on the accident, noting that while the principal chart did not display the seamount, “Other charts in San Francisco’s possession did, however, clearly display a navigation hazard in the vicinity of the grounding. San Francisco’s navigation team failed to review those charts adequately and transfer pertinent data to the chart being used for navigation, as relevant directives and the ship's own procedures required.”

“If San Francisco’s leaders and watch teams had complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices, the grounding would most likely have been avoided. Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may have been prevented.” 

San Francisco meanwhile completed interim repairs to her bow while drydocked at Guam Machinist (the Navy’s former non-self-propelled large auxiliary floating dry dock AFDB-8) (14 January–10 June 2005). She accomplished more extensive work in drydock at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash. (5 December 2006–10 October 2008). The project involved cutting portions of the ballast tanks and sonar sphere from decommissioned attack submarine Honolulu (SSN-718), and attaching them to San Francisco. The work included restoring combat systems components used for torpedo systems and sonar sounding equipment, piping systems, and mechanical linkages. San Francisco returned to sea as an operational attack boat on 7 April 2009, and on 17 April arrived at her new homeport of Naval Submarine Base Point Loma, Calif. The Navy shifted her homeport as part of a plan to maintain 60% of the submarine fleet in the Pacific Fleet, as outlined in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. San Francisco began converting to a moored training ship (MTS-711) on 11 May 2017.

San Francisco III (SSN-711) 1981-050109-N-7293M-001
San Francisco passes the Orote cliffs as she returns to Apra, Guam, 10 January 2005. (PH2 Nathanael T. Miller, U.S. Photograph 050109-N-7293M-001, Navy NewsStand)
San Francisco III (SSN-711) 1981-050126-N-4658L-063
Commercial ocean tugs Golith, Magsino, and Taga escort San Francisco into drydock at Apra, 14 January 2005. (U.S. Photograph 050126-N-4658L-063, Navy NewsStand)
San Francisco III (SSN-711) 1981-050508-N-0000X-002
Workers repair San Francisco’s bow in drydock at Apra, 8 May 2005. They install a new 20 foot high by 20 foot wide steel done over the submarine’s damaged bow. (U.S. Photograph 050508-N-0000X-002, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history pending. 

Mark L. Evans
12 May 2017

Published: Fri May 12 07:20:22 EDT 2017