(SSBN-659: dp. 7,320 (surf.), 8,220 (subm.); l. 425'; b. 33'; dr. 31'4"; s. 6 k. (surf.), 20+ k. (subm.); cpl. 140; a. 16 Polaris, 4 21" tt.; cl. Benjamin Franklin)
Will Rogers, born on 4 November 1879 near the present town of Claremore, Okla., received sporadic formal education between 1887 and 1898, when he left home to become a cowboy on the Ewing Ranch in Lipscomb County, Tex., near the town of Higgins. After managing his father's ranch from 1899 to 1902, he sailed for South America, where he spent five months with the gauchos of the Argentine pampas. Later in 1902, the still-restless Rogers sailed for South Africa, where he took a job breaking in horses for the British Army. While in South Africa, he began his show business career, where he joined "Texas Jack's Wild West Show," to be billed as "The Cherokee Kid."
Joining the Wirth Brothers' circus in 1903, he toured Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States the following year to appear at the St. Louis Exposition and receive his first vaudeville bookings in Chicago. He made his first appearance in New York in 1905 and, over the next 10 years, made three trips to Europe and traveled extensively in Canada and his native United States. During this time, he also made the first airplane flight in Atlantic City, N.J., as a passenger.
From 1916 to 1925, Rogers appeared occasionally with the famed Ziegfield Follies; he made his first motion picture in 1918, "Laughing Bill Hyde," and moved to California in 1919 to work in the Goldwyn studios. The year 1922 proved a landmark one for the cowboy-humorist, as he began a weekly syndicated column which eventually reached a large readership through some 350 newspapers. He maintained this regularly featured column until his death in 1935.
From 1925 to 1928, Rogers traveled the length and breadth of the United States in a "lecture tour." During this time he became the first civilian to fly from coast to coast with pilots flying the mail in early air mail flights. The National Press Club, Washington, D.C., dubbed him "Ambassador at Large of the United States"; and, in 1927, he visited Mexico City with the transatlantic aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh as a guest of Ambassador Dwight Morrow. In subsequent years, Rogers gave numerous after-dinner speeches; became a popular convention speaker; gave benefits for victims of floods, droughts, or earthquakes. After the Great Depression hit the United States, Rogers gave radio talks on "unemployment," with ex-President Coolidge, President Hoover, and former Presidential candidate Al Smith.
He made a trip to the Orient in 1931 and to Central and South America the following year. In 1934 he made a globe-girdling tour and returned to play the lead in Eugene O'Neill's stage play, "Ah Wilderness." Also during the period 1930 to 1935, he made movies for Fox studios and radio broadcasts for the Gulf Oil Company.
Through Rogers' continuing series of columns between 1922 and 1935, as well as in his personal appearances and radio broadcasts, he won the loving admiration of the American people, poking jibes in witty ways at the issues of the day and prominent people, often politicians. He wrote from a non-partisan point of view and became a friend of presidents and a confidant of the great. Loved for his cool mind and warm heart, he was often considered the successor to such greats as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Artemus Ward.
An avid booster of aviation, Rogers undertook a polar flight with a fellow Oklahoman, Wiley Post, in the summer of 1935. It ended in tragedy. Post's plane crashed at Point Barrow, Alaska, on 15 August 1935, killing Post and his passenger, Will Rogers.
Will Rogers (SSBN-659), the 41st and last Polaris submarine, was laid down on 20 March 1965 at Groton, Conn., by the General Dynamics Corporation's Electric Boat Div.; launched on 21 July 1966; sponsored by Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, the wife of the Vice President of the United States; and commissioned on 1 April 1967, Capt. R. Y. Kaufman and Comdr. W. J. Cowhill in command of the Blue and Gold crews, respectively.
Following shakedown, Will Rogers culminated her initial training and work-up by conducting a successful Polaris shot in the Atlantic missile range off Cape Kennedy, Fla., on 31 July 1967. In October of that year, she made her first deterrent deployment.
Will Rogers was based out of Groton, Conn., until 1974 when she shifted to a forward deployment at Rota, Spain. She conducted additional deterrent deployments from Rota over the next four years, into 1978, bringing the total number of patrols made to 35.