The USS Kamehameha in the 1960's

A Photo History

The story of the Kamehameha began on August 10th, 1962 when funds were allocated to build the 30th submarine of what would become America's "41 for freedom" Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines that were built in the 1960's.  It was during this time period when President John F. Kennedy contacted the newly elected Senator Daniel Inouye of  Hawaii and asked for suggestions for a notable Hawaiian for whom the new ship should be named. Sen. Inouye  of course, said "Kamehameha."

The Kamehameha began life when her keel was laid on 2 May 1963 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The ship was launched  in January of  1965 and commissioned on on 10 December 1965.   

After commissioning, the Kam visited Hawaii for the first time in 1966 before joining Squadron 15 at its forward base in Guam. At that time, three forward deployment sites were established at Guam, Holy Loch Scotland, and Rota Spain.  The idea of the sites was to allow the ship to begin its deterrent patrols closer to the patrol area. The Polaris missile had a relatively limited range and having the ship forward deployed prevented the need for long transits to get close to the target(s).  The Kamehameha would eventually be assigned to all three forward deployment sites in her lifetime.  

The Kamehameha made a number of deterrent patrols while a member of Squadron 15 and was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

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A pre-launch photo of the Kamehameha at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, CA, January 1965.  This photo was donated by Rick Elster.

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This is a view of one of the missile tubes being installed in the shipyard prior to the launching. This is quite a different view from any I have seen before. Apparently there was something rather unique about the way the tubes were installed on the Kam. Maybe one of the missile guys can explain this better.  The article is from the shipyard newspaper, "the Grapevine" and was donated by Rick Elster.

The launching of the Kamehameha. January 16, 1965. Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, CA  

These color photos of the launching were sent to me by Cary Poston.  Thanks Cary!

Cary Poston says "In Jan 1965 I was a 20 yr old electrician attending nuc pwr school in Mare Island.  I attended the launching of 642 out of curiosity & took the attached photos."

A nice side view detail of the artwork. Was this painted on?

...and finally out in the water, flanked by tugs. 

The first picture in a sequence of seven, from the launching ceremonies at Mare Island, California, January 16, 1965. Click on the image to see the full size version.

These pictures are provided courtesy of Pat Miles. Great pictures. Thanks Pat!

Launch Picture 2

Launch Picture3. That is Mrs. Samuel Wilder King breaking the bottle.

Launch Picture 4. Sliding down the ways.

Launch Picture 5. And into the water.

Launch Picture 6.

Launch Picture 7. What a great picture. That is a giant lei draped over the sail. 

Lots more Launching and Commissioning Stuff - Click here to see!

Kamahemeha Launch Ceremony 001.jpg (73412 bytes)  Launch picture from Tom Hanson (former MM2 ELT)
Kamahemeha Launch Ceremony1 001.jpg (27530 bytes)  One more launch picture from Tom Hanson

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Jack Townsend donated this picture.  According to Jack, "The picture was taken in 1965 at Mare Island.  Behind the crew is the building ways where the Kamehameha sat on the blocks as the shipyard worked on her.  This picture was obviously taken while the yard workers were not there.  Probably it was lunch time or early in the morning.  Notice that everyone is wearing their work jacket.  It was quite cool in Mare Island in the winter months. Also notice that at this point the crew is still quite small considering that they will soon be split in half to comprise a Blue and Gold Crew."

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A newspaper scan showing Kam's first test of her Emergency Blow System which was performed just prior to builders trials, while still tied to the pier.  Kam was the first (or among the first) FBM to be delivered with the new design Emergency Blow System as well as the Emergency Flood Control features that were developed as a result of the Thresher loss. From Jack Townsend.


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A photo of the commissioning ceremony at Mare Island, December 10, 1965. This photo was donated by Larrie Hooper. 

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Another photo of the commissioning ceremony at Mare Island, December 10, 1965, from Larrie Hooper. The Kam was commissioned in the Mare Island Dry-dock flooded down just for the occasion.

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The next series of four pictures were all donated by Jack Townsend . They were taken at the Cape when the Blue Crew was performing the Kam's first ever missile launch.

"The first picture shows the Kam underway leaving port for her launch."


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Jack Townsend remembers: "The second picture shows missile ignition after it broke the surface. It was an overcast day and it was quite a ways away.  I rode the support ship that day.  Yea, I know it's not much of a picture but what can you expect from a mid 1960's vintage ten dollar box camera.  The significant thing to me was that I was there and I saw it!"  

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"The third picture is after the missile shot and shows the Kam being nudged into the pier by two tugboats.  As you can see, many of the riders are already topside looking for the brow."

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From Jack Townsend: "The last picture shows several people leaving the boat.  Several of them are astronauts from the Cape.  I heard later that one or more of these guys were among those that died in that infamous oxygen fire on the launch pad." 

" The Kamehameha was quite a show boat at that time and we did vip tours and cruises all the time.  She really sparkled and shined, you could eat off the engine room bilges.  I never saw a boat since (and I saw many) that looked as good as she did.  She was like a classy lady all dressed for the dance."  

We treated the NASA folks from the cape quite well and they in turn gave us a once in a lifetime tour of their facility.  We saw things there that no one outside their little club ever saw.  Even today with most everything unclassified, if you visit the cape you cannot go where we went and see what we saw.  I know first hand because I have been there since that time.  Remember now, this is before the United States went to the moon and it really was 'rocket science'."

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Chief Tschopp at swim call off Acapulco - 1966

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This 1966 article was donated by Mike Byers. Mike was in a small boat off of Waikiki on June 9th, 1966 when the Kamehameha surfaced right alongside their small boat. Read Mike's amazing account of this story.

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Another newspaper clipping, this one from the base newspaper, showing the arrival of the Kamehameha in Hawaii. This one comes from the great collection of Ted Dick.  

Famous photo of the Kamehameha, courtesy of Joe Steinhoff. This one makes a nice windows wallpaper if you are so inclined. Mike White says this and the next photo "were taken after commissioning as she was coming into Pearl Harbor before going out on her first patrol. Note the emergency buoys were still painted international orange. Those were painted the same color as the rest of the hull before we went out." They were welded in place as I remember to prevent an accidental launching. Very comforting to know that...

Another famous picture. Mike White says "The white hat in the last picture was, I believe, Clay Cunningham, an FT working on the old MK113 fire control system." 

I now have a second copy of the photo from Bob Martin.max008.JPG (590045 bytes)

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A slightly different  photo, this one was donated by Richard Sprowl.  It looks like the same location and time. Does anyone know for sure?
Sound Trials.jpg (121454 bytes) From Tom Hanson: Sound Trials
kamcrew1_jgillespie.jpg (95171 bytes) This photo comes from Jerry Gillespie. It is an official Navy photo of Kam gold engineering crew taken in Guam, probably in 1968. Jerry is the one in the front row fourth from the right. 
Charles_watching_for_sharks.jpg (21215 bytes)  Charlie Brown watching for sharks.

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This is Jack Townsend ET1(SS) in the crew's mess during the first Blue Crew Patrol in late 1966.

Click here for more crew photos.


 Former Crew Member Writes About Serving on the Kam in the 1960's

A Launching and Luau Story from Mike White 

  Some comments from Ken Loncar who served on the Kam in the late 1960's

The football medal story

A sea story by Michael Arterburn

Question: does anyone have photos of Guam? or off-crew photos from the 1960's?

Question: Also, I am looking for dates and specific patrols that were done out of Guam.

Question: Does anyone have any stories about the "ship's car?" It was supposedly a 1957 Ford Station wagon. How was it acquired and where did it end up?

And email me any good stories too.

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