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Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658)

The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation Save Our Sail group has taken on the task of raising money in order to fund the construction of a permanent and fitting site for the sail of this historic submarine built with pride on Mare Island. The location of the SSBN 658 Memorial Site is planned near the entrance of the Mare Island Museum, 1100 Railroad Avenue…within two hundred yards of the original construction site of this rare piece of Naval history.

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Fundraising efforts for Phase Two of the Sail Memorial began on January 1, 2015 – Visit the Save Our Sail web site for details on how you can contribute to this important program.

 

 

History

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The Sail of the Mariano G. Vallejo.
Photo by Tim Baskerville

The Mariano G. Vallejo was a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, built on Mare Island Naval Shipyard and named after one of California’s first Soldier/Statesmen, Mariano G. Vallejo, a General  in the Mexican army and the Commandante General of Mexico’s Northern Territory. He was also a key advocate of, and played a significant role in obtaining statehood for California in 1850, thus making it the 31st state of the Union. It was through his efforts that our city, which now bears his name, served as the capital of California in 1851 and again in 1853. The contract that authorized the building of the Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658), was awarded by the Navy on 8 August 1963 to Mare Island Naval Shipyard. A keel-laying ceremony took place the following year, 7 July 1964, on Mare Island’s building ways 2, with construction beginning immediately thereafter. After 15 months of around- the-clock work, the SSBN 658 was launched on 23 October 1965 and became the fortieth member of the “Forty-One for Freedom” submarine force. This force of 41 nuclear powered submarines armed with long range ballistic missiles was being crafted to serve as a deterrent against the threat of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Of the 41 boats that were constructed to make up this force, Mare Island constructed seven of these great vessels starting with the USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN 600), and ending with the USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN 658). Because Vallejo was the namesake ship, being built in her hometown, the Chamber of Commerce, Shipyard Association, and others contributed money to make her a standout in her class. Discuss the Vallejo with anyone who served aboard, and they will tell you she was a showboat. Every surface was beautifully covered in Formica, chromed, or otherwise made to look exemplary.  If the Vallejo was in-port, and an opportunity arose for senior staff officers to present one of their boats to visiting dignitaries, they always showed-off the Mariano G. Vallejo. Commissioned the following year, on 16 December 1966, the SSBN 658 began conducting a series of shakedown and training exercises along the West Coast of the United States, in the Caribbean Sea, and off the coast of Florida. Upon completion of these exercises, she headed for her assigned home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, passing through the Panama Canal before arriving in Hawaii on 10 April 1967. During the next few months, she continued training exercises and sound trials in the Pacific Ocean which included a brief trip back to Mare Island Naval Shipyard before sailing back to Pearl Harbor where she became a fully operational unit of Submarine Squadron 15 on 1 August 1967. For the next twenty eight years, during the height of the cold war, the USS Mariano G. Vallejo served as a major deterrent against a Nuclear War with the Soviet Union. It was during that time that she carried out numerous patrols (she actually conducted the 2,500th FBM patrol in April, 1987), exercises and assignments, many of which were classified for security reasons, before finally being both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 9 March 1995. Shortly thereafter, with the exception of her sail and a few of her components, she was unceremoniously reduced to scrap metal via the Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, conducted at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA near the end of 1995.