A monument to the Mariano G Vallejo SSBN 658, the people and shipyard who built her, and the sailors who manned her
On October 24th, 25th and 26th, 2019 the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation hosted a celebration to commemorate the permanent installation of the sail of the Mariano G. Vallejo SSBN 658 (MGV). It was a privilege to have 125 of the 900 crew members who have registered on the MGV webpage in attendance at the ceremony.
The Save-Our-Sail project is still raising funds to complete the Third Phase of the permanent memorial, which will be the installation of informational kiosks around the Sail. Please help us support those who served with pride and professionalism by donating to the Save-Our-Sail Project at www.saveoursail.com.
The Mare Island Navy Shipyard (MINSY) in Vallejo, CA served America from 1854 to 1996, spanning the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam and the Cold War. MINSY built and serviced boats and ships from steamboats to Nuclear Submarines.
From 1959 – 1967 the Navy commissioned 41 US Navy Fleet ballistic missile submarines under a new classification of boats known as the “SSBN” and nicknamed the “41 for Freedom.” The goal of the 41 for Freedom was to create a credible, survivable sea-based deterrent to the possibility of nuclear war as quickly as possible. MINSY built 11 of the 41 boats, including the Mariano G. Vallejo SSBN 658 (MGV).
Crewed by 13 officers and 120 enlisted men, the MGV launched in 1965 for a shakedown cruise on the West Coast, then the Caribbean and the Florida Coast. The MVG became fully operational in 1967 when she joined Submarine Squadron 15 in Pearl Harbor. After 28 years of service, in March 1995 the MGV, the last of the 41 for Freedom to patrol and the last to offload her missiles, was decommissioned in Bremerton, Washington. Her sail bearing the hull number 658 was returned to Mare Island under the stewardship of the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation (MIHPF) and the City of Vallejo.
She was a SHOWBOAT! The MGV was celebrated by the City of Vallejo from the lay down of her keel in July 1964 through her launch in October 1965. The Chamber of Commerce donated money for an especially nice silver service for the wardroom, many enhancements were incorporated into her construction, and the story told by Submarine Squadron Commanders is that if a dignitary requested a submarine tour, and the Vallejo was in port, she was the automatic choice.
After her decommissioning, shipyard workers with the support of the City of Vallejo traveled to Washington in an effort to acquire the submarine for display in Mare Island’s historic dry-dock. After the Navy’s initial estimate of $10 to $15 million dollars to complete a transfer proved too rich for the project budget, Senator George Miller intervened and an agreement was reached for the return of the sail, periscope and equipment from the control room. The sail was delivered back to the Island in 1995. The periscope and equipment are now proudly displayed at the Museum.
In 2009, the Save-Our-Sail project was initiated to promote and finance the installation of a monument serving as a Memorial tribute to both the builders of the boat and the men who sailed her. The project has had tremendous support over the years from the crew. Over 900 MGV crew members are active on the MGV webpage. The crew members have raised a substantial amount of money over the years, with additional commitments towards funding awaiting final approval of construction. For more information regarding the history of the MGV and its crew members visit www.ssbn658.org, or www.saveoursail.com.
An excerpt from a letter from CDR Dennis K. Fargo, USN (Ret.) of Nokesville, Virginia, written to the Mayor of Vallejo captures the sentiment of many of those who served at MINSY and on the MVG:
“Forty-seven years ago, I learned how to be a sailor as a plank-owner in the commissioning crew of the City’s namesake vessel. My shipmates taught me many things, chief among which was that a crew is forever. But it was the good citizens of Vallejo, working on the ways of the shipyard, who were my first tutors in pride and professionalism. Under the Zero Defects program then in effect, I watched them routinely sacrifice extra family-time to skillfully torch, weld, cut, grind, cast, mold, and bolt her together to give her life. They did it well enough for me to determine that I could give no less to the ship and to my country.
All sailors fall in love with their ships, especially their first ships, and most especially when they are well-built, as Vallejo was. That sail is all that remains to the approximately 3500 sailors who took her to sea in 83 deterrent patrols, and to their families. As a young enlisted sailor, I chipped its paint. When we degaussed the ship, I sat astride it like a horse, without a safety harness – there being no place to attach one up there – to pull heavy cables across it. Some will say, it’s only lifeless metal. But sir, that sail embodies our service, our sacrifice, and our youth.
It is my sincere wish that the City of Vallejo can accommodate the mounting of this monument to itself, and to the sailors who proudly voyaged in and under it.”
Volunteers from the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation and the Save-Our-Sail Committee have worked tirelessly on this project since 2010. We would also like to make special acknowledgment of the contributions of Lennar Mare Island, the Nimitz Group, RIM Architects, the City of Vallejo, and all the others who have helped to make the Sail monument both a reality, and a vibrant part of Mare Island for all to enjoy.