USS Sunfish (SSN-649)

USS "Sunfish" (SSN-649), a "Sturgeon"-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the ocean sunfish "Mola mola", a marine species having a deep body truncated behind, and high dorsal and anal fins.

The contract to build "Sunfish" was awarded to the General Dynamics Quincy Shipbuilding Division in Quincy, Massachusetts on 26 March 1963 and her keel was laid down on 15 January 1965. She was launched on 14 October 1966 sponsored by Mrs. Robert C. Byrd, and commissioned on 15 March 1969, with Commander Richard L. Thompson in command.

"Sunfish" spent the period from April to August undergoing shakedown, and in various exercises such as torpedo firing, sound trials, control drills, and casualty drills. A short dependents' cruise in late August was followed by post-shakedown availability at Groton, Connecticut. The last two weeks of 1969 were devoted to a leave and recreation period for the crew. Early 1970 was spent in upkeep periods and several short cruises in preparation for an extended deployment. The submarine was deployed from 16 June to 26 August when she arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, and again from 6 October to 1 December 1970.

"Sunfish" put to sea on 22 January 1971 to participate in a short fleet exercise, but operational commitments were changed and she did not return to port until 9 March. The ship made a cruise to Port Everglades, Florida, in April which was followed by a fleet exercise. The remainder of the year was spent participating in antisubmarine warfare exercises with destroyers and patrol aircraft.

"Sunfish" departed Charleston, on 3 January 1972, for the Mediterranean Sea and a tour of duty with the Sixth Fleet She returned to her home port on 21 May and entered a stand-down period that lasted until early October when she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her first major overhaul. The overhaul was completed in August 1973, and the submarine sailed to New London, Connecticut, for refresher training. She touched at Charleston in early November and continued to the Caribbean Sea for sound training and weapon systems tests.

"Sunfish" returned to Charleston on 9 December 1973 for a leave and upkeep period. She operated along the East Coast from New London to Cape Kennedy until June 1974. On 25 June, "Sunfish" stood out of Charleston to begin a period of deployment.

On 4 March 1996 the Navy Office of Information released this story: "USS Sunfish (SSN 649) recently reached a milestone few other submarines can claim. It made its 1,000th dive. "Many subs don't make it this far and are decommissioned before their 1,000th dive," said Commanding Officer CDR E. Jackson Roeske. "This dive is not only a unique event, it also demonstrates the tremendous longevity and outstanding engineering capabilities of our submarine force."

"Sunfish", homeported in Norfolk, is was on its last deployment. The crew made the historic dive after pulling away from submarine tender USS Simon Lake (AS-33). Commander Submarine Group 8 Rear Admiral Richard W. Mies, who had served on the Sturgeon-class Sunfish from March 1970 to April 1973, gave the on-board order to submerge for the history-making dive.

"Sunfish" was decommissioned on 31 March 1997 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 March 1997. Ex-"Sunfish" entered the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington, and on 31 October 1997 ceased to exist.

Age (since launch to time of disposal) - 31.0 years.Years from Commission to Decommission - 28.0 years.

See USS "Sunfish" for other ships of the same name.

Commanding Officers

* Rear Admiral Richard L. Thompson, March 1969 - July 1971, Commissioning Skipper & speaker at the "Sunfish" decommissioning ceremony.

* Commander Wade I. Melton, July 1971 - February 1974.

* Captain Zack T. Pate, February 1974 - December 1976, Also served as a special assistant to Admiral H.G. Rickover at the Naval Reactors Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Bio-> []

* Commander Richard N. Lee, December 1976 - June 1981.

* Commander "Dan" Oscar D. Scarborough III, June 1981 - August 1984.

* Rear Admiral Marc Y. E. Pelaez, August 1984 - August 1987. He served as Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy ('90-'93) and Chief of Naval Research ('93-'96). He is a 1968 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.

* Captain Dana A. Roberts, August 1987 - June 1990.

* Captain Eugene K. Wilson, Jr., June 1990 - October 1992. He served as CO, USS SIMON LAKE (AS 33) from 11 Aug 95 - 12 Jul 97.

* Commander Thomas M. Fursman, October 1992 - April 1994. He was previously served as CO, USS LAPON (SSN 661).

* Captain E. Jackson Roeske April 1994 - April 1997, He is a 1976 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.


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