USS John Marshall (SSBN-611)

USS John Marshall (SSBN-611)

USS "John Marshall" (SSBN/SSN-611) was an "Ethan Allen"-class submarine, the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for John Marshall (1755–1835), the Chief Justice of the United States.

Her keel was laid down on 4 April 1960 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 15 July 1961 sponsored by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, wife of the Attorney General of the United States, and commissioned on 21 May 1962 with Commander Robert W. Stecher commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Robert D. Donavan commanding the Gold Crew.

SSBN, 1962 – 1980

"John Marshall" began her sea trials on 8 April 1962. On 21 May 1962, "John Marshall" joined the Atlantic Fleet as a unit of Submarine Squadron 14 (SubRon 14). Ten days later the boat began its shakedown cruise, which culminated on 12 July with the successful firing of two A-2 Polaris missiles off Cape Canaveral, Florida. On 31 December 1962, "John Marshall" sailed for its first Polaris patrol. Manned by the Blue crew, it became the ninth operational Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.

From 4 April 1963 to 30 November 1966, the Blue and Gold crews conducted a total of seventeen deterrent patrols from Holy Loch, Scotland.

On 13 December 1966, the boat started its first major overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding. The overhaul was completed in April 1968. After the post-overhaul shakedown, the boat loaded missiles at Charleston, South Carolina, and in September 1968 began patrol eighteen. Patrols nineteen through twenty-five were conducted from Holy Loch, Scotland, from October 1968 through June 1970. In June 1970, the boat became a unit of SubRon 16 and began operations from Rota, Spain.

Patrols twenty-six through thirty-seven were conducted from Rota. The boat was awarded its first Meritorious Unit Commendation as a result of an operation conducted in March 1971 that demonstrated the effectiveness and dependability of the Fleet Ballistic Missile System. In June 1973, the boat returned to New London, Connecticut, for a dependent's cruise, thenconducted two patrols from Charleston, South Carolina.

On 1 November 1974, "John Marshall" began its second refueling overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. During this overhaul, the missile systems were converted to support the Polaris A-3 system. The overhaul was completed in May 1976 and the ship commenced strategic deterrent patrols in February 1977 as a unit of SubRon 15. Patrols forty through fifty-four were conducted from Apra Harbor, Guam. The final deterrent patrol concluded with the boat's arrival at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 28 December 1980.

SSN, 1981 – 1992

On 12 January 1981, "John Marshall" was given hull classification symbolSSN-611 and began operations as an attack submarine from Pearl Harbor. The last Polaris missile was removed in Bangor, Washington, on 1 June 1981. The boat arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on 20 July 1981 and began operations as a unit of SubRon 4. On 28 December 1981, the ship departed for its first deployment to the
Mediterranean Sea. The deployment included several major fleet exercises and visits to La Maddalena, Italy; Tangiers, Morocco; and Lisbon, Portugal. The ship returned to Charleston on 21 May 1982, twenty years to the day after it was commissioned.

In September 1983, "John Marshall" again returned to the Pacific Fleet and arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 29 September to start its third overhaul. The boat was modified to support operations with Dry Deck Shelters capable of deploying Swimmer Delivery Vehicles. Post-overhaul sea trials were conducted in September 1985 and the boat joined SubRon 6 in Norfolk, Virginia, in November 1985.

On 15 December 1986, the boat, equipped with a Dry Deck Shelter, began its transit for its second deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. The deployment included several exercises and a demonstration of the boat's unique special warfare capability and visits to Toulon, France, and La Maddalena, Italy. The boat returned to Norfolk, Virginia, on 29 May 1987. In September 1987 a Special Operational Demonstration was conducted near Puerto Rico with SEAL Team Two. Battlegroup exercises, Special Acoustic Trials, and Dry Deck Shelter operations continued through 1988.

25 October 1988 marked the 1000th dive of the boat, off Puerto Rico.

On 1 May 1989, after conducting a variety of exercises with carrier battlegroups and other submarines, the boat departed for its third Mediterranean deployment. This was the first time a submarine had deployed anywhere in the world with two Dry Deck Shelters on board, adding a unique flexibility and endurance to the Fleet Commander for special warfare operations. Embarked on board when the ship departed Norfolk was the largest special warfare detachment in the Atlantic or Mediterranean. During the 1989 deployment, the boat's response to contingency operations, providing forward area support of a unique nature on extremely short notice, as well as the boat's success with ASW operations, was recognized in the award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation. The boat returned to Norfolk in September 1989.

The boat conducted three special warfare training exercises in the Caribbean Sea in 1990, including a highly successful exercise that featured the employment of Submarine Launched Mobile Mines.

On 26 January 1991, the boat departed Norfolk for its fourth and final deployment to the Mediterranean. Equipped once again with two Dry Deck Shelters, the boat operated in direct support of Operation Desert Storm and provided significant capability options to the Sixth Fleet Commander. The boat visited Toulon, France; Gibraltar; and La Maddalena, Italy, returning to Norfolk on 22 June 1991.

In September 1991, "John Marshall" served as flagship for the largest submarine special warfare exercise since World War II. Over 191 personnel, including three flag officers and United States Navy SEAL and United States Army special forces, embarked to conduct joint special operations during Exercise Phantom Shadow.

"John Marshall" transited to the Pacific in early 1992 to begin the deactivation process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 22 July 1992 and disposed of through the Nuclear Power Ship and Submarine Recycling Program on 29 March 1993.


The Bell of the USS John Marshall is currently on display at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.


This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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