The keel of the SSN-578 was laid down on July 21, 1955, at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics corporation in Groton, CT. The ship was launched May 16, 1957, by Mrs. Lewis L. Strauss, whose husband was then chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. SKATE was commissioned seven months ahead of schedule on December 23, 1957, under the command of Commander James F. Calvert, USN.
Vice Admiral (Ret.) James F. Calvert
Vice Admiral James F. Calvert played a key role in developing nuclear submarine Arctic tactics during his tour as commanding officer of the USS Skate (SSN-578) from December 1957 to September 1959. Skate surfaced at the North Pole in February 1959. During this tour, Calvert also helped define the operational capabilities of the Navy's first series-production class of nuclear submarine. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Calvert graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1942 and from Submarine School in September of that year. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star while serving aboard the submarine USS Jack (SS-259) during World War II. He also served as executive officer aboard the USS Haddo (SS-255) in 1945. Following the war, he served as executive officer aboard the USS Charr (SS-328) and USS Harder (SS-568) and as Commanding Officer of the USS Trigger (SS-564). Calvert served as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy from 1968 to 1972.
During the first months after joining the Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, SKATE completed a shakedown cruise to northern European ports and participated in a fleet exercise that included a thirty-one day period of complete submergence, sealed off from the earth's atmosphere.
In August 1958, SKATE made her first cruise to the Arctic where she operated under the ice packs for ten days. During this period she surfaced nine times through openings in the ice, became the second ship to reach the North Pole, and successfully navigated over 2,400 miles beneath the ice. On her return to the United States, the ship was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for "... braving the hazards of the polar ice pack..."
In March 1959, SKATE again headed north, this time to pioneer arctic submarine operations during the period of extreme cold and maximum ice thickness. In twelve days under the pack, SKATE forced her was up through the thin ice to the surface ten times and steamed over 3,000 miles. In a dramatic high of this cruise, on March 17, 1959, SKATE became the first submarine to surface at the North Pole... Where the ashes of famed explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins were committed to the arctic waste. On her return to port, SKATE was awarded a Bronze Star in lieu of a second Navy Unit Commendation for demonstrating "...for the first time the ability of submarines to operate in and under the arctic ice in the dead of winter..."
From January to August 1961, SKATE underwent her first overhaul at Electric Boat Division, Groton, Connecticut. Skate's reactor was refueled for the first time after more than three years of operations.
In July 1962, SKATE again charted a course from New London, Connecticut to the North Pole, while the USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584) departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and headed North. This trip was marked by the rendezvous of SKATE and SEADRAGON in the arctic ice region. After the historic meeting, SKATE and SEADRAGON operated together for over a week. One operation included a double surfacing at the North Pole.
SKATE underwent he second regular overhaul from April 1965 to September 1967 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia after nearly four years of Atlantic Fleet operations. This overhaul included her second nuclear refueling in seven years of operations.
SKATE was assigned to Submarine Development Group TWO in January 1968 and participated in the development of new tactics and equipment.
SKATE deployed to the Mediterranean in October 1968 to participate in NATO exercises.
In March and April 1969, SKATE returned to the Arctic to conduct submerged operations under the polar ice pack in company with PARGO (SSN-650) and WHALE (SSN-638). During this trip new concepts of submarine polar tactics were researched. SKATE received Meritorious Unit Commendations for her participation in the 1970 SQUEEZE PLAY exercises and for her arctic operations with HAMMERHEAD.
SKATE underwent her third refueling overhaul from February 1971 to September 1973 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia. After completing overhaul, SKATE was assigned to Submarine Squadron Two and home-ported at the Naval Submarine base, New London, Connecticut.
Early in September 1974, SKATE left New London to participate in a major NATO exercise in the North Atlantic and then continued on to the Mediterranean in October and returned to New London in late January 1975.
During 1974 SKATE was assigned to Command Second Fleet in evaluation of the Interim Sea Control Ship. During April and May 1975, SKATE was again involved in tactical development as she successfully conducted SSN swimmer operation while participating in exercise SOLID SHIELD. SKATE's anti-submarine warfare capabilities were lauded when she was awarded Submarine Squadron TWO ASW "A" in July 1975.
Early in September 1975 SKATE left New London to participate in operation UNITAS XVI, being the first nuclear ship to participate to participate in this annual exercise. SKATE toured ports in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Trinidad, and Venezuela and returned to New London, Connecticut in early 1975.
In April 1976, SKATE deployed to the Mediterranean. After deployment, SKATE conducted various exercises including the training of SEAL teams, Special Forces, and Marine Force Reconnaissance Troops.
On October 17, 1977, SKATE left New London to join Submarine Squadron SEVEN in the Pacific Fleet. SKATE arrived at her new homeport, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on November 24, 1977.
SKATE underwent her fourth overhaul from February 1978 to July 1979 at Naval Shipyard, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In September 1979, SKATE deployed to EASTPAC for a shakedown cruise and participation in Fleet Exercise 2-79. Since that time she participated in RIMPAC 1980, CNO Special Projects, ASW Exercises and mine-laying operations Type Training.
In July 1980, SKATE made her first Western Pacific Deployment. She operated with units of the U.S. Seventh Fleet and Allied Navies and returned to port on December 23, 1980, the 23rd anniversary of her commissioning.
SKATE received the 1980 Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet Golden Anchor Award for enlisted retention excellence and the 1981 Commander Submarine Squadron SEVEN Damage Control "DC" and Supply "E" awards.
SKATE made her second Western Pacific deployment in 1982, her third in 1983-1984 and her fourth and final in 1985.
E.W. Cooke - September 1959 to September 1960
J.L. Skoog - September 1960 to September 1962
C.F. Rauch, Jr. - September 1962 to July 1964
E.O. Dietrich - July 1964 to March 1965
E.A. Burkhalter, Jr. - March 1965 to April 1968
D.A.Phoenix - April 1968 to June 1971
R.M. Eytchison - June 1971 to February 1975
R.J. Asafaylo - February 1975 to September 1977
M.H. Sollberger - September 1977 to November 1979
G.R. Fister - November 1979 to May 1982
W.J. Fernandez - May 1982 to September 1986
"It's a long way to Subic City..." Lyrics (unpublished) by ex STS2(SS) Carbone... Sung to the tune of "It's a long way to tipperary..."
It's a long way to Subic City, it's a long way to roam... It's a long way to Subic City, to the sweetest gal I know... So long to Pearl Harbor, Farewell Waikiki... It's a long long way to Subic City, she'll be waiting there for me...