The Last Voyage of USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN-658)

1 April 1994 was a momentous day for the United States submarine force as the last three subs of the original “41 for Freedom” fleet ballistic-missile (FBM) program stood down from service as the front line of the nation’s strategic-deterrence program. Named for American icons such as Tecumseh, George Washington Carver, and Daniel Boone, these subs had served their nation proudly on 2,824 patrols over more than thirty years. They spanned four classes, beginning with GEORGE WASHINGTON in 1959 (5 boats) and moving on to ETHAN ALLEN in 1961 (5 boats), LAFAYETTE in 1963 (19 boats), and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN in 1965 (12 boats). By the mid-1990s, only three of these mighty vessels remained—USS STONEWALL JACKSON (SSBN-634), USS SIMON BOLIVAR (SSBN-641), AND USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN-658).

Of the three, VALLEJO was truly the last—the last to patrol, the last to offload her missiles, and the last to arrive in Washington State to be recycled. In the final days of 1994, VALLEJO’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Michael Hallal, penned a letter describing the voyage from Charleston to the West Coast, a trip which took the boat through the Panama Canal—the crew had a cookout on the missile deck during the hot and sunny transit. The big excitement of the otherwise uneventful trip came when the boat “transited twenty miles from the epicenter of a 7.2 earthquake. The epicenter was far out to sea but not far enough from us. It’s a good thing submarines are designed to withstand depth charges and battle damage.” Before heading to Washington, VALLEJO stopped in Vallejo, California, home of her builder, Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The city was thrilled to once again play host to their namesake ship, which had been built with “special care” thirty years before—“we have,” Hallal noted, “lots of fancy chrome and brass that the other ships of the class do not have.” Crewmembers conducted more than 3,000 tours of their boat in the eleven days they were in port; Vallejo returned this generosity by giving each crewmember a laminated card stating that he was a VALLEJO Sailor; “show the card and you were treated special wherever you went.” But eventually the time came to begin the boat’s final underway, a three-day run to Bangor, Washington. The log entry from 14 September, the day before VALLEJO pulled into port: “More shipyard training for the nucs and the ship surfaced using emergency blow, the last surfacing of the ship. In less than 24 hours the last at sea period of the M.G. Vallejo will be complete.”

Today, VALLEJO’s sail, preserved when the rest of the ship was recycled, sits on the Mare Island waterfront where it will hopefully become part of a memorial to the builders and crew of the very last of the “41 for Freedom.”

19 Responses to “The Last Voyage of USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN-658)”

  1. Ken says:

    Got to make one patrol on the Vallejo. She was a special boat.

  2. Ken says:

    Now that I think about it, I was at the Nautilus in the 95-’96 time frame when a group came from Vallejo to see about setting the 658 up as a museum. I think it ended up being too costly, which in a hundred years is going to seem like a crying shame.

  3. Rich (Lunchfoot) Lascelles says:

    On the boat in the early 70’s….all the outboard area in MCC had small tile. All the outlet covers were chrome. I was told when she was built (Mare Island) the Kam was also being built and all the good stuff went to the Vallejo and the Kam got what was left….she was a special boat. MCC had a great sound system!

  4. Dean Hickman says:

    I was privileged to serve aboard the MGV for six patrols and for her overhaul in Newport News. She was a great ship!

  5. Scott Kuchta says:

    I was on-board as a crew member during the earthquake. It was August 31 or September 1 depending on what time we were on – Aug 31 is my birthday. Lots of shaking and noise like rumbling and air being released or something. We went off depth, first up, then down. We thought we had collided with something. I was in the rack at the time. Everyone in crew’s berthing in operations compartment jumped up and went to either our emergency stations or to their own work station. It lasted quite long and was bit scary. Everyone was saying the same thing, basically variations of, “What the —— was that?” I don’t remember any alarm going off. I went to Nav Center and listened to the stuff going on in Control. I believe we were thinking we hit something and were starting to take appropriate measures but one of the boats we were doing ops with did the procedure for collision and found out from command that there had been an earthquake not far from where we were. We did not complete the collision procedure after finding out what had happened.

  6. Beetle Bailey says:

    Was the 658 actually the last FBM to go out of commission.

    Beetle Bailey

    • Education Specialist says:

      Yes, as an FBM. Two of the other 41 For Freedom boats, USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSBN-642) and USS JAMES K. POLK (SSBN-645), were converted to attack subs (SSNs) and remained in service as such for several years after VALLEJO was decommissioned.

      • Beetle Bailey says:

        I was on the 641. . Even tho I was on the 641, I believe the 658 beat us out by two weeks. That said, I think the 658 was the last one of the 41 for freedom. .

  7. Jeff Burke says:

    I was on the Vallejo for 9 patrols and the C-4 backfit. it was the best boat of the four boats I was on. I was onboard for 5 missile shots, the greatest ride next to an emergency blow!!

    • michael borsack says:

      Jeff Burke,
      My name is Michael Borsack, I think that I know you from the Gold crew. If you remember me find me on FB.

  8. JSFlood says:

    Good write-up! I had a tour of USS VALLEJO during my first time at Nuclear Power School in Vallejo, CA, in 1972. She looked like a BIG newer Boomer to me , the first I’d ever seen. Later, while at the S5G prototype in 1973, I received orders to the USS VALLEJO as my first sea-duty assignment as an MM3. Going to the 658 Boat would have been just fine but right at the tail end of prototype I was picked for NESEP. Two years later I went back through NPS Vallejo for a second time as an officer. While at NPS Vallejo that second time I went down to the docks and talked with the Topside Watch on USS VALLEJO while she was tied up there again; she still looked like a big, new Boomer. Ultimately, after finishing NPS and S5G Prototype (again), I went to sea on an older boat for seven patrols. No regrets about that older boat (a boomer with a great crew!), but “VALLEJO” is a name I could not forget because of attending the west coast NPS at Vallejo, twice, and visiting USS VALLEJO, twice, when she was tied up there in Vallejo. And sometimes destiny is a funny thing….today the reactor compartment of USS VALLEJO, de-fueled, de-conned, and sealed up like a giant can, is probably sitting in the submarine reactor compartment burial trench at the Hanford Reservation, less than a one hour drive from where I live here in Washington State….been there, seen the trenches with the “cans” including my old boat (624) and, most probably, the 658. I never went to sea on the USS VALLEJO, but she touches my life every once-in-a-while…..and again, thanks to your blog.

  9. JSFlood says:

    Yes, I know the 658 was Mariano Vallejo……with a middle initial (G)?

  10. Mark Altobello says:

    Great ship – Served on GOLD crew from 90 – 93. Five patrols, one FCET launch, countless WSRTs, Scrams and Missile Gagger’s.

  11. Ed Bayard says:

    Yes she was a beautiful lady. Served on her 1975-1976 as a NavET. She was the best of the best!

  12. Served as YN1(SS) from 1979-1982. Great times!

  13. Rick Fitzgerald says:

    Just seen this sight I do remember Burke and Borsack. I had a great time aboard from 77-81.

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