The Silent Sentinel: USS Sam Rayburn's Undersea Patrol

The Silent Sentinel: USS Sam Rayburn's Undersea Patrol

Ever wonder about the life of a submarine, especially one with such a storied history as the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635? It's not just about the raw metal and weaponry. Imagine if its cold metal walls could talk - what tales would they tell?

The suspenseful shakedown operations post-construction...the thrill when it joined Submarine Squadrons...or how about those nail-biting deterrent patrols?  

This isn't just another tale about a submarine; it's an epic dive into history, peppered with moments of technological evolution. From construction to deployments, from upgrades over time to commendations won.

Intrigued yet? Dive in with us as we explore this maritime marvel that played pivotal roles both on and beneath the sea surface.


USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Framed Navy Ship Display
USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Framed Navy Ship Display

Construction and Commissioning of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

The birth of the mighty USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, a fleet ballistic missile submarine, started with its construction at Newport News Shipbuilding. Laid down on December 3, 1962, this maritime marvel was brought to life by dedicated craftsmen.

Newport News Shipbuilding's Role in Construction

The role played by Newport News Shipbuilding is significant. As a leading builder of naval ships, Newport News Shipbuilding is well-versed in constructing advanced vessels. In the heart of the shipyard, a fervent buzz filled the air as every dedicated craftsman played their part in molding what was destined to be an unforgettable milestone in our Navy's chronicles.

To give you some perspective on how complex building such a vessel can be: it’s like crafting a gigantic jigsaw puzzle where every piece weighs several tons.  It's like putting together a huge puzzle where each piece is super heavy.

Shakedown Operations Post-Construction

Moving onto post-construction operations - After she got her sea legs, the USS Sam completed her shakedown operations impressively on the Atlantic Missile Range – much like taking your brand new sports car for a spin at Daytona Speedway.

During this time, both the crew and gear went through grueling drills and test situations that really pushed them to their breaking points. Think about that scene from your favorite space movie when astronauts go through those crazy G-force tests.

NavSource Online Submarine Photo Archive offers fascinating insights into these phases if you want more detail than I could ever fit here (plus they have pictures.). Commissioned officially on December 2, 1964, the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 stood ready to serve with distinction.

Crafting the mighty USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 was like piecing together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, with each piece weighing several tons. This naval marvel built by Newport News Shipbuilding made her mark in history. Just imagine taking this behemoth for its first spin Click to Tweet

The Legacy of Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn, birthed on the 6th of January in 1882, has left a lasting impression on American politics. Rayburn's entire life was intricately woven into the fabric of American politics. House of Representatives spanned over four decades and was punctuated by his election as Speaker of the House on September 16, 1940.

A master legislator from East Texas, Sam Rayburn's tenure is renowned for its duration and influence. While Sam Rayburn's epic 48-year political ride is something to marvel at, what truly leaves a mark is his steadfast commitment to protecting democratic ideals.

Minority Leader Turned Elected Speaker

Serving first as Minority Leader before ascending to the role of Elected Speaker under Woodrow Wilson's administration, Sam wielded significant power but never lost sight of representing his constituents faithfully. He held steadfast beliefs about equality and justice which guided him throughout a lifetime spent in public service.

This legacy was cemented when he became one-third of 'The Big Three,' alongside President Franklin D Roosevelt and Senate Majority Leader Alben W Barkley during World War II. Together, they deftly steered through rough seas of politics and war strategy during a pivotal moment in our global story.

Influence Beyond Politics: USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

Beyond these illustrious achievements lies another symbol commemorating this great man - the naming after him of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635—a fleet ballistic missile submarine commissioned into US Navy Service that further echoed his dedication towards serving our nation with dignity.'

The USS Sam Rayburn, named to honor his contributions, symbolizes the indomitable spirit and enduring legacy of Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn. In the same way Rayburn left a profound mark on U.S. politics, this ship keeps sailing as a powerful symbol of his unwavering commitment.

Diving into the legacy of Sam Rayburn, a political powerhouse who shaped American history. From the halls of Congress to his namesake submarine USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 - His commitment sails on. #USNavyHistory #SamRayburnLegacy Click to Tweet

Distinguishing Features and Structure of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

Setting sail with an impressive displacement of 7,250 tons when surfaced and swelling to a hefty 8,250 tons when submerged, the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 stands out in naval history. With a length reaching up to 425 feet long from bow to stern and boasting a beam width of about 33 feet wide across its hull.

Ballistic Missile Submarine Characteristics

The distinctive structure which includes torpedo tubes clearly identifies this vessel as not just any submarine but specifically classifies it as a ballistic missile submarine. It's powered by nuclear energy giving it immense power for propulsion underwater while also enabling onboard systems to function effectively during missions.

A key feature that sets the USS Sam apart is its ability to serve as both attack platform using torpedoes against enemy vessels or strategic deterrent carrying fleet ballistic missiles on board - demonstrating dual role capabilities unique among submarines at sea.

The Structure of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

Taking us deeper into design specifics, let's focus on her draft depth sitting pretty at approximately 32 feet below water level. This technical specification allowed her more maneuverability under water especially around coastal areas where waters are generally shallow compared with deep oceanic terrains.

To add another layer of complexity: each square inch of space within was optimized so efficiently that despite being enclosed in steel confines beneath seas for months end; every sailor aboard had specific duties contributing towards mission success making life underway orderly even amidst chaotic combat situations if need arose.

Discover the silent titan of the deep, USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635. With dual-role capabilities and nuclear power, this 8,250-ton underwater fortress shows how design meets duty. #NavyHistory #SubmarineStrength Click to Tweet

Legacy and Impact of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 on US Navy

The impact of the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 within the fleet has been significant.  The submarine upheld its duty admirably over its years of service.

During her prime, this sub was a key player in both Submarine Squadrons 18 and 16. Yet, she had more to her name. By June 1974, she had shifted gears to engage in special operations—no easy feat for any vessel.

A key aspect setting apart the USS Sam is how it transformed from a ballistic missile submarine into an essential training ship post-decommissioning. The idea behind this transformation was straightforward yet brilliant: make use of what we have to better prepare future generations of sailors. NavSource Online

The switch didn’t come without challenges; retrofitting such a behemoth was no walk in the park. However, this did not deter those at Naval Shipyard Norfolk who undertook this colossal task with unyielding determination. As a result, countless submariners owe their preparedness to handle real-world scenarios onboard submarines thanks largely due to hands-on experience gained aboard USS Sam Rayburn.

Beyond just serving as an exceptional learning platform though, ‘Ray’ as affectionately called by many who served aboard her – has become somewhat symbolic too. It stands testament today reminding us about American naval power during Cold War era and resilience showed thereafter when faced with changing times & needs.

Plunge into the rich legacy of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635. A silent sentinel in her day, she later became a top-notch training ship. Today, 'Ray' stands as an enduring symbol of US naval power and resilience. #USSSamRayburn Click to Tweet


Framed Navy Discharge Certificate
Framed Navy Honorable Discharge Certificate

Class, Purpose, and Mission Capabilities of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, a proud member of the James Madison class, is an iconic figure in naval history. It was more than just another vessel - it served as a symbol of deterrence during the cold war era.

This fleet ballistic missile submarine had one main goal: to patrol strategic areas around the globe with its Polaris missiles ready at all times.  The deterrent patrols supported peace during challenging times.

Apart from being armed with 16 Polaris A3 ballistic missiles for deterrent patrols, this formidable underwater giant also boasted four 21-inch torpedo tubes for close-range combat situations. With nuclear power capabilities enabling it to stay submerged for extended periods without surfacing or refueling, these submarines truly were self-sufficient cities under sea.

Designed to accommodate a crew of 140 members – both blue crew and gold crew working on alternating schedules – this vessel epitomized teamwork and coordination like no other military structure could. Each man onboard knew his duty well; their collective effort made sure that mission objectives were met seamlessly.

Nuclear Power Capabilities

The use of nuclear power gave these vessels unprecedented endurance capability. NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

They could travel vast distances beneath the waves undetected due to their silent operation mode powered by S5W pressurized water reactors which converted heat into electricity through turbines driving propellers indirectly via reduction gears.

Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Class & Its Role In Deterrent Patrols

The fleet ballistic missile submarine class was an integral part of the U.S. Navy's deterrent strategy during the Cold War era.

These subs were always on high alert, ready to jump into action at a moment's notice if any conflict kicked off. The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 perfectly embodied this role throughout its service life.


Key Takeaway: 


Thanks to its nuclear power capabilities, the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 was not just a typical submarine. The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 was not only primed for long-range patrols as a deterrent, but it also packed the punch needed to face off in intense close-quarters battles. Its role during the Cold War went beyond symbolism - it embodied deterrence in every sense of the word.


USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Personalized Plaque
USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Personalized Plaque

Technology, Armament & Weaponry Upgrades Over Time for USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

Clocking in at over 20 knots, this submarine was designed to move quickly while carrying significant firepower.

Fleet Ballistic Missiles and Atlantic Missile Range

This mighty ship's ballistic missile capacity was nothing short of impressive. It could hold up to sixteen fleet ballistic missiles at any given time. Thanks to her capabilities, the USS Sam remained a powerhouse in the Atlantic Missile Range throughout her active service years.

Weaponry Upgrades: A Continuous Process

The weaponry system onboard saw several upgrades throughout the ship's operational timeline. As technology advanced rapidly during this period, so did the sophistication of these enhancements - from navigation systems to propulsion mechanisms and beyond.

Polaris Deterrent Patrols

A notable feature about USS Sam Rayburn was her role in conducting deterrent patrols using Polaris missiles - one among many examples of how technological advancements were incorporated into operations effectively over time.

Check out these in-depth history lessons, they'll show you how constant tech updates were key in helping the US Navy stay a step ahead of its global rivals.

Keep in mind, it's not just tech talk; every upgrade tells a tale of bright minds who never stopped striving despite the hurdles they encountered. The backstory of every enhancement isn't just a string of tech terms; it's about the bright minds that tirelessly grappled with obstacles, sharing tales from their era. So, next time you hear about the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, remember not just her power and might but also the innovation that made it possible.

Dive into the story of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635. It's not just about firepower, but also speed & innovation. From 16 Polaris missiles to continuous tech upgrades, it was a true testament to US naval power. #USSSamRayburn Click to Tweet

Deployments & Role in Major Conflicts Involving USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, an integral part of the US Navy, has seen several deployments and played significant roles in various exercises. The boat's standout stint? It was undoubtedly those times it held its watch, patrolling to keep us all safe.

This ballistic missile submarine operated mainly from the Atlantic Missile Range for shakedown operations and demonstrations post-commissioning. Following a stint with Squadron 18, the submarine shifted gears and rejoined Submarine Squadron 16 - an event that marked yet another significant leg in its seafaring journey.

In terms of major conflicts, it is interesting to note that this vessel worked quietly yet powerfully beneath the surface of global politics. Much like Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn did throughout his political career—forgetting politics when necessary while never losing sight of serving his country—it conducted itself similarly on water.

A standout event involving the USS Sam took place when it served as a moored training ship at Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit (NNPTU). This training hub gives a thorough schooling to navy folks, prepping them for real-life challenges they might bump into on subs like this one. Working on this ship shows more than just its use in the field—it's a living classroom, teaching new generations from lessons learned in the past. NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

Much like Samuel Taliaferro 'Sam' Rayburn himself—who rose through ranks under Woodrow Wilson's administration—the 'USS Sam' displayed similar traits by adapting swiftly to changing circumstances while ensuring its mission capabilities were always at peak performance levels—a testament indeed.

The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, not just a war vessel but an educator too. From deterrence patrols to training future naval heroes - it's the silent sentinel of our seas. #USSSamRayburn #USNavyHistory Click to Tweet


Personalized Navy Veteran Push Pin Travel Map
Personalized Navy Veteran Push Pin Travel Map

Crew Memories of the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

The USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, an emblem of naval fortitude and resilience, has left an indelible mark on its crew members, whose memories reflect a profound sense of camaraderie, adventure, and personal growth. From the Cold War tensions to peacetime drills, these recollections span across decades of service, revealing the multifaceted life aboard a ballistic missile submarine.

John Padgett recounts his service in 1980 as a Navigation Electronics Technician Petty Officer Third Class (NAV ET PO3), fondly remembering the unique experiences under Capt. Turner and XO Franzetta, including the thrill of "angles and dangles" and the camaraderie of halfway night celebrations.

James Jay Schiebrel, who served in 1982 as a Quartermaster Third Class (QM3), reflects on his transformative years aboard the "slammin' Sammy," growing from a "stupid loudmouth kid" to a slightly older version of himself, cherishing the unforgettable memories and fun times.

Bruce Boaz, an Electrical Division Officer in 1987, speaks of his involvement during the last phase of the overhaul and the pride in designing the Logo & Motto for MTS-635, marking his contribution to its legacy and witnessing the submarine's critical moments.

Tim Potter's service in 1972 as a Missile Technician Second Class (MT 2(SS)) involved initial Poseidon Missile loading and evasive maneuvers around a disabled Russian submarine, highlighting the tense and strategic operations of Cold War patrols.

Donald Godfrey shares his journey from serving as an Electronics Technician First Class (ET1(SS)) in 1967 to retiring as an ETCS(SS) and eventually dedicating his life to spiritual service, illustrating the diverse paths crew members pursue after their naval careers.

Tom Crawford and Dave Cummings recount their experiences of overhauls, sea trials, strategic operations, and memorable port calls, embodying the technical excellence and adventurous spirit that defined the Rayburn's service.

Frank MacIuska, Jerome Saliga, Stan Feinberg, and others reminisce about the unique aspects of submarine life, from halfway nights to maintaining the Sam Rayburn website and organizing reunions, emphasizing the strong bonds formed beneath the waves.

Elliott Nicholson, William Pinkham, Tom Lewis, Tony Cripps, and Richard Dudley reflect on the challenges and joys of submarine service, from cold winters at port to liberty in foreign lands, and the pride in earning their dolphins.

Larry A. Tennill, Thomas Thompson, Joe Lewis, Jesse Doc Pitt, John Lutz, Richard Fewkes, and Nicholas Weinert share tales of crew turnover, friendships, medical service, and the transition from active patrols to life post-service, illustrating the profound impact of their time on the USS Sam Rayburn on their lives and the legacy of the submarine itself.

Together, these memories form a mosaic of life aboard the USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, showcasing the blend of duty, adventure, personal growth, and lifelong friendships that define the submarine service. The shared experiences, from the tension-filled patrols of the Cold War to the camaraderie of crew life, highlight the enduring spirit of those who served on this storied vessel.

Awards & Commendations of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635

Over its service years, the USS Sam Rayburn made quite a name for itself. But the USS Sam Rayburn's reputation wasn't just built on hush-hush missions and unspoken deterrents; it also collected a rich array of awards and commendations that highlighted its prestige.

The crew, both Blue Crew and Gold Crew, always put their best foot forward. So, what's the bottom line here? Getting a nod from the big shots.

The mighty Sam Rayburn, under the command of Captain Williams III, received two Navy Unit Commendation ribbons. These are not given lightly but to units that set themselves apart by their outstanding heroism in action against an armed enemy.

Battle Efficiency 'E' Awards

This ship was no stranger to excellence in naval warfare readiness. It earned multiple Battle 'E' ribbons during its active years - these awards recognize sustained superior performance in an operational environment within a one-year period.

Crew Achievements: A Testimony to Teamwork

Let's not forget the hardworking crews who were instrumental in winning these accolades. From executing successful Polaris Deterrent Patrols with perfection to maintaining top-notch fleet ballistic missile capabilities - every sailor played his part.

For an in-depth look, don't miss out on NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive page.

Dive into the legacy of USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635, a true titan of the sea. From nabbing Navy Unit Commendation ribbons to Battle 'E' awards, it's more than just an underwater sentinel. Here's to the Blue and Gold Click to Tweet

FAQs in Relation to USS Sam Rayburn Ssbn-635

Where is the USS Sam Rayburn now?

The USS Sam Rayburn is currently docked in Galveston, Texas and serves as a training platform for naval nuclear power students.

What does SSBN stand for?

SSBN stands for Submersible Ship Ballistic Nuclear. So, we're talking about a sub here that's not only fueled by nuclear reactors but is also armed with ballistic missiles.

What is the largest US submarine?

The title of largest submarine in the U.S. goes to those belonging to the Ohio-class. fleet, measuring 560 feet long with a displacement of about 18,750 tons when submerged.

How many Ohio class submarines does the US have?

The United States Navy has eighteen active-duty Ohio-class submarines in its arsenal at present.


USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Coffee Mug
USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Coffee Mug

USS Sam Rayburn SSBN-635 Ship Specifications

Specification Details
Class James Madison Class
Ballistic Missile Submarine
Commissioned December 2, 1964
Displacement 8,250 tons
Length 425 feet
Beam 33 feet
Draft 32 feet
Speed 20+ knots
Complement 138
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