USS Kamehameha (SSN-642)

USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642)
attack submarine
Career (US)
Namesake: Kamehameha I (c. 1758-1819), King of Hawaii (c. 1795-1819)
Ordered: 31 August 1962
Builder: Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California
Laid down: 2 May 1963
Launched: 16 January 1965
Sponsored by: Mrs. Samuel Wilder King
Commissioned: 10 December 1965
Decommissioned: 2 April 2002
Reclassified: Attack submarine (SSN-642) in 1992
Struck: 2 April 2002
Motto: Imua (Hawaiian for Go forth and conquer)
Crew's unofficial motto: "Kam Do"
Nickname: "Kamfish"
Fate: Scrapping via Ship and Submarine Recycling Program begun October 2002; completed 28 February 2003
General characteristics
Class & type:
Displacement: 6,511 tons light, 7,334 tons full, 823 tons dead
Length: 425 ft (130 m)
Beam: 33 ft (10 m)
Draft: 31 ft (9.4 m)
Installed power: 15,000 shp (11,185 kW)
Propulsion: One S5W pressurized-water nuclear reactor, two geared steam turbines, one shaft
Speed: Over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)
Complement: Two crews (Blue Crew and Gold Crew) of 20 officers and 130 enlisted men each
Armament: 16 × ballistic missile tubes (removed 1992)
4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (all forward)

USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642) (called Kamfish by her crew), a ballistic missile submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Kamehameha I, the first King of Hawaii (c. 1758-1819). She is one of only two ships of the United States to be named after a monarch.a She was later reclassified as an attack submarine and redesignated SSN-642.

The ship's motto was Imua, which roughly translates (from the Hawaiian) as "go forth and conquer." Another motto used by her crew was Kam do.

Construction and commissioning

The contract to build Kamehameha was awarded to Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, California, on 31 August 1962 and her keel was laid down there on 2 May 1963. She was launched on 16 January 1965, sponsored by Mrs. Samuel Wilder King, and commissioned on 10 December 1965 with Commander Roth S. Leddick in command of the Blue Crew and Commander Robert W. Dickieson in command of the Gold Crew.

Conducting deterrence patrols during the Cold War, Kamehameha's armament as a ballistic missile submarine was 16 Poseidon ballistic missiles plus ten to twelve Mark 48 heavy torpedoes non-ADCAP (advanced capability).

Service history

Kamehameha was built in Vallejo, CA. Upon Completion she went on her first Sea Trials, off the coast of California. Afterwards, She went directly to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which was her home port until 1970. Although Pearl Harbor was her home port, She made all of her Pacific patrols out of Apra Harbor, Guam, due to her nuclear armament. Early in 1966, Kamehameha joined the United States Pacific Fleet and began her first deterrent patrol on 6 August 1966. After this patrol in November 1966, switched crews, and was soon underway again. It was on her last Pacific patrol that the Blue crew took her to the firing range to fire two dummy warhead Posideons. After that, the Gold crew took Kamehameha through the Panama Canal and on to Charleston, SC, which would be her new home port, until she entered the yards. The yard period started around 1971.

History needed for 1967-1992.

Between 1975 and 1977 she belonged to Submarine Group 2, Squadron 16; homeported in New London CT, and advance-based in Rota Spain. She conducted nuclear deterrent patrols in the Atlantic and 'vicinity' without incident in 1975 and 1976. During September - November 1976, Kamehameha spent time in Charleston, South Carolina conducting SPECOPS with other units, then onto the AUTEC range for qualifications prior to resuming patrol duties after her return to Rota.

Her radio callsign during this period was NKAM.

For much of her operational career, Kamehameha was based at Rota, Spain.

Conversion to attack submarine

In July 1992, Kamehameha was converted to a Dry Deck Shelter/swimmer delivery platform, reclassified as an attack submarine, and given hull number SSN-642; her ballistic missile capability was removed and thereafter she carried only torpedoes as armament. Henceforth there was only one crew, and her subsequent missions included SEAL special warfare operations.

Decommissioning and disposal

Kamehameha was decommissioned on 2 April 2002 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. She was the last of the original "41 for Freedom" fleet ballistic missile submarines in service, and the oldest submarine in the United States Navy at the time of her decommissioning. The wardroom of the oldest submarine in the fleet carried Richard O'Kane's personal cribbage board, and upon the Kamehameha's decommissioning the board was transferred to the next oldest boat, USS Parche (SSN-683).[1] She holds the record for the longest service lifetime of any nuclear submarine—nearly 37 years.

Kamehameha's scrapping via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington began in October 2001 and was completed on 28 February 2003.


Kamehameha's sail with fairwater planes, the upper half of her rudder, her bust of King Kamehameha I, a koa plate, bow and spear, and the wardroom monkeypod wood table are stored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Her periscopes have been donated to the Deterrent Park on Submarine Base Bangor, Washington, to become part of the USS Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624) exhibit.


^a The other was the Continental Navy's USS Alfred.


  • This article incorporates text from the here.
  • This article includes information collected from the here.
  • Photo gallery of USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642) Keel Laying - Launching at NavSource Naval History
  • Photo gallery of USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642) Fitting Out - Commissioning at NavSource Naval History
  • Photo gallery of USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642) Active Service - Decommissioning at NavSource Naval History
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