USS Grayback - 574




SS-208       PICTURES










A Brief History of the 
USS Grayback

Construction of the USS Grayback (SS-574) was authorized in 1953.  The keel was laid 1 July 1954 Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California and launched 2 July 1954 (Sponsored by Mrs. John J. Moore, widow of the last CO of the first Grayback) and commissioned 7 March 1958. The Grayback was initially designated as attack diesel submarine but conversion to guided missile submarine (SSG-574) capable of firing the Regulus II sea to surface missiles began in 1958.  The Grayback successfully launched it's first Regulus missile in September 1958. On 9 February 1959 Grayback departed Mare Island, CA for her permanent home base and arrived in Pearl Harbor, HI on 7 March 1959.  The Regulus missile program ended in 1964 and the USS Grayback was withdrawn from active service. A second conversion was authorized in 1967 and the conversion began at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard November 1967. The conversion was originally estimated at $15.2 million but actually was $30 million.  She was re-classified from a SSG to LPSS 30 August 1968 (never officially designated APSS). During conversion her sail was extended 10 feet, auxiliary tanks #3 and #4 were added to the forward position of the engine room, the missile chambers were converted to carry 67 embarked troops and SEAL swimmer delivery vehicles (SDV), and a diver's decompression chamber was constructed in the starboard hanger. By adding the auxiliary tanks to the engine room her length was extended 12 feet to an overall length of 334 feet.  The Grayback was decommissioned for the second time on 15 January 1984 at Subic Bay Naval Station in the Republic of the Philippines. After decommissioning, the USS Grayback was given the honor to make it's last and final dive in the South China Sea on 13 April 1986 where the USS Grayback remains today on eternal patrol.




Monday, October 5th, a travel day for many of the attendees, dawned with storm clouds on the horizon. Normally sunny Las Vegas had its rainiest day of the year which caused minor street flooding. The weather didn’t dampen the spirit of those who had already arrived at the Tuscany. While festivities were not scheduled to commence until Tuesday, at Jim Stevenson’s suggestion we asked the Tuscany about the possibility of getting the hospitality suite a day early. The Sales Manager was kind enough to check our group into the suite a day early and at no charge. The previously purchased beverages were iced down, memorabilia, photos and archive materials were staged, a pot of coffee was brewed and snacks broken out to get the party started early! Two packages were delivered to the hotel from Ian Laing which contained two hundred custom Grayback ‘koozie’ cups. A nice, timely and functional souvenir…..thanks Ian.

Come Tuesday the sun returned and we enjoyed a high temperature of a pleasant 76 degrees. We received our name tags and verified our contact info on the Sailing List. At noon time we partook of some home-cooked adobo, pancit, rice and 200 pieces of lumpia. The cribbage boards were in heavy use and tournament play started. There were unconfirmed reports that some outside liquor (tequila) made its way into the suite and was consumed by the shot.

Wednesday we mustered at 0900 in a meeting room with a balcony overlooking the Tuscany’s pool for a breakfast buffet. After welcome remarks we observed a moment of silence to honor those shipmates we have lost over the years the loss of 80 souls on the first Grayback. Self introductions were completed and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast. Afterwards we engaged in a discussion of when and where to hold our next reunion. More on that below. Jerry “Bow planes” Baker’s won the raffle for a the book ‘Trident Deception’ signed by the author Rick Campbell and “Fast Eddie” Lawson choreographed a series of group photos. Afterwards, the party and cribbage tournament continued in the suite. A cooler of cooked and chilled snow crab, compliments of Pete and Josie Sykas, was a big hit. Later a run was made for pizza.

Early Thursday a run was made to pick us fresh baked donuts, a small working party replenished our consumables and the Tuscany catering department delivered and iced down our beverages. A lunch time run was made for chicken, potato salad and other goodies. And another cooler of that excellent crab was quickly consumed. At 1800 all hands again mustered in the meeting room for a dinner banquet. It was like the old days in the crew’s mess….with plates piled high the catering staff was pressed to replenish some of the dishes, but by all reports everyone got enough to eat and enjoyed the spread. Following dinner, John Chamberlain (Grayback CO March ’71-March ’73) presented an overview of ‘Operation Thunderhead’, a short notice mission in June of 1972 in the Gulf of Tonkin to rescue three prisoners of war held by North Vietnam. His unique perspective and firsthand knowledge of all aspects of the mission was enlightening and riveting as he shared the challenges of the environment in which Grayback was required to operate.

A Bravo Zulu goes out to Lynn Miller who volunteered (again) to serve as the Hospitality Suite COB. He did a super job maintaining order….considering that 12 (36 count) cases of Bud Light and one case of San Miguel was consumed on the premises. And there were no visits by Tuscany Security or the need to submit a Unit SITREP. He also honcho’d the cribbage tournament won by John Chamberlain who donated his prize money to the Reunion fund. Jan Campbell was the lucky winner of $204.00 from the 50/50 drawing. For all of you who made a contribution to the ‘Donation Can’ in the hospitality suite Thank You….we finished the reunion under budget and have a good start to funding the next one.

On that note, the plan is to hold our next Reunion in Branson, Missouri in the April-May 2017 timeframe. Mike Ballinger who lives nearby provided those at this reunion an overview of the offerings in Branson and has volunteered to serve as the coordinator. We’ll be sharing more info on that in the future as we firm up dates and a venue, but mark your calendars for Spring 2017 now. (As a reminder we will be asking for volunteer donations some time in 2016 to help to keep the cost of the 2017 reunion as reasonable as possible)

Mike Dimmick assembled a slide show of pictures including the group photos taken by “Fast Eddie” Lawson which can be viewed on YouTube at this link YouTube (check the resolution settings using the gear icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen to select 1080p HD quality).

In summary, we gathered – 103 strong crew, family and friends with a common bond – at a great venue to share memories and news, renew old acquaintances and make new ones, partake of food and drink and enjoy ourselves. Mission Accomplished!

See you in Branson in Spring 2017.


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