As a Pascagoula kid, I spent a lot of time looking at boats and ships growing up as they made their way through Ingalls. I remember the Spru-cans and their Ticonderoga half-sisters cranking through the yard alongside every LHA and LHD ever made as well as a share of LPHs/LSDs/LPDs and LSTs.
I saw two of the four Iowa-class battleships towed in past “The Point” alongside Singing River Island from mothballs and then sail back out again on their own power in the 1980s. Then in my 20s, I worked in the yard on DDG-51s.
And I also remember the submarine races as a kid.
Unofficial trials of course. It became something of town lore. There were even t-shirts made showing two periscopes running neck and neck. The real thing was more sedate, I’m sure.
Here we see USS Puffer (SSN-652), a Sturgeon-class attack submarine, underway at Pascagoula, Mississippi, 15 July 1969.
The Sturgeons were important, bridging the early 1950s often one-off SSN classes with the more modern Los Angeles (SSN-688) boats. As such, they were a redesign of the Thresher/Permit class using lessons learned from the loss of Thresher. Also, since there was so much sub building going on back then, it wasn’t just a Newport News/Electric Boat world when it came to submarines, a lot of Naval shipyards and, yes, even Ingalls, got in on the action.
The first of the Goula boats was the Barbel-class diesel sub USS Blueback (SS-581), awarded in 1956.
In the 13 years between 1961, when USS Tautog (SSN-639) was ordered and 1974 when the famous Cold Warrior USS Parche (SSN-683) was commissioned, Ingalls produced seven Sturgeons on their East Bank facility. They also went on to refuel/refit a dozen subs throughout the 1970s. USS Sunfish (SSN-649) sailed out of Pascagoula in October 1980, the last sub ever to grace the yard.
Today, all of the Sturgeons are scrap metal and sealed reactors, although a number of fairwater planes (including Puffer‘s) have been preserved in parks.
Speaking of preserved, the pace car of the Pascagoula Submarine Races, Blueback, is a floating museum at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland of all places, after 31 years of active duty and tons of film and TV appearances.