The fast-attack sub Chicago has returned to its Hawaiian homeport for the last time.
The submarine nosed into its berth at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Wednesday, Nov. 2, ending a seven-month patrol in the Indo-Pacific area of operations.
It’s slated for decommissioning in 2023 after 37 years of service.
"The toughness and positive attitude displayed by the entire Chicago crew has been extraordinary," said Chief of the Boat Master Chief Information Systems Technician (Submarines) Christopher Kyser, in a prepared statement. "The work put in by Chicago sailors to maintain a presence at sea has been impressive. I couldn't be more proud of the work our sailors have put in over the last seven months to keep the oldest submarine in the force in top shape during her last deployment. Special thanks to all the families for keeping the home front secure and enabling us to accomplish our primary mission. None of this would be possible without your sacrifice."
The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Chicago (SSN 721) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. US Navy photo by Electronics Technician 2nd Class Leland T. Hasty II.
Commissioned on Sept. 27, 1986, Chicago was the 34th Los Angeles-class submarine, and the fourth US Navy warship named for the Windy City.
Chicago will remain a designated warship until its nuclear fuel is removed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, and then shipped to the Naval Reactors Facility in Idaho for recycling.
Any equipment that can be reused will be stripped from the boat and then breakers will quarter the hull and begin cutting Chicago to scrap.
Cmdr. Benjamin J. Selph, then-commanding officer of the fast-attack sub Olympia (SSN 717), plays a game of cribbage on the O'Kane board against Cmdr. Chance Litton, then-commanding officer of the boat Chicago (SSN 721). The O'Kane cribbage board is passed down to the oldest fast-attack submarine in the Pacific. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro.
When Chicago slipped out of Pearl Harbor on March 28 for its scheduled deployment, it carried in its wardroom Richard “Dick” O’Kane’s cribbage board.
It's a tradition that honors the oldest attack boat in the Pacific Fleet.
O’Kane received the Medal of Honor for helming the renowned attack sub Tang (SS-283) during World War II. He lost his first cribbage board on Oct. 25, 1944, when one of Tang’s own torpedoes sank the boat.
When O’Kane retired in 1957, the crew of the new boat named after Tang (SS-563) presented him with a replacement board.
After O'Kane died in 1994, his board was presented to the crew of the oldest attack sub at the time, Kamehameha. When that boat was marked for decommissioning, the tradition began of handing it down to the crew of the next oldest sub.
Sonar Technician (Submarine) 3rd Class Paxton Charlesworth, from the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Chicago (SSN 721), reunites with his family after the boat returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. US Navy photo by Electronics Technician 2nd Class Leland T. Hasty II.
The board passed to the submarine Parche, then Los Angeles, Bremerton, Olympia, and Chicago.
It’s unclear which boat will carry O'Kane's board next. The sub launched after Chicago, Key West, also is slated for the breakers in 2023.
During its last Pacific patrol, 50 Chicago sailors earned their submarine warfare specialist pins, according to the Navy.
“The most memorable part of deployment has been seeing my junior sailors qualify for their dolphins," said Torpedoman’s Mate 1st Class Devon Schilling, in a prepared statement. "I have been on board Chicago for five years, and I have never been more proud than I am now, seeing the boys I trained turn into men. I am always proud to gain a new brother or sister of the ‘fin.”
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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