Once-controversial submarine to be decommissioned at Pearl Harbor
  • Monday, December 17, 2018
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Once-controversial submarine to be decommissioned at Pearl Harbor

  • The Los Angeles-class fast stack submarine USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) arrived at her new homeport, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in May 2011 after completing a homeport shift from Commander, Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge/ Released)

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas » Even though forecasters predicted a strong chance of thunderstorms on March 16, 1983, people showed up in droves to Corpus Christi’s ship channel hoping to see the submarine named after their city. Some brought cameras. Others brought binoculars. Some even hiked up the Harbor Bridge to see the vessel surface from a bird’s-eye view.

All of them, it seemed, felt proud.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that after 33 years of serving the nation, the USS City of Corpus Christi is set to be decommissioned May 30 in Hawaii, at Pearl Harbor. But long before the submarine was ever commissioned, it made headlines around the country.

In the late 1970s, the Navy began constructing 44 Los Angeles-class fast attack nuclear submarines. At the request of Texas Sen. John Tower, Navy officials named one of the submarines after Corpus Christi to honor the city’s relationship with the military branch.

While the move was supported by a number of Corpus Christi residents, it also faced opposition locally and nationally, according to Caller-Times articles in 1981. Catholics led the charge to change the name, claiming that naming a warship a Latin phrase that means “body of Christ” was blasphemous.

A man who lived in Washington, D.C., even fasted as a form of protest, according to a 1982 Caller-Times article. Mitch Snyder lived off only water for 63 days until the name changed.

“Everybody went berserk,” said Ram Chavez, director of the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi.

Later that year, President Ronald Reagan issued a decree changing the name of the sub to “USS City of Corpus Christi,” putting the issue to rest.

“I loved the compromise,” said Dan Carranza, who worked at the Corpus Christi Army Depot at the time. “It actually embellishes the name to talk about our city.”

The submarine’s first visit lasted four days. In a show of Texas hospitality, the vessel’s commander was gifted with cowboy boots while the crew received cowboy hats during a welcome ceremony. Residents treated the crew to dinners and parties throughout their stay.

Because the sub’s visit was so popular, the chamber of commerce issued 4,000 tickets to residents interested in touring the vessel in a lottery.

“The lines were unbelievable,” Chavez said.

The submarine visited the city three more times, according to Caller-Times archives — in 1986, 1989 and most recently in 1999. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal was mayor during the submarine’s last visit and remembered taking a tour.

“I was honored … to meet the captain and crew and spend some time on it,” Neal said.

Now, the veterans band plans to travel to Pearl Harbor to perform at the decommissioning ceremony.

“The band being there is going to be another way to tell the story of the city of Corpus Christi to everyone,” Neal said.

The veterans band, first established in 1986, has played in ceremonies around the country, including at the inauguration of President George H.W. Bush.

“This invitation is right up there with Washington,” Carranza said.

Chavez said the band has already raised more than $20,000 since they announced plans to attend the ceremony. Regardless of the event, band members said they’re always ready to put on a show.

“Whether it’s three people, or 100,000 people, we perform with the same enthusiasm,” Chavez said.

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  • Serving 33 years clandestinely unseen by friends or foes finally being decommissioned according naval traditions. This vessel served during the height of the “Cold War” when the Russian had a huge nuclear submarine fleet and they too were shadowed as well shadowed their opposites. There must have been close encounters that could have resulted in a conflict. The public will never know how close or numbers they were??

  • Talk about a made-up controversy. To me its about how the Navy managed to keep a nuclear powered submarine active for 33 years. I’m sure she’s been through numerous overhauls and had many systems replaced and upgraded. That takes some doing and getting 33 years of service out of any naval vessel is quite an accomplishment by our Navy.

    • That is but one of the advantages a boiling water reactor propulsion system enjoys over a conventional fossil fuel (e.g. diesel, or oil fired 1200 lb steam plant) system.

      The other of course is that an attack boat or a boomer w/ its nuclear reactor does not need to surface until it runs out of food.

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