SSN USS HAMPTON #767
By Michael Bisceglia
Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 18, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[U.S. Navy Courtesy photo]
Hampton, N.H., is not a port of call for the U.S. Navy. There are no deep-water facilities across Route 1-A from the Hampton Beach Casino. Both area residents and visitors to the region will attest to those facts.
Curiously, the large community billboard at the entrance of Lafayette Road bears a small sign featuring a silhouette of a submarine. Written on the sign are the words "SSN USS HAMPTON 767." There are four stars below the ship's name.
Is it a case of a missing submarine? Not hardly. Does the town of Hampton really have a U.S. Naval warship bearing the name of a wonderful town on the southern New Hampshire coast? Well, yes . . . sort of.
The nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine, USS Hampton (SSN 767) is named after our fair city, as well as Hampton, Va.; Hampton, Iowa; and Hampton, S.C. Each of these Hamptons is represented by one of those four stars on the ship's crest. (There are 14 other cities named Hampton in the United States, but they can't lay claim to this ship as their namesake.) In all fairness, the stars also represent four other ships that bore the name Hampton. The first of these was a Confederate gunboat. It was followed by a tugboat, an anti-submarine training vessel and an amphibious transport ship.
The current USS Hampton is definitely the most formidable of any of the ships to bear the name. It boasts four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and 12 vertical Tomahawk missile tubes, and the ship can reach a maximum speed of 25 knots.
Along the bottom of the crest is the ship's motto, "Qui desiderant pacem preparate bellum." It means "Those who desire peace, prepare for war." It is a terse declaration, but the USS Hampton is ready to go to war if the need arises.
The USS Hampton is the 17th improved submarine in the Los Angles class. It was commissioned on Nov. 6, 1993, and has been relocated from its previous home of Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif.
This nuclear ship is almost completely self-reliant.
Because of its power plant and oxygen-generating equipment, the Hampton can stay submerged for extended periods of time. The ship doesn't have all the comforts of home, but it can convert salt water to drinking water, and it has its own ice cream machine.
In addition, a fully stocked supply department could carry enough food for the 100 crew members for more than 90 days.
One of the original crew members can boast that Hampton is not only his ship, it is also his hometown. Petty Officer Brett Griffin, a 1993 graduate of Winnacunnet High School, was deployed as a radar detector operator aboard the submarine in 1995.
In May 2000, the bond between the town of Hampton and the submarine became stronger when a delegation from Hampton, at personal expense, attended the formal change of command ceremony in Norfolk, Va. The delegation included Selectment Board Chairman Brian Warburton, Vice Chairman William Sullivan, Selectman James Workman, Town Manager James Barrington and Budget Committee Chairman Edward Buck.
It was a "dress white" occasion for the crew as outgoing Cmdr. John M. Bird turned control of the ship over to incoming Cmdr. John L. Lovering.
During the ceremony, the Hampton was presented with the Navy Unit Commendation by the Secretary of the Navy and the Killian Award by the President of the United States.
In September of that year, the Hampton was in Groton, Conn., for pre-deployment exercises. Lovering brought 30 members of his crew to Hampton for a day of fun, feasting and a trolley tour of the Seacoast. The tour was provided by Tom Higgins and catered by Joe Kutt of Joe's Meat Shoppe.
On another visit to the Northeast, the Hampton committee was taken aboard at Groton and allowed to travel on the sub to Portsmouth. It was a treat for the hometown representatives.
Lovering stressed the importance of the bond between the ship and the town. Since the Hampton is now Pacific-based, it is unlikely that the ship will be returning to New Hampshire any time soon.
In 2004, the USS Hampton and the Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless surfaced through the ice at the North Pole as a part of a combined operational exercise.
The two ships traveled together to collect data and conduct experiments. By navigating at the "top of the world," the two ships proved they could operate effectively even in the harshest environments.
The Hampton, the "Queen of the Ball" at the Norfolk Naval Base, has received the highest grade possible in pre-deployment exercises and inspections. It has received a rating of 110 percent. Only 10 percent of the Navy's vessels are eligible for this rating.
It is with a proud tip of the hat that we of southern New Hampshire acknowledge the dedicated service to those who serve in the Navy, and it is with a special sense of pride that we acknowledge the USS Hampton. Thank you for helping to maintain America's freedom.
A special thanks goes to Sandy Buck, Brian Warburton and to the folks at the Lane Memorial Library for contributing to this article.
Mike Bisceglia Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Hampton.