The name “TULLIBEE” originated from a French Canadian word for a type of freshwater fish (“TOULIBI”), scientifically known as “COREGONUS NIPIGON (KOELZ)”. The ship’s motto, “VENATOR-NECATOR” (Hunter-Killer), attests to the fact that the ship’s primary mission is to detect and destroy enemy submarines.
The keel was laid in May 1958 at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, Connecticut. After launching in April 1960 (under the sponsorship of Mrs. John F. Davidson) the ship was commissioned on 9 November 1960 with Commander Richard E. Jortberg her first Commanding Officer. The ship became the first nuclear powered submarine assigned to Submarine Development Group TWO at Groton, Connecticut.
Being of a new submarine design (and destined to be the only ship of her class) TULLIBEE represented a number
of submarine “firsts”:
– first submarine specifically designed as an ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) weapon
– first submarine to be equipped with the AN/BQQ-series Sonar
– first submarine with torpedo tubes amidships
– first submarine to use turbo-electric propulsion.
This “state-of-the-art” construction of the early 1960s resulted in the ship being tasked to perform extensive evaluation and testing of the new systems in early 1961. The diligence and professionalism displayed by the crew throughout the testing program resulted in the ship winning the Submarine Development Group TWO 1961 Battle Efficiency “E” (awarded to the ship in each submarine squadron that demonstrates the greatest tactical proficiency.)
On 19 January 1963, Commander Robert F. Hale relieved as the second Commanding Officer. Ship operations in 1963 and 1964 included continued evaluation and use of the AN/BQQ Sonar System in an anti-submarine warfare role.
On 10 June 1964, Commander Gerald E. Synhorst relieved as the ship’s third Commanding Officer. For the rest of 1964 and most of 1965, TULLIBEE, utilizing her advanced sonar system, developed and verified submarine ASW tactics during several multi-ship tactical exercises. In October of 1965, the ship entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for her first overhaul period.
Commander Thomas W. Fitzgerald, Jr. relieved as the fourth Commanding Officer on 22 June 1966. Following completion of the overhaul in October 1966, the ship returned to New London, CT and conducted post-overhaul refresher training and weapons/sonar systems certifications for the remainder of 1968 and most of 1969.
On 1 July 1970, Commander Lawrence S. Wigley relieved as the fifth Commanding Officer. During 1970, TULLIBEE conducted extensive research and development of sonar systems for Submarine Development Group TWO. In August of 1970, she departed for her first extended overseas deployment. Spending four and a half months deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, the ship supported the U.S. SIXTH Fleet in various ASW roles. The ship received the Meritorious Unit Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy for her participation in operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. The ship was also nominated to represent the U. S. SIXTH Fleet as the “Navy League Ship of the Year” for her outstanding ASW posture and overall performance. Returning to New London, CT in December of 1970, after having been deployed for 135 days, the ship received the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy for her outstanding battle efficiency and readiness.
In July of 1973, after transfer to Submarine Squadron TWO, TULLIBEE was presented with the Departmental “Fire Control Award” for excellence from Submarine Squadron TWO, an honor she received twice during her commissioned service. TULLIBEE entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in February of 1973 for her second major overhaul period. During this period she received her second Battle Efficiency “E” Award from Submarine Squadron TWO. TULLIBEE completed the overhaul in August of 1974 and returned to New London, CT.
On 16 October 1974, Lieutenant Commander Kenneth D. Folta relieved as the sixth Commanding Officer. In April of 1975, the ship departed for her second extended overseas deployment. She returned to New London, CT in October 1975, having spent six months in the Mediterranean Sea where she participated in several classified operations. Following her return, TULLIBEE became involved in several aspects of ASW development including an Advanced Sonar Evaluation Project with the United Kingdom. In October of 1976, the ship received the “Golden Anchor” Award from the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, for meritorious retention. November of 1976 saw the ship departing for her third deployment to the Mediterranean Sea where she conducted several significant SIXTH Fleet operations and participated in key NATO exercises. Her excellence in the area of anti-submarine warfare during this period was acknowledged by presentation of the coveted “HOOK EM” Award by Commander SIXTH Fleet.
On 12 March 1977, while still deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, Commander Charles S. Arnest relieved as the seventh Commanding Officer. Returning to New London, CT in April of 1977, after completing a five and a half month deployment, the ship underwent torpedo tube modifications which enabled her to launch the most advanced torpedoes. She departed on her fourth Mediterranean deployment in March of 1973 and participated in several major NATO exercises. During a special operation for COMSIXTHFLT, the ship suffered a propulsion casualty, which necessitated being towed to Rota, Spain for repairs. She returned to New London, CT in late August 1978 after having spent five and a half months deployed.
On 24 July 1979, Commander Daniel J. Koczur relieved as the eighth Commanding Officer. During August of 1979, TULLIBEE entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for its third and final major overhaul. This overhaul was the longest of the three, lasting until October of 1982 (a total of 39 months.) After leaving the shipyard, the remaining months of 1982 were spent conducting various operations which provided refresher training for the crew.
On 26 April 1983, Commander David W. Candler relieved as the ninth Commanding Officer. On two occasions between April 1933 and February 1984, difficulties with the propulsion system required the ship to return to New London, CT for repairs. In April 1985, the ship conducted certification inspections of the propulsion plant and weapons systems. In October of 1985, the ship was awarded the Submarine Squadron TWO Departmental Communications “Green C” Award for communications excellence. In November of 1985, the ship departed New London, CT for her fifth and final extended deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. While deployed she conducted several ASW operations for Commander SIXTH Fleet and participated in major NATO ASW exercises. TULLIBEE’s assignment to SIXTH Fleet during freedom of navigation exercises (involving combat with Libyan Forces by SIXTH Fleet units) resulted in her crew receiving a Navy Expeditionary Medal as well as her first award of a Navy Unit Commendation. The ship returned to New London, CT in April of 1986 after having spent five months deployed.
On 21 November 1986, Commander Charles R. Skolds relieved as the tenth Commanding Officer. The ship remained pierside in New London for the rest of 1986 and most of 1987 while preparing for inactivation. In September of 1987 the ship was towed to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to begin a ten month inactivation/decommissioning.
USS TULLIBEE is 273 feet long and displaces 2,300 tons of seawater. She is the smallest attack submarine in the nation’s nuclear submarine fleet. The initial manning complement was 7 officers and 66 enlisted men. Thirteen officers and over one hundred enlisted men were assigned when she began inactivation.
During her proud career, TULLIBEE was home to many dedicated Navy fighting men. She achieved much and conducted many submarine firsts. During her commissioned service she submerged and surfaced 730 times and traveled approximately 325,000 nautical miles (equal to the distance from the earth to the moon and half way back.)