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Copyright 2016. Lynn Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
Some Background/History of the Project: The USS Phoenix (SSN-702) was built by the General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and launched in December, 1979 in Groton, CT. It was the 15th LA Class boat to be launched in a submarine class that eventually numbered 62 boats, each of which cost approximately one billion dollars to build. Following its sea trials, the USS Phoenix remained on active duty for 17 years, from 1981 to 1997. It was decommissioned early and placed in waterborne storage at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA to await recycling. During its seventeen years of active duty, it patrolled the North Atlantic areas, and conducted operations on the East Coast and in the Mediterranean.
In 1989, eight years into the 702’s operational life, the City of Phoenix, led by its mayor, Terry Goddard, formed a special citizen’s commission for the purposes of befriending the City’s namesake submarine and its crews, and for preserving the history of all naval ships named after the City. For the next ten years, there was a great deal of activity generated between the submarine and hundreds of Valley residents in the form of submarine “underways” aboard the 702, and reciprocal 702 crew visits to Phoenix. In 1996 it was announced the USS Phoenix would be decommissioned early, and be placed in mothballs to await its eventual deconstruction and recycling. At that time the idea was hatched of salvaging/saving parts of the 702, bringing them to Phoenix, and erecting some sort of monument. In 1998 the boat was taken out of service and towed to Bremerton to await its deconstruction. It was originally forecast by the Navy to be cut-up in 2002. The USS Phoenix Commission decided to extend its own life past the 702’s active duty period in order to devise and gain approval for a monument plan in downtown Phoenix.
For the next eleven years, from 1998 to 2009, the Commission remained in existence, with a primary focus of “Saving the Sail” of the USS Phoenix, and bringing it to Phoenix to become part of a 702 Cold War monument. In order to promote that idea and effort, the Commission made friends with a sister boat of the USS Phoenix called the USS Helena (SSN-725), homeported in San Diego, and the Commission commenced a ten-year relationship with that boat. In 2008, after much deliberation, the City of Phoenix approved a plan to place a 702 monument in Steele Indian School Park in downtown Phoenix. Meantime, the U.S. Navy continued to postpone the cut-up of the 702. In 2009, ten years after the 702 commenced its waterborne storage, the USS Phoenix Commission was sunset by the City of Phoenix. In an effort to sustain the “Save Our Sail” (SOS)/USS Phoenix (SSN-702) Cold War Monument project, management was transferred to the local chapter of the Submarine Veterans’ Inc., Perch Base. From 2009 until 2012, Perch Base continued interest in the project while awaiting the 702’s cut-up. In 2012, still with no definitive cut-up date from the Navy, Perch Base decided to abandon the monument project in favor of a simpler submarine monument effort in Wesley Bolin Plaza, a monument area adjacent to the State Capitol in Phoenix.
The 702 Cold War Monument Project was then revived by a few of the original members of the USS Phoenix Commission, and after a year-long search, the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN) agreed to sponsor the project and continue with its management. In 2015, after nearly eighteen years of waterborne storage, the Navy announced its intention to commence the 702’s cut-up and to provide its sail, diving planes and rudder to the City of Phoenix. In August of 2016, nearly 65 tons of parts were transported by truck from WA to AZ and placed in temporary storage at the Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix. Since then, AUSN and the Foundation it formed have led an effort to create an approved design for the monument and to organize a fund-raising campaign sufficient for planning, building and operating the monument, a process that is currently ongoing. It is hoped the construction process can commence not later than 2020.