+Ship's History

USS JAMES MADISON (SSBN 627) bore the name of our nation's fourth President and Father of the Constitution.

The ship's keel was laid on 5 March 1962 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. On 15 March 1963, the ship was launched and sponsored by Mrs. A.S. "Mike" Monroney, wife of the famous Oklahoma senator.

28 April 1964 brought initial criticality of the nuclear reactor and an ever increasing tempo led to sea trials in June and July, "the most efficiently run of any yet conducted on a submarine at Newport News," as termed in a letter from the Supervisor of Shipbuilding.

Commissioning took place in a colorful ceremony on 28 July 1964. Our beloved sponsor, Mrs. Monroney, who had launched our ship 16 months earlier, was present to express her wishes for continued success and safety. 

There is some question that the statements below are accurate. They were taken from the Welcome Aboard packet from 1982.  The two crews, Blue and Gold, next conducted "Shakedown" operations, in turn, at sea. These periods were climaxed by completely successful launches of the A3 Polaris missile by each crew.

The New Year Year of 1965 found the JAMES MADISON en route to Charleston, South Carolina to load and check 16 nuclear armed missiles, each capable of striking targets up to 2500 miles from the ship.

The ship sailed for her first patrol on 17 January 1965. On 3 February 1969, after completing seventeen successful patrols from Rota, Spain and Charleston, South Carolina, MADISON entered the shipyard at Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation at Groton, Connecticut for overhaul and conversion to a Poseidon Missile Capability. As lead ship for the Poseidon conversion, she was extensively modified to carry our nation's most advanced strategic weapons system. The conversion was completed on 28 June 1970, and the ship departed for shakedown operations on 4 July 1970 to evaluate the Poseidon weapons system.

On 4 August 1970, MADISON successfully launched a Poseidon missile, and with it marked the beginning of a new era in strategic deterrence. The Poseidon weapon system is now deployed beneath the world's oceans to stand guard on our country's freedom.

On 6 November 1974, MADISON completed the first Extended Refit Period (ERP) and on 2 November 1977 completed the second Extended Refit Period (ERP-II). These shortened versions of major shipyard overhauls have occurred at three year intervals and were intended to extend the time between major shipyard overhauls from five to ten years. At the same time, the ERP program has maintained MADISON in top operational readiness condition allowing an increased number of patrols to be completed in the ship's lifetime.

On 3 August 1979, MADISON entered Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for overhaul, refueling and backfit to the Trident Missile system after completing thirty-two consecutive patrols.

On 12 February 1982, MADISON completed overhaul and backfit and departed on shakedown operations to evaluate the Trident-I weapons system.

Reliability, accuracy, undetected mobility, and instant readiness -- these are the key words that characterize Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines and crews in their continuing role.

The above information is now out-of-date. Specific information which could update this would be appreciated.

This account was provided by Glenn Keiffer, FTB 3 (SS)(DV) PO3.

Now on the history of the Dolly.  The Blue crew fired the only A3 missile in September or early Oct.  1964.  I was on the Trolley Key and was on the blue crew.  There were some gold crew people on board, but the boat was commanded by Captain Joe Skoog, Blue crew commander  The gold crew took over the boat at the Cape and we flew back to Charleston, S.C.   When they returned, we took over the boat and went and loaded the A3 missiles and went out on patrol right around the 1st of November and the patrol lasted 88 days, which would have gotten the boat back to Rota right around Jan. 17th 1965. 

Patrol  5 was blue's and we were out on Christmas 1965.  When we finished that patrol I went to Divers school in Feb 1966.   Patrol 11 was a blue crew patrol and we were out to sea for Christmas 1966 and  then I stayed for awhile and then was transferred to the Atule in March 1967.

FTB3 Keiffer was there. I wasn't. It would be appreciated if some of the other crew members who were there would step forward and provide corroboration for his account of these events. Thanks!  ~KH


On 20 November 1992, MADISON was decommissioned.

On 24 October, 1997, MADISON was disposed of by submarine recycling at a hull age of 33.3 years.

The first Blue Crew Commanding Officer was Cmdr. Joseph L. Skoog, Jr.

  • There is conflicting information on the web as to the identity of the first Gold Crew CO. One place lists it as Cmdr. John C. Lewis (Source: http://www.historycentral.com/navy/Submarine/james%20madison%20II.html)and another lists the first Gold CO as Cmdr. James D. Kearny (Source:http://www.nwc.navy.mil/usnhdb/ShipLookup.asp?ShipID=USSSBN00627). MADISON plankowners and the James Madison Commissioning booklet listing all officers and enlisted for both crews dated July 28,1964 identify the first Gold crew CO as Cmdr. James D. Kearny. Cmdr Lewis had been listed as prospective CO  on March 15,1963 but was replaced  by Kearny.

    The following information is directly from CDR Kearny:

    There was CDR John C. Lewis assigned to Madison as Gold CO. He was onboard at the launching, but shortly thereafter left. I came onboard  during construction at Newport News and took the ship to sea on Sea Trials and for the first two Gold Patrols out of Rota Spain. My tour ended during off crew training at Charleston when I suffered  injuries while water skiing.