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'Mighty Memphis' retires

Groton— The USS Memphis was taken out of service this afternoon in a decommissioning ceremony at the Shepherd of the Sea Chapel.

People with ties to the Memphis filled every seat in the chapel to celebrate the accomplishments of both the submarine and its crews over the years. It was commissioned on Dec. 17, 1977, with then-Cmdr. Denny Hicks serving as the commanding officer.

Hicks, who attended the ceremony, said he wasn't going to dwell on the sadness surrounding the loss of a "tremendous asset to the fleet." Instead, he said, he wanted to celebrate its 33 years of service.

"We are passing the torch to the next generation of submarines," he said.

Vice Adm. John M. Richardson, commander of the Submarine Force, said he leapt at the opportunity to take part in the celebration. Richardson and other members of the official party focused on how the "mighty Memphis" was designed to win the Cold War but adapted over time as the nature of the conflicts changed.

"Memphis stayed in the fight the entire way," Richardson said, from the Cold War to the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Memphis (SSN 691) returned from its final deployment March 2. The Memphis returned from a short deployment in June and was not scheduled to go out to sea again. But the Navy needed a submarine near Europe and the Memphis crew headed there in January.

Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, deputy director of the Submarine Warfare Division, asked the audience— how many ships in the Navy could quickly leave for a deployment at 33 years old?

"Only the great ship Memphis," he said to the rhetorical question.

And, he said, "She stayed on the prowl 33 years, lunging through the tape at the finish line."

Capt. William Merz, a former Memphis commanding officer and current commodore of Submarine Development Squadron 12, said the submarine has been "blessed with one great crew after another." Cmdr. Jeff Joseph, the current commanding officer, also attributed the submarine's success to the crew, both past and present.

Joseph was presented with the commissioning pennant. The Memphis now heads to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to begin the inactivation process.


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