More than 30 years ago, a simple question was asked by Buffalo native Fred Dentinger: “Why don’t we name a submarine after our city?”
Congressman Jack Kemp championed this dream of a handful of Buffalo citizens, which became a reality on Nov. 5, 1983, with the commissioning of USS Buffalo (SSN 715). USS Buffalo is a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, currently stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Although it is homeported 4,862 miles away, the boat still remains close to the hearts of the City of Buffalo and its people.
On May 8, 1982, Joanne Kemp christened USS Buffalo as she slowly drifted into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, Va., with more than 500 participants from Buffalo looking on. “We’re Buffalo and We’re Talking Proud” was the motto that day – and it still holds true today.
Constructed by Newport News Shipbuilding, USS Buffalo is the Navy’s 25th Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine and is the third military vessel to bear the name Buffalo. The first Buffalo, a three-gun sloop, was purchased by the U.S. Navy to serve as a flagship of the Delaware flotilla during the War of 1812.
The second Buffalo was built by Newport News Shipbuilding in 1892 as a commercial vessel. The government purchased the ship in 1898, fitted it as an auxiliary cruiser and named it Buffalo. It was later converted to a destroyer tender and was stationed off the coast of France and Gibraltar for the remainder of World War I before being permanently decommissioned in 1922.
In 1942, plans were made to name an aircraft carrier Buffalo. When the keel was laid, the vessel was renamed Bataan, in honor of America’s wartime operations in the Philippines. In April 1944, the keel was laid for yet another Buffalo, this time a cruiser. Before it was completed, however, the war ended and work on the vessel was canceled.
In the last three decades, the current USS Buffalo has silently graced waters the world over, having operated throughout the Pacific Ocean and visiting ports of call in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Guam, Saipan, the Republic of the Philippines and South Korea. The boat has traveled, or steamed, more than 600,000 nautical miles, which is equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 26 times, and has deployed to the Western Pacific eight separate times.
The ship has been recognized seven times as a Battle Efficiency “E” boat for combat effectiveness, and has received four Meritorious Unit Commendations and one Navy Unit Commendation. The ship was most recently recognized as the 2011 Arleigh Burke trophy winner for achieving the greatest improvement during the previous year based on the Battle Efficiency competition.
In 2005, the boat changed homeports to Guam, where it became one of three forward deployed submarines, conducting numerous missions vital to national security. In 2013, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor, where she will remain operational and deployable until her scheduled decommissioning in 2017.
The city is still “talking proud” about its boat. On Sept. 13, Mayor Byron W. Brown declared the day as USS Buffalo Day, marking the second such recognition by the city.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of USS Buffalo’s commissioning, and as we approach Veterans Day on Monday, I encourage you to keep the sailors of USS Buffalo, and all sailors currently serving around the world, in your thoughts. Continue to “talk proud” about your boat and know that we will continue to work hard to make you proud of our efforts.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brian Tothero is the commanding officer of USS Buffalo (SSN 715) homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.