K-19 (1959)

In trouble yet again, K-19 is photographed by a US Navy patrol aircraft in February, 1972. US Navy photo.

Laid Down

K-19 was a Project-658 (Hotel-class) nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. The -658s were a rush job, the Soviet's attempt to catch up to the US who were nearly done with their first ballistic missile subs, and it showed. Laid down 17 October, 1958, K-19 suffered several accidents before he was even launched, killing eight yard workers. Two more died in accidents while loading the missiles. K-19 was launched 8 April, 1959, and the champagne bottle failed to break, which is traditionally considered to be bad luck for the ship by sailors. And things were just getting started. During pre-trials, one of the control rods for the reactor was bent, requiring the disassembly of the entire reactor. During trials, the rubber coating of the hull (designed to hide the sub from sonar) came completely off. The failure of yard workers to replace a gasket caused flooding during a test dive, and when the sub surfaced, he almost capsized. Despite all the warning signs, K-19 was commissioned 30 April, 1961, and went two whole months before another incident. On 4 July, K-19 sprung a leak in his reactor coolant system. While the reactor was prevented from melting down, twenty-two of the subs crew died from radiation poisoning, and repairs to the sub over the next two years contaminated much of the dockyard. K-19 returned to the fleet with the nickname "Hiroshima". On 15 November, 1969, K-19 collided with the WWII-vintage sub USS Gato in the Barents Sea. Damage to Gato was negligible, but K-19 had to return to port immediately, with disabled covers for his bow torpedo tubes, and having lost his sonars. Another fire broke out on 24 February, 1972, killing thirty. K-19 was back in service 5 November, but just ten days later another fire broke out. Somehow, nobody was killed in this one. K-19 was rebuilt into a communications sub in the 1980s, and claimed his last victim on 20 August, 1982, from an electrical short five days earlier. K-19 was finally decommissioned 19 April, 1990. He was towed to Murmansk in 2002 for disposal, and has been recycled.