USS HENRY CLAY SSBN-625
SHIP LAUNCHING, COMMISSIONING
AND INACTIVATION

The three biggest events in the "life" of a U.S. Navy ship are its launching,
its commisioning and its inactivation.  On the day of its launching the ship "gets wet"
for the first time.  On the day of its commisioning, the U.S. flag, or "ensign" as it's called,
is raised, along with its commisioning pennant, and the crew members rush aboard to man
the ship.  Sadly, on its inactivation day, the ship's history and the numerous achievements of
its crews are reviewed, the ensign is lowered and the ship leaves the ranks of U.S. Naval vessels.
This is often followed by a trip to the breaker's yard where the once mighty ship is reduced to
scrap steel.

This page tries to capture the feel of Henry's big day, November 30, 1962, when the ship slipped
down the ways at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company and tested its hull against
the cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.  Also the excitement and celebration surrounding
the commissioning of a brand new ship into the service of the U.S. Navy after more than a year of
outfitting and testing the numerous, complicated systems that make the ship "live."

It also acknowledges Henry's retirement, twenty-seven years later.  During those years many men
came aboard, served some of the most challenging years of their lives and left to find what future
awaited them.  The USS Henry Clay is just a memory now, indelibly etched into the minds of
those who rode her.  Especially for those young men who came of age and tested their own mettle
in an uncompromising environment on the cutting edge of the Cold War.
 

LAUNCHING CEREMONY

Launching ceremony invitation.
Click on the photo for a larger version (97 KB)
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

Launching ceremony pass.
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

Launching ceremony booklet cover.
Click on the photo for a larger version (76 KB)
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

Launching ceremony booklet inside cover.
Click on the photo for a larger version (55 KB)
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

Launching ceremony booklet.  Mrs. Green B. Gibson, Sponsor.
Click on the photo for a larger version (39 KB)
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

"I christen thee USS Henry Clay."
Click on the photo for a larger version (60 KB)
(U.S. Navy Photo, Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)
 

On the bridge: CDR Tom Bryce, PCO (Blue)
and LCDR Ross N. Williams, PXO (Blue).
On the port sailplane: LCDR A. R. Barke,
LT O. V. Shearer and LCDR J. D. Leonard, Jr.
On the starboard sailplane: Unknown.

Going, going...
Click on the photo for a larger version (71 KB)
(U.S. Navy Photo)
 

Gone!
Click on the photo for a larger version (88 KB)
(U.S. Navy Photo)
 

COMMISIONING CEREMONY

Commissioning ceremony pass (front).
Click on the photo for a larger version (58 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning ceremony pass (back).
Click on the photo for a larger version (72 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

NNS & DD Shipyard Bulletin Photo
Caption reads: "This was the scene as the Navy's 17th
Polaris Submarine, USS Henry Clay, was commissioned."
(Courtesy of Ron Shaw)
 

NNS & DD Shipyard Bulletin Photo
Caption reads: "The Clay's two 122-man crews stood on the ship's
deck as their families, Naval and Shipyard officials, and guests
watched the rites."
(Courtesy of Ron Shaw)
 

NNS & DD Shipyard Bulletin Photo
Caption reads: "Commanders of the USS Henry Clay's crews
read their orders and assumed command of the ship.  At the
left is Commander J. C. Lewis (gold) and at the right is
Commander T. A. Bryce (blue)."
(Courtesy of Ron Shaw)
 

NNS & DD Shipyard Bulletin Photo
Caption reads: "Old Glory waves proudly as another defender of the
red, white and blue is commissioned."
(Courtesy of Ron Shaw)
 

Commissioning ceremony booklet cover.
Click on the photo for a larger version (61 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)


Commissioning ceremony program.
Click on the photos for larger versions (46 KB - Left / 43 KB - Right).
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning Commanding Officers.
Click on the photo for a larger version (49 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning Officers.
Click on the photo for a larger version (57 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning Chief Petty Officers.
Click on the photo for a larger version (60 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Enlisted Blue Crew Members.
Click on the photo for a larger version (104 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Enlisted Gold Crew Members.
Click on the photo for a larger version (104 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Ship's Statistics.
Click on the photo for a larger version (51 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning party pass.
Click on the photo for a larger version (11 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Boutonniere provided by Henry Clay to
all Sailors for Commissioning Party
Click on the photo for a larger version (34KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

Commissioning newspaper article.
Click on the photo for a larger version (146 KB)
(Courtesy of Bill Maness)
 

INACTIVATION CEREMONY

Inactivation ceremony invitation.
Click on the photo for a larger version (112 KB)
(Courtesy of Michael Sleigh)


Some final momentos...
(Courtesy of Philip Rau)
 

Please send all comments, corrections and harrassments to:

Return to the USS Henry Clay home page

© 2007 Gerald A. Pollack