USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58)

The future USS Samuel B. Roberts, BIW Hull 394, was launched on Dec. 8, 1984.  At the time of her launch the frigate was probably most notable as BIW’s second-to-last FFG, as that long and successful shipbuilding program came to an end.

USS Samuel B. Roberts was the third Navy vessel named in honor of Samuel Booker Roberts, a Navy coxswain who was killed in 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal. While attempting to rescue a group of Marines, Roberts used his small boat as a decoy to draw enemy fire and was mortally wounded while ensuring the evacuation was completed.

The first USS Samuel B. Roberts, a destroyer escort, was lost in 1944 after only a few months’ service. When their task force was attacked by a far superior force, USS Samuel B. Roberts and other ships bravely counter-attacked rather than retreating, protecting vulnerable troop ships and turning back the enemy force. The name was carried forward to a second Samuel B. Roberts, a destroyer launched near the end of WWII and in service until 1970.

The third Samuel B. Roberts was christened by Mrs. Jack Yusen, wife of a survivor from the first ship, and was commissioned at BIW on April 12, 1986. The new frigate’s first deployment was to the Persian Gulf, where US ships were escorting tankers during the Iran-Iraq War.

On April 14, 1988, after just two months in the region, USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a naval mine. The explosion broke the ship’s back, destroyed her engine room, flooded an auxiliary machinery room and set fires in the superstructure. Electrical power was lost, and the ship was crippled and in grave danger of sinking. The frigate’s crew mounted a heroic battle to restore power, control flooding, and put out the fires. After five hours, the crew was able to stabilize the ship. Remarkably, no lives were lost, and the ship moved out of the minefield under her own power.

USS Samuel B. Roberts was drydocked in a nearby port for temporary repairs, but the tremendous damage required permanent repairs stateside. She was transported back to Newport, R.I. on a heavy lift ship and then towed to BIW’s Portland yard, arriving on Oct. 6, 1988.

The frigate’s engine room and machinery were ruined, so they were cut out and scrapped. A new engine room was constructed in Bath, barged to Portland, lifted into the drydock by a floating crane, moved sideways under the ship, and welded into place. The repairs took 13 months, and in 1990, USS Samuel B. Roberts returned to the Middle East for her second deployment.

After 29 years of service in the Atlantic Fleet, USS Samuel B. Roberts was decommissioned on May 22, 2015. The frigate is currently berthed in Philadelphia.