She Was Named After a Dolphin. And She Lived Up It.

June 8, 1968

The U.S. Navy diesel-electric submarine USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) was launched at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. Approximately 1,500 people were at the shipyard that Saturday morning to watch the launch, and hundreds of others viewed it from nearby Peirce Island. Those in attendance included Jacques Piccard, the renowned Swiss oceanographer, and engineer.

Margaret “Maggie” Awamura Inouye, the wife of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, served as the sponsor of the new submarine. After she christened the Dolphin with a bottle of champagne, the vessel slid into the water. “Foam boiled around the bow of the submarine Dolphin as she took her first plunge into the Piscataqua [River],” reported the Portsmouth Herald.

“The Navy said the Dolphin’s mission is to test advanced submarine structure and systems, serving as a platform for underwater research, serving as a platform for underwater research at record depths,” stated an Associated Press news story at the time of the launch. “In addition, the propulsion motor allows the Dolphin to operate independently. Other such vessels are dependent on a mother ship.”

The Dolphin was also distinguished by a broad array of instruments for everything from oceanographic research to military missions.  This technology enabled her to set a number of records. Less than six months after being launched, for example, the Dolphin established a depth record for operating submarines when she dived more than 3,000 feet (910 meters) into the water. This record remains unbroken today. The Dolphin’s other accomplishments included taking part in the first successful two-way laser communication between a submarine and an aircraft; and becoming the first submarine to launch a mobile submarine simulator system (a type of sonar decoy).

The Dolphin remained in service until being decommissioned in 2007. She became the longest-serving submarine in U.S. Navy history. She was also that military branch’s last operational non-nuclear-powered submarine. Since 2009, the Dolphin has been one of the historic vessels on display at the San Diego Maritime Museum.

For more information on the USS Dolphin (AGS-555), please check out and

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