When the Blueback was launched in 1959, she was the last diesel-electric submarine to be commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Of the three Barbel-class submarines, the Blueback is the only one still existing.
USS Blueback was launched in May 1959 with Lt. Cmdr. Robert Gautier in command. Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp. had never built a submarine before—in fact, no shipyard in the entire southern United States had built a submarine since the early attempts during the Civil War.
After being commissioned on October 15, 1959, the boat went through a short "fitting out" period of arming and crewing before heading out in 1960 to San Diego. There she performed acceptance trials and training runs before relocating to Pearl Harbor. ln 1965, she was deployed to assist American operations in Vietnam where she served three tours of duty. Blueback spent the next decade patrolling the Pacific and running special assignments in the Far East. In return for her service, Blueback was awarded two battle stars for participating in high-profile engagements during Vietnam. Unfortunately, much of Blueback's operational history is still classified. Never the less, her superior engineering allowed the crew to complete a wide variety of reconnaissance and covert operations.
During Blueback's 30 years of service, she and her crew were proud to represent the Submarine Force and the United States in many noteworthy events, including significant international naval exercises. Domestically, for example, she represented the Submarine Force at SUBASWEX. and overseas she participated at RIMPAC '75, RIMPAC '77, and RIMPAC '84, sailed to Australia to participate in the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, and also visited Colombia, South America where she joined Task Force 138 for exercises at UNITAS XVIII.
During her service history, the USS Blueback was modified by the Navy to incorporate the latest technologies; however, these modifications did not negatively impact the boat's character-defining features or significance. The most notable modification was the relocation of the dive planes from the vessel's bow to the sail in 1964.
As a testament to the excellence of the Sailors who served on the Blueback, she earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation and three Battle "E" Efficiency awards.
The Blueback was decommissioned in 1990 and donated in 1994 to the Oregon Museum of Science and lndustry (OMSI) in Portland. The museum staff has carefully restored the boat to its in-service appearance, altering only what was necessary to make the boat accessible to the public.