A dismantled section of the USS Phoenix awaits its final destiny as part of a Cold War Monument at Steele Indian School Park (photo by Kathryn M. Miller).

A project that has been more than three decades in the making will move one step closer to its end goal this month: moving 65 tons of submarine parts to Steele Indian School Park to construct a Cold War Monument.

Captain Carol Culbertson, U.S. Navy (Ret.), is the CEO of the nonprofit USS Phoenix Cold War Monument Foundation. She provided some history.

“The Cold War was a hostile time between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, 1946-1991. In the late 1960s, the Soviet Union’s advances in submarine technology increasingly threatened the survivability of U.S. Navy carrier battle groups.”

In response to the Soviet threat, Culbertson said, development of the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles class of nuclear-powered attack submarines commenced in 1967. Over the span of the next 29 years, 62 submarines were built. The 15th boat was the USS Phoenix (SSN 702) named after the City of Phoenix. The USS Phoenix was commissioned in December 1981 and patrolled the Atlantic Ocean for 17 years, which is where Captain Pete Lumianski, U.S. Navy (Ret.), picks up the story.

A Valley resident for the past 32 years, Lumianski is a retired Navy helicopter pilot who also serves as one of seven monument foundation directors.

“Since 1996, I’ve been leading an effort to place 65 tons of salvaged parts from the now decommissioned/deconstructed submarine into a downtown city park,” Lumianski said, as he continued the saga of the Phoenix.

In 1996, it was announced the USS Phoenix would be decommissioned early and be placed in mothballs to await its eventual deconstruction and recycling. At that time, the idea was hatched to salvage parts of the 702, bring them to Phoenix and erect some sort of monument. The Phoenix was decommissioned in 1998, and taken to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA. Originally scheduled for cut-up in 2002, it would end up spending the next 18 years in waterborne storage.

Meanwhile, back in Phoenix, various groups of veterans and other community volunteers continued the effort to “Save Our Sail” (SOS). After petitioning the City of Phoenix, in 2008 a plan was finally approved to place a monument in Steele Indian School Park just adjacent to the VA Hospital and the Arizona State Veteran Home.

In 2015, the Navy announced its intention to commence the cut-up and to provide the submarine sail, diving planes and rudder to the City of Phoenix. In August of 2016, the large, 65-ton cache of parts was trucked down from Bremerton and placed in a temporary storage spot on the Arizona National Guard base at Papago Park in Phoenix. Since then, Lumianski says the Navy-grey submarine parts have shared space in a motor pool parking lot, alongside some Army-green jeeps, bulldozers and cranes.

A rendering created by Orcutt Winslow depicts the future USS Phoenix Cold War Monument that will be located within Steele Indian School Park.

Building a monument

“We have a shovel-ready monument plan that’s been approved by the City of Phoenix,” Lumianski said, adding, “For the past three years, we’ve been involved in fundraising activities in order to raise the $3.8 million necessary to start construction on the monument.”

The monument will be 320 feet long, just shy of the actual 363 feet of the original submarine, and the actual width of the boat, 33 feet. The concept will include the salvaged submarine artifacts and technology, as well as Cold War historical information and recognition tributes.

“The USS Phoenix Cold War Museum Monument to be built at Steele Indian School Park will be a living testament to national resolve and applied science for all Arizonans, and especially Arizona’s veterans and civilian workers, past and present,” Culbertson said.

To further the fundraising efforts, on April 11, the foundation will host a National Submarine Day celebration at the future monument site. Veterans and members of the public are invited to join the foundation as they unveil an enormous banner (the length of two city buses) depicting the monument.

The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. with a short, 45-minute ceremony featuring remarks by District 4 Councilwoman Laura Pastor and former Arizona director of Veterans Services, Colonel Wanda Wright, U.S.A.F. (Ret.). Complimentary Port of Subs mini-submarine sandwiches, iced tea, and other light refreshments will be served. There is no cost to attend and free parking is available at the park, 300 E. Indian School Rd.

The purpose of the monument is “to honor, learn and remember,” Lumianski said. “Honor the people that were in the Cold War, learn something from the Cold War experience and remember it. I think preserving history is key to doing something intelligent in the future. So, this is a step in that direction…if we can just get it funded.

“In the meantime, the heavy chunks of three-inch thick, super strong steel sit alone in the blazing Arizona desert day after day, patiently awaiting their final destiny.”


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