Lawrence York Spear

Lawrence York Spear

   The USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS-36) was named for Mr. Lawrence York Spear, one of the founders of modern submarines, who was active in the submarine community as a naval officer and civilian industrialist for more than half a century.  Born in Warren, Ohio, on October 23, 1870, he graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1890.  Mr. Spear served as an ensign in Pensacola, Baltimore and Charleston in the Atlantic and South Pacific for nearly 2 years. 

   After a short tour on surface ships, he joined the Construction Corps in 1891.  Due to his ability and enthusiasm in the project of modernizing the Navy, he was transferred to the Construction Corps and sent to the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.  Returning with a B.S. in 1893, he spent most of the next 9 years acquiring construction experience in shipyards across the country.  Mr. Spear was the naval officer (naval constructor) assigned to supervise construction at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabethport, New Jersey, from 1900 through 1902.  John Holland's earliest submarines were being constructed for the Navy during this period, and Mr. Spear helped build 5 Holland-designed submarines, first of the U.S. undersea fleet. 

   In late 1902, Mr. Spear resigned his commission as lieutenant and went to work as a naval architect for the Electric Boat Company, the successor to the Holland Torpedo Boat Company.  For more than 48 years, Mr. Spear devoted himself to the construction of submarines.  He is credited with six basic design concepts which are an integral part of all modern naval submarines, including double hull amidships, single hull ends, and propelling apparatus.  His Mr. Lawrence Y. Spear at commissioning ceremony for USS DACE (SS-247)great faith in the importance of the submarine was more than justified by the decisive role the Navy's undersea fleet played in destroying the power of the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II.

   As President of Electric Boat from 1942 to 1947, Spear ran the company when it was a leading producer of submarines.  He retired in 1947 to serve as board chairman for the next 3 years.


Commissioning ceremony for USS DACE (SS-247) at New London Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut, on July 23, 1943.  The DACE was built by Electric Boat Company.  The civilian standing second from left is Mr. Spear.



Lawrence York Spear   On September 26, 1950, at the age of 79, Lawrence York Spear died in New London, Connecticut, two years before the keel was laid for USS Nautilus (SSN-571).  Nautilus was the world's first nuclear-powered submarine.

   In May of 1965, construction began on the USS L. Y. SPEAR, in honor of Mr. Spear, 15 years after his death.


   The first of a new class submarine tender, USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS-36) is designed primarily to provide mobile facilities, support and service for Attack Nuclear Submarines and their operational and administrative staffs.  L. Y. SPEAR is the first SS/SSN Tender to be provided to the Navy in nearly a quarter of a century.  (The last, USS NEREUS (AS-17), was commissioned 12 February 1945.)  L. Y. SPEAR is equipped with shops, material and technical capabilities to repair and modify submarines requiring any services short of shipyard facilities.  She will provide logistic support, including stocking, maintaining and issuing of supplies, repair parts, weapons, and torpedoes.  Complete medical and dental facilities are available, including a ward for the sick.  Berthing facilities are available for a limited number of personnel from submarines undergoing repair.  L. Y. SPEAR has the completeness of a small city, and is capable of providing logistic support to an entire squadron of Nuclear Submarines.  She has the additional capability of helicopter operations, with a flight deck large enough to permit day and night operations.  L. Y. SPEAR is a floating industrial, supply, and service complex, a computerized supply center, an ammunition depot, a large modern self-contained support depot providing numerous services.  As a U.S. Naval Vessel, she is capable of performing all these duties and moving anywhere on the seven seas.

Obtained from the first Welcome Pamphlet (1970)

Ship's Insignia

The ship's crest was based on designs originated by Shipfitter First Class Thomas G. Long, USN, and Torpedoman Second Class John R. Lee, USN.  Working from there, a committee composed of Chief Patternmaker George J. Rhoads, Molder First Class Barry N. Paul, Photographers Mate Second Class Donald C. Jenkins, Machinists Mate First Class Manuel D. Buck, Interior Communications Electricians Mate Second Class Raymond I. Lidgett, Electronics Technician Third Class Gregory E. Smith, and Petty Officers Long and Lee developed the crest, which symbolizes the ship's mission of sea power (trident), for peace (oak leaves) and liberty (torch).

Insignia of USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS-36)

Obtained from Commissioning Ceremony Book

Commissioning Ceremony

Click the image below to view the Commissioning Ceremony book.

Leon Jessie, then SK3. Souvenir photo taken on 4/30/70 at the Trade Winds Club, Naval Station, Norfolk, VA



               Click to read the

                  "Diary of a Plank-Owner"

                    by Storekeeper Leon Jessie  


SPEAR's Last Deck Log Entry

06 September 1996

This Deck Log entry of L. Y. SPEAR is the final one made after 26 years


As she stands down from fleet support,

her service was outstanding we're happy to report.

Commissioned in '70, she adopted the routine,

of always supporting each assigned submarine.

She earned the reputation from COMSUBRON SIX,

"There ain't nuthin' this grand ol' lady can't fix!"

In less than a year she'd won her first NEY,

for food service excellence still talked about today.

One of the first to have female crewmembers aboard,

whose pride helped win the Battle "E" award.

To Diego Garcia in 1980 she went,

her first deployment, and 5 long months were spent.

She returned displaying her fourth Battle "E"

as well as the ship's first M.U.C.

To the North Atlantic she went and was never late,

in support of NATO Exercise "Teamwork 88"!

In '90 she received from the CNO,

the first ever safety award for sub tenders you know.

In 1991, with Middle East tension high,

L. Y. SPEAR with her crew to the Persian Gulf did fly!

After her support during Desert Storm,

it was back to Norfolk and water not quite so warm.

L. Y. SPEAR's reputation, I'd like to repeat,

is the best sub tender in the Atlantic Fleet.

She won the awards, and got the job done,

with men and women who are second to none.

For 26 years she answered the call,

with no hesitation she gave it her all.

Well ol' girl, it's been quite a ride,

but you're the best repair facility, bar none, worldwide.

As we send the ship to its DECOMM rest,


USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS 36) decommissioned and Deck Log closed.


Obtained from USS L. Y. SPEAR Decommissioning Ceremony Book (1996)

Items of Interest

The picture below of the General Dynamics, Quincy Shipbuilding Division, is from the website  "A History of Shipbuilding at Fore River."  You can see the USS L. Y. SPEAR (AS-36) listed as being delivered on February 11, 1970.

The fate of the Quincy Shipbuilding Division of General Dynamics, builders of the SPEAR

Bethlehem Steel and General Dynamics, Quincy MA (Post-WWII Construction Record)

In October 2006, the SPEAR's "Status" on the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) changed from "Stricken, being prepared for SINKEX" to "Stricken, to be disposed of by scrapping".  For an interesting document found by one of our shipmates, Leon Jessie, click here.

On September 21, 2007, the SPEAR's status on the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) changed from "Stricken, to be disposed of by scrapping" to "Stricken, to be disposed of."  Have they changed their minds about scrapping?

                Can't see the document?

           Click to get Adobe's latest reader                  

At present, the L. Y. SPEAR is located at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia.  She can be seen from the Jordan Bridge (Elm Avenue/ Poindexter Street) and has been white-washed, her "s36" barely visible on the bow.  Click the images below to see some recent pictures of the SPEAR.

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger image.  Click the "Back" button on your browser window to return to this page.

Taken March 2005

by Patty Schneider Kelso

Taken September 2006

by Leonard Bragg

Taken February 2007

by Robert Gonzalez

Taken February 2007

by Robert Gonzalez

Taken July 7, 2007

by Ray Albright

Many thanks to Ray for taking these pictures of our ship while boating down the Elizabeth River.

Taken July 7, 2007

by Ray Albright

This picture was taken at sunrise. Even thought she has seen better days, our gal is still a sight to behold.

(These last two are VERY high resolution so that you can enjoy every detail, and may take a while to load depending on your computer.)

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Information and/or photos obtained from: the Naval Vessel Register; Naval Historical Center;; Chief of Naval Operations, Submarine Warfare Division.  Please send any corrections or other information to the webmaster.


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This page last updated on 09/01/2017.

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