Other U.S. military bases may have ceremonial tanks or aircraft at their front gates, but Kings Bay has a submarine greeting visitors at the entrance to the 16,000-acre naval base located in Coastal Georgia. Rising from a sea of green grass at the Franklin Gate is the USS George Bancroft Sail Exhibit, a display commemorating the Navy’s submarine program.
USS George Bancroft (SSBN 643), commissioned Jan. 22, 1966, in Groton, Connecticut, served in the Navy’s submarine service for more than 27 years. With the advent of the Ohio-class submarines and the end of the Cold War, the older Franklin-class submarines were no longer needed and Bancroft was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list Sept. 21, 1993.
Bancroft ended up in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington for scrapping and recycling in March 1998. However, Bancroft would not go away easily.
Alerted to its imminent destruction, a grassroots effort by the St. Marys Submarine Museum, a local submarine veteran’s organization, former Bancroft crew members and local businesses raised the necessary funding to bring the submarine’s sail to Kings Bay and to construct the exhibit.
Saved from the recycling bin in 1998, the sail display was constructed and built as the centerpiece for Kings Bay’s celebration of the submarine forces’ 100th anniversary April 7, 2000.
Between October 1999 and March 2000, members of Construction Battalion Unit 412 cleared and grubbed 500 tons of soil and trees to construct the footings, foundation and lighting necessary for the exhibit. The Seabees molded the earth to resemble a submarine hull, allowing a contractor to then spray the earthen hull with a thick coat of black gunite.
The exhibit is located directly in front of the Franklin entrance to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay at the intersection of St. Marys Road and Georgia State Highway Spur 40. The exhibit is free and open to the public.