It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral John Francis “Dugan” Shipway, U.S. Navy (Retired), on 18 February 2023 at age 80. RADM Shipway entered the U.S. Navy in September 1960 via the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and served as a submarine officer and acquisition professional until his retirement in June 2000 as Director, Strategic Systems Programs. His commands included the fast attack nuclear submarine Los Angeles
(SSN-688); Nuclear Power Training Unit, Ballston Spa, New York; and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
Dugan Shipway was selected for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, entering on 27 September 1960, while enrolled at University of Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He was commissioned an ensign on 6 June 1965, to rank from 9 June 1965.
In June 1965, Ensign Shipway reported to Naval Nuclear Power School, Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland, for nuclear power training. In December, he reported for prototype training at Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, Ballston Spa, New York. This was followed in June 1966 by additional training at Naval Submarine School, Groton, Connecticut. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in December 1966. That same month, Lieutenant (j.g.) Shipway reported to Norfolk-based diesel submarine Cubera
(SS-347) serving as communications officer. Cubera
was part of Task Force ALPHA, conducting experiments to improve anti-submarine warfare techniques. On 11 November 1967, Cubera
torpedoed and sank the ex-USS Guavina
(SS/AOSS-362) as a target off Cape Henry, Virginia.
In April 1968, Shipway was assigned to the Blue Crew of fleet ballistic missile submarine Von Steuben
(SSBN-632) as damage control assistant and main propulsion assistant. He was promoted to lieutenant in July 1968. Von Steuben
initially operated out of Rota, Spain, until the sub hit a tow cable and, upon emergency surfacing, collided with the towed vessel, the former Liberty Ship Sealady
. Subsequently, Von Steuben
returned to Groton for repair. Lieutenant Shipway became part of the Gold Crew as Von Steuben
was backfitted with the Poseidon C-3 nuclear ballistic missile before conducting test launches in February and March 1971.
In May 1971, Lieutenant Shipway attended the Naval School, Diving and Salvage, in Washington, DC, before being assigned in July 1971 as executive officer for NR-1, the Navy’s only nuclear-powered deep-submergence submarine, homeported in New London, Connecticut. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in August 1972. During this period he also earned a master of science in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville. In April 1975, Lieutenant Commander Shipway commenced a training track at Commander, Submarine Force Pacific (COMSUBPAC) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In May 1975, Shipway assumed duty as executive officer of nuclear fast attack submarine Swordfish
(SSN-579), operating from Pearl Harbor. On 22 June 1977, Swordfish
was hit in its port screw by its own circular-running MK-14 exercise torpedo. Swordfish
completed a screw replacement at Pearl Harbor and was back at sea in less than 24 hours. (Swordfish
experienced a number of accidents over the years and is the subject of ill-founded conspiracy theories related to the loss of the Soviet submarine K-129 in 1968). In November 1977, Lieutenant Commander Shipway reported to the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as project officer, MK-48 Torpedo Project Office. He was promoted to commander in July 1979.
In June 1980, Commander Shipway commenced a pre-command training track at the Division of Naval Reactors, Department of Energy, in Washington, DC, and at COMSUBPAC in Pearl Harbor. In December 1980, Shipway assumed command of nuclear fast attack submarine Los Angeles
, assigned to Submarine Squadron SEVEN, operating from Pearl Harbor. In May 1985, he assumed command of the Nuclear Power Training Unit, Ballston Spa. He was promoted to captain on 1 August 1985 and was designated an acquisition professional.
In January 1988, Captain Shipway attended the Defense System Management College at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In May 1988, he was assigned to NAVSEA as major program manager for submarines, where he was program manager for the SSN-688 Attack Submarine Acquisition Program. He completed the Naval War College course in 1989.
In April 1991, while still at NAVSEA, he became the Seawolf
(SSN-21) program manager. On 31 May 1991, he was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank and was promoted to rear admiral on 1 September 1991. In August 1992, Rear Admiral Shipway was appointed the Navy’s first program executive officer (PEO)–submarines, as the senior military officer in the Navy responsible to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN) for design and procurement of current and next generation attack submarines and submarine systems. He was designated a rear admiral (upper half) in September 1994 for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank and promoted to that rank on 1 February 1995.
In February 1995, Shipway returned to NAVSEA as deputy commander for Submarines (SEA 92). In August 1995, he assumed command of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center while retaining as additional duty his SEA 92 responsibility. He subsequently assumed duty as Director, Strategic Systems Programs (SSP). Rear Admiral Shipway retired on 1 June 2000.
Although not listed in his service transcript (which does not include his last tour), Rear Admiral Shipway probably has a Distinguished Service Medal from SSP. His other awards include the Legion of Merit (four awards); Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal (two awards); Navy Achievement Medal; Navy Unit Commendation; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Battle Efficiency Ribbon (two awards); Navy Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal (two awards); and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Rear Admiral Shipway was a member of the American Society of Naval Engineers; Association of Scientists and Engineers; U.S. Naval Institute; and Naval Submarine League.
Following retirement from active duty, Shipway joined the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics as vice president for Full Submarine Support. In 2003, he became president of Bath Iron Works, Maine, retiring from there in 2009. In 2009, he was awarded the Navy League of the United States’ highest honor, the Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz Award for exemplary leadership in the maritime defense industry. In 2012, he served on the board of the Australian Submarine and Shipbuilding Company and was elected chairman of the board of Austal USA.
Dugan Shipway would sign off his communications with “together we can make a difference.” He certainly did make a difference. He was at the forefront of the design, construction, and fielding of submarines and submarine weapons systems still in the fleet today, including MK-48 torpedo improvements, the later Los Angeles
-class submarines, and the Seawolf
-class submarines. And although the Seawolf
was killed by its high cost and the desire for a “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War (perhaps prematurely), there is no question that it was an incredible design. He came up through the submarine ranks via a typical career path, albeit with some interesting events along the way (some of which will remain classified), but after his command of the relatively new Los Angeles
(he was her third commanding officer), he shifted to being an acquisition professional and went from one critical submarine acquisition program after another, making a difference. He was actually relieved somewhat early as PEO–submarines as someone had to take the hit for the high cost of the Seawolf
(and the ASN wasn’t), but the Navy saw fit to keep him in charge of critical submarine programs at NAVSEA and SSP. He continued to perform extraordinary service to the U.S. Navy even after retirement. As president of Bath Iron Works, he was credited with major improvements in shipyard operations, saving the Navy time and money, and was awarded the Navy League’s Nimitz Award. Even after that, he continued his support to the Navy as chairman of the board of Austal (building Independence
-class littoral combat ships—the less troubled version). As with all submarine officers who served in the Cold War and beyond, his service came at considerable sacrifice of family time. For that the Navy is grateful and will not forget his extraordinary contributions to our nation’s defense.
Rest in Peace, Admiral Shipway.
On a personal note, Dugan would frequently respond to these Passing Notes and provide unique commentary on the careers of our departed flag officers. I shall miss his insights.