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At random: USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, the world's first ballistic missile nuclear powered submarine, constructed in record time, set a record of its own by remaining submerged 67 days on its initial Polaris missile deterrent patrol in the Atlantic.
The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)
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Ric
Posted 2017-09-05 9:32 AM (#84944)


Plankowner

Posts: 7126

Location: Upper lefthand corner of the map.
Subject: The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)

The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)

by Dale A. Danielsen

Published in POLARIS April 2000

While browsing through the internet, searching for information about Submarines, I clicked in the "History of the old S-Boat Submarines", which referred them as "The Gallant Ladies of the Past." Of the S-Boats that are listed, each have a brief summary about their background - their past activities.

Except; the USS S-10 (SS115). Very little was written about this boat; and the incidents which led to its demise.

Having been a member of the USS S-10, before and during the de-commissioning and scrapping of this Boat, in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1936, the following report, recounting the incidents that caused this boat to be scrapped and stricken from Navy records, is submitted for re-evaluation of this boat, and its rightful place within the records of the U.S. Navy.

This report is an overview, compiled from the writer's memory of the incidents that occurred during the USS S-10's final cruise. Some details are omitted for brevity; however, the gist of these incidents remain vivid in the minds of those who were involved - as crewmember - or incidental observers.

This debacle - although it was in pre-WWIl peacetime, made the U.S. Navy aware to what level they had allowed their Submarine Service to degenerate; fortunately, the crew of this boat saved their own lives - by saving an unseaworthy Navy hulk, that should have been removed from service, to protect the lives of its crew.

When the services of a U.S. Submarine are no longer available to the Fleet - by an unplanned or unintentional loss - due to wars, accidents or other reasons, the Boat is considered lost to the Fleet. It is formally de-commissioned - stricken from the records, and its final disposition is so noted. By all aspects - the USS S-10 (SS115) - was LOST.

U.S. Submarines are assigned to Panama for defense of the Canal - as part of the U.S. Panama Canal Protection Agreement. They were stationed at Coco Solo; the U.S. Navy's Submarine Base, located at the Atlantic, or Caribbean side of the Canal.

Of the six S-type Submarines, that were stationed at Coco Solo, in the late 1930's, the S-10 was the oldest. It was also the last of the experimental S boats - that began with the S-1. These were the depression years, and very little monies were apportioned for the Military - especially the Submarine Service, which at this particular time, and during WWl, hadn't proven to be much of an asset towards Naval Warfare.

To fulfill their duties, these Boats would periodically sail through the Canal, to the Pacific side, and carryout basic maneuvers in the vicinity of the Pacific, or Balboa entrance to the Canal.

Basic maneuvers included - diving, torpedo and gunnery practice, and lying on the bottom of the shipping lanes - monitoring ships, by the sound of their propellers - overhead.

The U.S. Army also had responsibilities for protecting the Canal - it was the primary duty of Fort Armador, located at the Pacific entrance of the canal; and Fort Clayton, located at the Atlantic, or Caribbean entrance of the Canal - to be on constant 'alert' for possible attack - or sabotage.

Theoretically - Submarine maneuvers were coordinated with these two forts - when they were held in their areas.

However, the "WORD" about coordinating maneuvers with the Submarine Service - was never given much consideration by the U.S. Army's Top Level Command. To them - everyone was suspect.

The USS S-10 was holding maneuvers, in the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, during February, 1936.

While lying on the bottom of the Balboa entrance to the Canal, the hydrogen level within the boat began to rise. The Skipper - Lt. Hartwig, decided to leave the lane area to surface - clear the air, and check both batteries for problems. No battery problems were noted. However, the temperature within the boat was hovering around 100 degrees - diesel engines take a long time to cool down - especially in Panama.

After surfacing, the air within the boat cleared, as it was pulled out by the diesels. The temperature had lowered to the 90's - things were back to normal. Instead of returning to the entrance lanes, it was decided to try a seldom-used maneuver - testing the submerged anchor.

The submerged anchor was shaped like a large, iron mushroom. It was located externally, amidships. Its purpose was to hold the Boat submerged, at any location, against underwater currents. Also, it would allow the boat to control its depth, by adjusting the length of the anchor cable from within the Boat.

This maneuver became a series of problems. Eventually, after some time in trying to understand how it operated, the anchor was finally lowered and retrieved. However, it was difficult to determine the exact location and depth the boat - with little to compare it to while submerged. As the currents kept shifting, it was necessary to occasionally bring to the boat up to periscope depth, to view the surface and take bearings.

Finally, the Skipper passed the word to secure the anchor and stand by to surface. The scope just broke surface when "THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION!" The air was filled with cork and asbestos dust. Chief of the Boat, CEM Larson, shouted; "THE FORWARD BATTERY EXPLODED!" It hadn't.

A deep silence absorbed the Boat. The main ballast tanks hadn't been emptied. The Boat appeared to be hanging in limbo; awaiting further orders. None were coming.

Slowly, hardly noticeable at first, the Boat began sinking. Stern first. All gear that was adrift began to slide - aft. "We're going down!" Somebody shouted.

The Boat kept dropping - aft. The water depth at this location was deeper than in the shipping lanes. Finally, the stern bottomed out, and the rest of the Boat leveled off - coming to rest on an even keep - at about 140 feet. Everything remained quiet, except, somebody in the control room had the presence of mind to increase the pressure in the boat - you could feel and hear it.

Because the boat had settled stern first, the after torpedo room was the first compartment checked. Water was slowly coming in near the stern tube - underneath the deck panels.

Removing the deck panels revealed water in the area of the reserve after trim tank and vent lines, which appeared to be under pressure and leaking. They could easily rupture at any time.

Carefully checking all sections of the after torpedo room, it was determined that the reserve after trim tank had ruptured. also, there appeared to be structural damage in the vicinity of the torpedo tube. The trim tank should be empty. But it wasn't. Although, to try and pump it out would be like trying to pump out the ocean - the tank was open to the sea.

The Boat had been down a long time. It wasn't equipped with an Emergency buoy - these could be available at a later time. Attempts to operate the underwater signal oscillator, to make surface contact, were continued by the Radiomen. The sound of propellers overhead indicated that some surface ships were aware that a Submarine was down - and in trouble.

The USS Teal, Submarine rescue ship, stationed in Coco Solo, had a diving bell. Except, it was on the Atlantic side of the Canal - and it would take too long to get to the S-10. Besides nobody new if the "Bell" would work. Although, 3 years later, it worked with the Squalus.

Based upon all the events that had happened, and the present situation the boat was in, plus the lack of communications "with the outside world," a cursory decision was made: "Abandon the Boat and save the crew."

This plan of action soon changed, when it was revealed that there weren't enough Momsen lungs aboard for the entire crew. However, many of the crew responded: "At this depth they could make it without a lung."

Fortunately, the acts of bravado and wishful thinking, from desperation, never had to be proven.

The word was passed to collect sheet metal and anything that could be used to beef-up the leaking areas around the tank. Temporary repairs were made - and with a final check - of everything that could be checked; low-pressure air was slowly bled into the tank. All areas appeared to be holding Air pressure to the tank was slowly increased and every area was watched for leaks - there were some - but not too bad. Pressure to the tank was kept under 100 pounds. Pressure in the Boat had been increased to about 30 pounds. The water in the tank slowly began to go down.

The Boat began to stabilize as the water in the tank receded. Other tanks were slowly emptied and the Boat began to break free of the bottom. It got positive buoyancy and slowly began to rise. It seemed like hours.

All hands, not involved in the surfacing, were ordered to the forward torpedo room - to stand by the forward hatch.

After forever, the Boat finally surfaced and rolled around. With all tanks empty it was like a cork - sitting high in the water. All hands, in the forward torpedo room, were ordered to topside - on the double. This was the safest exit - in the event the Boat went back down - stern first.

However, the pressure in the Boat was overlooked. When the forward hatch was un-dogged, it blew open. All eardrums in the boat - along with the crewmember who un-dogged it, nearly went out of the Boat with the escaping air.

Fortunately, the Boat didn't come up under a ship. The ships had been watching the bubbles and steered clear of the area. although, it was bedlam on topside. Ships from all nations were gathered around, and when the boat popped up, they began hollering and whistling, and blowing their horns. They were all happy the boat made it. So was the crew of the S-10.

After the celebration of the surfacing calmed down the serious side of the situation began. Radio contact was made with top Command at SubRon 3. The Skipper was advised to stand by to be towed to the Mount Hope Drydock in Balboa. Instead, the Skipper ordered "all hands to their duty stations and prepare to get under way." The S-10 went into drydock - on her own.

As soon as the drydock was emptied and the Boat could be examined, all hands were underneath the Boat. The entire bottom was out of the reserve after trim tank. The hull, surrounding the tank was paper thin - a paint scraper went through it. The rest of the outer hull was paper thin from corrosion.

With this information the Boat awaited further orders. They came. Repairs were ordered to be made to the tank. The Boat would be made sea worthy and return to Base - through the Canal. This didn't sit well with the crew - including the Skipper. Anyone wanting a transfer could have it. There were none.

During all the turmoil, the cause of the explosion that started all of this had been overlooked. But not by the Skipper. He wanted answers and he got them.

The observers and lookouts at Fort Amador, had seen the boat's periscope coming up and down, during the submerged anchor drills, and through their chain of command decided that the Canal was under attack.

Fort Amador's primary weapon was their 16-inch surface gun. The last time the periscope broke surface the fired a 500 pound projectile at it. It hit forward of the periscope - over the leading edge of the conning tower - nearly splitting it open. But, the concussion of it - nearly split open the hull. Like so many other incidents that happen in the service - nothing was ever recorded about this incident. But I remember it.

There wasn't much that could be done to repair the boat. The bottom of the tank was sealed, and other finger holes were patched. The operating schedule wasn't changed. It included submerged runs. The boat returned to Coco Solo. The atmosphere was somber. Excuses were found to stay in Base.

I sent a letter to my family, advising them to sue the Navy if anything happened to me during my duty on the USS S-10. Other letters were sent - many of them to Washington, D. C. They did some good. Within 30 days, the S-10 had new orders: "proceed to Philadelphia Navy Yard for decommission."

Due to this incident with the S-10, the condition of the other five S-Boats at the Coco Solo Base were questionable. In fact, they were ordered to Philadelphia 2 months after the S-10 left. However, unlike the S-10, they weren't scrapped. They were stored - and kept ready for WWll - in which they did their part.

The old S-Boat sailors of WWIl were the "gutsiest Submariners of them all - bar none."

The S-10 started its trip north to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. It didn't have to go through the Canal to get there. That made the Crew happy. They'd had enough of the Canal.

Guantanamo, Cuba - the Navy's Rum Capital, was to be the S-10's first port. However, there was a storm warning - a hurricane. The Skipper decided if the S-10 was to get to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, it would have a better chance facing a hurricane, than stopping at Guantanamo. He knew his crew. But, he'd never confronted a hurricane. Neither had the crew.

The S-10 bypassed Guantanamo and headed into the north Caribbean. The wind became rough - the swells were worse. It was too rough for lookouts, and the S-10 wasn't supposed to dive - it couldn't stand any pressure. However, it was rigged for dive, and stayed that way.

Finally, When the boat rolled 30 degrees - 2 degrees more and it would have set a record; and with the swells tearing the super structure apart, the Skipper gave the order to dive. The Boat went to 70 feet - as deep as it dared. It continued to roll - not as much. But all hands were filled with apprehension as they checked every seam and rivet for leaks.

After nearly 2 hours the waters calmed and the Boat surfaced. It was somewhere east of Florida - off Miami. The had a shallow harbor and that's where the S-10 headed.

The welcome the S-10 was given when it arrived at the entrance into Miami was unbelievable. Submarines in Miami were rare. But, a Submarine coming into Miami - out of a hurricane was unheard of.

Regretfully, the USS S-10 departed Miami, on the 10th of April, 1936. Its destination: Philadelphia - Navy Yard. The song: "Moon over Miami" would remain with the crew - as indelible as a tattoo. The deserved the R & R.

The remainder of the voyage was uneventful, other than the weather turning cold. The crew, coming from Panama, tried to stay warm by huddling around the diesels - now appreciated.

Sailing up the Delaware River, into the Philadelphia Navy Yard, brought out a feeling of sadness. It was like leading your favorite animal to slaughter. The S-10 had become a part of every crewmember. however, the welcoming committee that greeted the boat, as it came into the Navy Yard, helped ease the pains.

Seventeen members of this crew were later lost in WWIl - aboard other boats.


---end---
fortyrod
Posted 2017-09-05 12:48 PM (#84950 - in reply to #84944)
Old Salt

Posts: 436

Subject: RE: The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)

Well, It's a good story, but as stories go, well..., let's take a look at it.

"This maneuver became a series of problems. Eventually, after some time in trying to understand how it operated, the anchor was finally lowered and retrieved." So, what the author is saying is the crew was unqualified, did not know how to operate their equipment, etc. I do not believe this. The DBF's I was on we knew how to operate things and were knowledgeable.

"awaiting further orders. None were coming. " So, there was no one in command or control? Everyone was so stunned they didn't know what to do?

"Everything remained quiet, except, somebody in the control room had the presence of mind to increase the pressure in the boat" No one gave the order? This guy just so happens to think of it. Come on, this crew must have been totally inept, which I doubt. I think this author must have been a newbie non-qual.

"Besides nobody new if the "Bell" would work. Although, 3 years later, it worked with the Squalus." The diving bell was tested in 1928, of course they knew it would work

"hen it was revealed that there weren't enough Momsen lungs aboard for the entire crew" So, kinda like not having enough life jackets for the crew?

"However, the pressure in the Boat was overlooked. When the forward hatch was un-dogged, it blew open. All eardrums in the boat - along with the crewmember who un-dogged it, nearly went out of the Boat with the escaping air. " Again, was the crew really that unqualified and stupid?

"Ships from all nations were gathered around, " I guess they were planning on having a party.

"I sent a letter to my family, advising them to sue the Navy if anything happened to me during my duty on the USS S-10. Other letters were sent - many of them to Washington, D. C. They did some good. Within 30 days, the S-10 had new orders: "proceed to Philadelphia Navy Yard for decommission." Oh sure, it was the letters from the crew which forced the Navy's hand into decom.

It's a slow rainy day, probably shouldn't be so critical and took the time, but, it was just a little to far fetched for me. Was in based on some facts? Ya, probably. Was it written by a non-qual who had only been aboard for two weeks? Ya, probably.

Ric
Posted 2017-09-05 1:03 PM (#84952 - in reply to #84950)


Plankowner

Posts: 7126

Location: Upper lefthand corner of the map.
Subject: RE: The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)

All valid points from todays standpoint. Remember subs were still second rate vessels to many concerned especially in the height of the depression.
Also....remember this was written from a hindsight position years after the incident. I think this is where much of your issues stem from with this. Also the mushroom anchor was not used much. The bow anchor was the anchor of choice for "anchoring" out.

The "truth" would probably come out some where around this story if we got the log books and read them through. One mans view from years after WW II.

I still say a good "sea" story based on some facts.
fortyrod
Posted 2017-09-05 1:59 PM (#84953 - in reply to #84952)
Old Salt

Posts: 436

Subject: RE: The Final Cruise of USS S-10 (SS-115)

Ric - 2017-09-05 1:03 PM
I still say a good "sea" story based on some facts.


Your right Ric, I commend you on all your research and work.
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