USS Plunger (SS-2)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Plunger and USS A-1.
Plunger (SS2), renamed A1. Port bow, moored beside the Shark (SS8), 1902 - NARA - 512925.tif
Plunger in 1902
Career
Name: USS Plunger
Namesake: Plunger, a diver or daring gambler
Builder: Crescent Shipyard, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Laid down: 21 May 1901
Launched: 1 February 1902
Commissioned: 19 September 1903
Decommissioned: 3 November 1905
Recommissioned: 23 February 1907
Struck: 24 February 1913
Fate: Sold for scrapping 26 January 1922
General characteristics
Class & type: Plunger-class submarine
Displacement: 107 long tons (109 t)
Length: 64 ft (20 m)
Beam: 12 ft (3.7 m)
Draft: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Speed: kn (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) surfaced
7 kn (8.1 mph; 13 km/h) submerged
Complement: 7
Armament: 1 × 18 in (460 mm) torpedo tube

USS Plunger SS-2 was one of the earliest submarines of the United States Navy. She was the lead boat of the her class and was later renamed A-1 when she was designated an A-type submarine.

Early service[edit]

Plunger was originally laid down on 21 May 1901 at Elizabethport, New Jersey, at Lewis Nixon's Crescent Shipyard. Arthur Leopold Busch supervised the construction of the A-Class submarines built there. The prototype Fulton experimental craft was laid down at Isaac Rice's Electric Boat Company prior to these first A-class submarines.

She was launched on 1 February 1902, and commissioned at the Holland Torpedo Boat Company yard at New Suffolk, New York on 19 September 1903.

Assigned to the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island for experimental torpedo work, Plunger operated locally from that facility for the next two years, a period of time broken only by an overhaul at the Holland yard at New Suffolk from March–November 1904. Besides testing machinery, armament and tactics, the submarine torpedo boat also served as a training ship for the crews of new submersibles emerging from the builder's yards.

In August 1905, Plunger underwent two weeks of upkeep before leaving the yard on 22 August. She was towed by the tug Apache to New York, where Plunger conducted trials near the home of President Theodore Roosevelt. Upon the submarine's arrival that afternoon, she moored alongside the tug and prepared for a visit from President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Roosevelt's visit[edit]

The following morning, Plunger charged her batteries and made a series of five short dives before returning alongside Apache to recharge. Later that afternoon, Roosevelt boarded the Plunger and stayed aboard for almost two hours while she made another series of dives before returning to moor alongside the tug. Roosevelt spent almost another hour on board the submarine before he left.

Roosevelt's novel voyage prompted significant interest. On 6 September, Roosevelt wrote from Oyster Bay to Hermann Speck von Sternburg: "I myself am both amused and interested as to what you say about the interest excited about my trip in the Plunger. I went down in it chiefly because I did not like to have the officers and enlisted men think I wanted them to try things I was reluctant to try myself. I believe a good deal can be done with these submarines, although there is always the danger of people getting carried away with the idea and thinking that they can be of more use than they possibly could be." To another correspondent he declared that never in his life had he experienced "such a diverting day ... nor so much enjoyment in so few hours."

Later service[edit]

Decommissioned on 3 November 1905, Plunger remained inactive until she was recommissioned on 23 February 1907. On 3 May 1909, Ensign Chester Nimitz, the future fleet admiral who would say he considered the submarines of the time "a cross between a Jules Verne fantasy and a humpbacked whale", assumed command of Plunger. That September, the submarine torpedo boat visited New York City to take part in the Hudson-Fulton celebrations.

Reassigned to the Charleston Navy Yard, Plunger reached that port on 24 October and moored alongside the gunboat Castine, the parent ship for the Atlantic Submarine Fleet. Shortly thereafter, Castine's medical officer, Assistant Surgeon Micajah Boland, inspected Plunger and two other submarine torpedo boats. His report graphically described living conditions on these boats. He found "their sanitary condition to be far from satisfactory, notwithstanding the fact that they had been at sea only about forty-five hours."

Plunger was renamed A-1 on 17 November 1911. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 24 February 1913.

By 1916, A-1 had been authorized for use as an "experimental target, designated 'Target E'". She was ultimately hoisted on board the hulk of the former monitor Puritan and authorized for sale in 1921, on an "as is, where is" basis. She was sold for scrapping on 26 January 1922.

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links[edit]

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