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(Redirected from USS O-5 (SS-66))
O-5 during trials, 14 April 1918
United States
Ordered3 March 1916
BuilderFore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, Massachusetts
Laid down8 December 1916
Launched11 November 1917
Commissioned8 June 1918
Decommissioned28 October 1923
Stricken28 April 1924
  • Sunk in collision, 28 October 1923
  • Raised & sold for scrap, 12 December 1924
General characteristics
TypeO-class submarine
  • 521 long tons (529 t) surfaced
  • 629 long tons (639 t) submerged
Length172 ft 3 in (52.5 m)
Beam18 ft 1 in (5.5 m)
Draft14 ft 5 in (4.4 m)
Installed power
  • 880 bhp (660 kW) (diesel)
  • 740 hp (550 kW) (electric)
  • 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
  • 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph) submerged
  • 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 11.5 kn (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph) surfaced
  • 250 nmi (460 km) at 5 kn (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Test depth200 feet (61.0 m)
Complement2 officers, 27 enlisted

USS O-5 (SS-66) was one of 16 O-class submarines built for the United States Navy during World War I.


The O-class submarines were designed to meet a Navy requirement for coastal defense boats.[1] The submarines had a length of 172 feet 3 inches (52.5 m) overall, a beam of 18 feet 1 inch (5.5 m) and a mean draft of 14 feet 5 inches (4.4 m). They displaced 521 long tons (529 t) on the surface and 629 long tons (639 t) submerged. The O-class submarines had a crew of 29 officers and enlisted men. They had a diving depth of 200 feet (61.0 m).[2]

For surface running, the boats were powered by two 440-brake-horsepower (328 kW) NELSECO diesel engines, each driving one propeller shaft. When submerged each propeller was driven by a 370-horsepower (276 kW) New York Navy Yard electric motor. Power for the two electric motors is provided by a pair of 60-cell batteries. They could reach 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) on the surface and 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph) underwater. On the surface, the O class had a range of 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph).[2]

The boats were armed with four 18 inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes in the bow. They carried four reloads, for a total of eight torpedoes. The O-class submarines were also armed with a single retractable 3"/50 caliber deck gun.[2]

Construction and career[edit]

O-5 was laid down on 8 December 1916 by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched on 11 November 1917, and commissioned on 8 June 1918 with Lieutenant commander George A. Trever in command. During the final months of World War I, O-5 operated along the Atlantic coast and patrolled from Cape Cod to Key West, Florida. On October 6, 1918 O-5 was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard when Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William J. Sharkey noticed that the submarine's batteries were giving off toxic gas. Sharkey informed his commanding officer and the two went forward in the submarine to investigate. The batteries then exploded killing LTJG Sharkey and fatally injuring LCDR Trevor. LTJG Sharkey was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.[3] O-5 departed Newport, Rhode Island on 3 November 1918 with a 20-submarine contingent bound for European waters; however, hostilities had ceased before the vessels reached the Azores.

After the Armistice with Germany, O-5 operated from the Submarine School at New London, Connecticut until 1923. O-5 then sailed to Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, for a brief tour. On 28 October, as O-5 entered Limon Bay, preparatory to transiting the Panama Canal, she was rammed by the United Fruit Company steamer Abangarez and sank in less than a minute. Three men died;[4] 16 others escaped[5][6] Two crewmembers, Henry Breault and Lawrence Brown, were trapped in the forward torpedo room, which they sealed against the flooding of the submarine. Local engineers and divers were able to rig cranes and other equipment and lift O-5 far enough off the bottom that the bow broke the surface, exposing a hatch which led to the compartment where the two men were trapped, allowing them to be freed.[7] Henry Breault was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 28 April 1924, she was raised and later sold as a hulk to R.K. Morris in Balboa, Panama, on 12 December 1924. The sinking made O-5 valueless for future naval service. She was stripped of valuable fittings and equipment when sold for $3,125. Her original cost had been $638,000.[8]

Recovery of O-5[edit]

On 28 October 1923, O-5 was operating with other units of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet under the command of Commander Submarine Force, Coco Solo, Canal Zone. At approximately 0630, O-5, under the command of Lieutenant Harrison Avery, was underway across Limon Bay toward the entrance to the Panama Canal. The steamship SS Abangarez, owned by the United Fruit Company and captained by Master W.A. Card, was underway toward Dock No. 6 at Cristobal. Through a series of maneuvering errors and miscommunication, the SS Abangarez collided with the O-5 and struck the submarine on the starboard side of the control room, opening a hole some ten feet long and penetrating the number one main ballast tank. The submarine rolled sharply to port – then back to starboard – and sank bow first in 42 feet of water.[5]

Salvage efforts began immediately, and divers were sent down from a salvage tug that arrived from Coco Solo. By 10:00am, they were on the bottom examining the wreck. To search for trapped personnel, they hammered on the hull near the aft end of the ship and worked forward. Upon reaching the torpedo room, they heard answering hammer blows from inside the boat. In 1923 the only way the salvage crew could get the men out of the submarine was to lift it physically from the mud using cranes or pontoons. One of the largest crane barges in the world, Ajax, built specifically for handling the gates of the canal locks, was in the Canal Zone. However, there had been a landslide at the famous Gaillard Cut and Ajax was on the other side of the slide, assisting in clearing the Canal. The excavation shifted into high gear and by 2:00pm on the afternoon of the sinking, the crane barge Ajax squeezed through and was on its way to the O-5 site.[5]

Divers worked to tunnel under O-5's bow so lifting cables could be attached. Ajax arrived about midnight, and by early morning, the cable tunnel had been dug, the cable run, and a lift was attempted. Sheppard J. Shreaves, supervisor of the Panama Canal's salvage crew and himself a qualified diver, had been working continuously throughout the night to dig the tunnel, snake the cable under the submarine, and hook it to Ajax’s hoist. Now the lift began. As the crane took a strain, the lift cables broke. Shreaves and his crew worked another cable set under the bow and again Ajax pulled. Again, the cable broke. All through the day, the men worked. Shreaves had been in his diving suit nearly 24 hours. As noon on the 29th approached, the crane was ready for another lift, this time with buoyancy being added by blowing water out of the flooded Engine Room. Then, just after noontime, the bow of O-5 broke the surface. Men from the salvage force quickly opened the torpedo room hatch, and Breault and Brown emerged into the fresh air.[5]

Brown's Account[edit]

Ajax hauling up O-5

Breault and I separated to pound on each of the boat’s sides. In this way, the rescuers would know that there were two of us. Breault played a kind of tune with his hammer, indicating to the diver that we were in good shape and cheerful. Neither of us knew Morse Code. We had no food or water, and only a flashlight. We were confident we could stay alive for forty-eight hours. ...The high pressure and foul air gave us severe headaches. We did very little moving or talking; it excited our hearts too much. ...We heard scraping on the hull for hours. A couple of times we felt the O-5 being lifted, and then we got tossed roughly when the slings broke. We knew they were hard after us. This buoyed our hopes for rescue tremendously. ...Finally, the sub began to be tilted upward slowly. We felt we would escape this time, but it seemed like forever. The last 20 minutes were unbearable. We heard our comrades walking on deck. Breault opened the hatch and we could see daylight. We were saved!!![8]


Lieutenant Harrison Avery was held responsible for the collision on 26 November 1923, but a later Court of Naval Inquiry cleared the O-5 of blame for the collision. At the time of his death, in October 1934, Lieutenant Commander Avery commanded the USS Isabel (PY-10) of the Asiatic Fleet.[8]

United States vs. United Fruit Company (Submarine O-5SS Abangarez) continued in the courts. Federal Judge Wayne G. Borah, New Orleans, on 20 August 1932, ruled O-5 was at fault in the collision.[8]

O-5 was sticken from the Navy List on 28 April 1924 and sold for scrap on 12 December 1924.


  1. ^ Friedman, pp. 86–87
  2. ^ a b c Gardiner & Gray, p. 129
  3. ^ The Navy Book of Distinguished Service. 1921. pg. 128.
  4. ^ Motor Machinist’s Mate First Class Clyde E. Hughes, Mess Attendant First Class Fred C. Smith, Fireman First Class Thomas T. Metzler
  5. ^ a b c d Christley
  6. ^ Two missing men’s bodies were recovered from alongside the boat and interred at the Mount Hope Cemetery in the Canal Zone. Petty Officer Clyde E. Hughes’ body was never found.
  7. ^ Submarine Casualties Booklet (Report). U.S. Naval Submarine School. 1966. Archived from the original on September 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-08.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ a b c d Grigore (February 1972) pp. 54-60.

Further reading[edit]

  • Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
  • Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Navy.

External links[edit]