USS S-20 (SS-125)

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USS S-20 (SS-125).jpg
USS S-20 off New England on 26 March 1945.
Builder: Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts[1]
Laid down: 15 August 1918[1]
Launched: 9 June 1920[1]
Commissioned: 22 November 1922[1]
Decommissioned: 16 July 1945[1]
Struck: 25 July 1945[1]
Fate: Sold for scrap, 22 January 1946[1]
General characteristics After 1924 rebuild
Type: S-class direct-drive diesel and electric submarine, S-1 type[2]
Displacement: 930 long tons (940 t) surfaced, standard,[3] 1,094 long tons (1,112 t) submerged[3]
Length: 222 ft 5 12 in (67.805 m)[3]
Beam: 23 ft 11 34 in (7.309 m)[3]
Draft: 17 ft 4 38 in (5.293 m)[3]
Speed: 11.5 knots (21 km/h) surfaced, 1939,[3] 8.9 knots (16.5 km/h) submerged[3]
Range: 3,710 nautical miles (6,870 km) @ 6.5 knots (12 km/h),[3] 7,900 nautical miles (14,600 km) @ 6.5 knots (12.0 km/h) with fuel in main ballast tanks, 1939[3]
Endurance: 20 hours @ 5 knots (9 km/h)[3]
Test depth: 200 ft (60 m)[3]
Complement: 4 officers, 39 enlisted (1939)[3]
Armament: 4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes forward (12 torpedoes),[3] 1 × 4-inch (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[2][3]

USS S-20 (SS-125) was a first-group (S-1 or "Holland") S-class submarine of the United States Navy. Her keel was laid down on 15 August 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation's Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched on 9 June 1920 sponsored by Miss Anne Claggett Zell, and commissioned on 22 November 1922 with Lieutenant John A. Brownell in command.

S-20 was rebuilt in 1924, with a larger bow (similar to that of the V-1 class) to improve seakeeping and blisters on the upper hull to hold more fuel, but this modification was not repeated on any other members of the class.[5][6][7] She was also used as an experimental engine test vessel, with a new high-speed geared-drive 600-horsepower (450 kW) MAN diesel replacing her starboard engine in 1931.[6]

In 1932, this new engine was replaced by a prototype diesel-electric plant. This was a MAN-type 635-horsepower (474 kW) 16-cylinder engine running at even higher speed, driving an electrical generator, built by General Dynamics Electric Boat and designated 16VM1. Electricity produced by the generator was used to drive a high-speed electric motor geared to the shaft; there was no direct connection between the diesel engine and the shaft. Diesel-electric propulsion was then adopted for many U.S. submarines through World War II, starting with the 1932 Porpoise class; other navies did not follow suit until after the war.[6][8][9][10]

Service history[edit]

Inter-War Period[edit]

In addition to duty in northeastern points out of New London, Connecticut from 1922–1929, the new submarine visited Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone in March 1923; served at Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands in February 1924; and operated in the Panama Canal area from January through April 1926. S-20 visited Kingston, Jamaica from 20–28 March 1927, and served again in the Panama Canal area from 17 April 1929-November 1930. Departing Coco Solo on 7 November, S-20 arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 December. Following duty there, she sailed on 20 February 1932, and from March 1932-April 1933, served at Mare Island. Later, she operated mainly at San Diego, California into 1934. Departing San Diego on 15 March, S-20 returned to New London on 28 October. From then until December 1941, she operated there as part of a test and evaluation division. During this period, she visited Guantanamo in February–March 1938; served in the Panama Canal area from January–March 1939; and visited Guantanamo again in February 1940. Her commanding officer in 1936-1937 was Lieutenant John P. Cromwell, a future posthumous Medal of Honor recipient for his actions aboard USS Sculpin (SS-191) in 1943. From 1941 to 1942 her commander was another future Medal of Honor recipient, Lieutenant (later Commander) Samuel David Dealey.

World War II[edit]

From December 1941-July 1945, S-20 continued to operate from New London. Her operations were off New England and often included training activities at Casco Bay, Maine. Departing New London on 2 July 1945, S-20 was decommissioned on 16 July at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 July. She was sold on 22 January 1946 to North American Smelting Company, Philadelphia for scrapping.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3. 
  2. ^ a b c Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 266–267. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  4. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 258
  5. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 132
  6. ^ a b c U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 137
  7. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 138
  8. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 198
  9. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 259–261
  10. ^ U.S. Submarines Through 1945 p. 359

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