United States O-class submarine

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For other ships of the same name, see O class submarine.
USS O-1 (SS-62) in dry dock at Portsmouth Nary Yard, Sept 1918.
USS O-1, lead ship of her class in dry dock at Portsmouth Nary Yard in September 1918
Class overview
Name: O class
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: N class
Succeeded by: R class
Built: 1916-1918
In commission: 1918-1931, 1941-1946
Completed: 16
Lost: 2
Retired: 14
General characteristics
Type: Submarine
  • Group 1:
  • 520.6 long tons (529 t) surfaced
  • 625 long tons (635 t) submerged
  • Group 2:
  • 491 long tons (499 t) surfaced
  • 565 long tons (574 t) submerged
  • Group 1: 173 ft 4 in (52.83 m)
  • Group 2: 175 ft (53 m)
  • Group 1: 18 ft (5.5 m)
  • Group 2: 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m)
  • Group 1:
  • 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
  • 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) submerged
  • Group 2:
  • 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
  • 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) submerged
  • 5,500 nmi (10,200 km) 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 depth: 200 ft (61 m)
Complement: 29

The United States Navy's sixteen O-class submarines were created out of the lessons learned from the L class. The O class were about 80 tons larger than the L class, with greater power and endurance for ocean patrols. Due to the American entry into World War I the O class were built much more rapidly than previous classes, and were all commissioned in 1918. O-1 through O-10 were group 1, designed by Electric Boat, O-11 through O-16 were group 2, designed by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company and sometimes considered a separate class. The group 2 boats entered service just before the end of World War I. Eight of the group 1 boats survived to serve in World War II as training boats when they were recommissioned in 1941.

The O class were built by five shipyards: O-1 by Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, O-2 by Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, O-3 through O-10 by Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, O-11 through O-13 by Lake Torpedo Boat Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and O-14 through O-16 by California Shipbuilding (formerly Craig Shipbuilding), Long Beach, California.[1][2]


The class originally operated in the anti-submarine role off the United States's East Coast. Two of the boats, O-4 and O-6, came under fire from a British merchantman in the Atlantic on 24 July 1918. The steamer scored six hits on O-4‍ '​s conning tower and pressure hull before her identity was discovered. O-4 suffered minor damage caused by shell splinters. O-3 to O-10 boats formed part of the twenty-strong submarine force that left Newport, Rhode Island on 2 November 1918 for the Azores, but the task force was recalled after the Armistice was signed nine days later.

Nine O type submarines from Submarine Division 8 at Boston, 1921

The second group of boats suffered from electrical problems. O-11 was immediately sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for a five-month overhaul. In October 1918, O-13 sank the patrol boat Mary Alice in a collision while she (O-13) was submerged.[3] O-15 also underwent a refit but was sent into reserve soon after before she went into service at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone. This also involved another overhaul. O-16 also underwent a refit soon after commissioning and later suffered a fire in her conning tower in December 1919. All of the group 2 boats were decommissioned in July 1924 and were scrapped in July 1930 under the terms of the London Naval Treaty. However, O-12 was disarmed, renamed Nautilus, and used in an Arctic expedition by Sir Hubert Wilkins. After being returned to the US Navy, she was scuttled in a Norwegian fjord in November 1931.

The first group served well although O-5 was rammed by a cargo ship and sunk near the Panama Canal on 28 October 1923 with the loss of three crew members. All of the surviving Group 1 boats were decommissioned in 1931, but were recommissioned in 1941 to serve as training boats based at the Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut. These boats were taken out of service following World War II except for O-9 which sank in deep submergence trials in June 1941. Thirty-three of her crew were lost.

At some point between the wars the O class was modified for improved safety in the event of sinking. Two marker buoys were added fore and aft. In the event the submarine was stranded on the bottom the buoys could be released to show the submarine's position. A motor room hatch was also added, the motor room being the aftermost compartment. The tapered after casing became a step as a result of these modifications.[4]

At least one O-class submarine can be seen briefly in the 1943 movie Crash Dive, filmed at the New London submarine base.

O-3 underway, 1918

Ships in class[edit]

The 16 submarines of the O-class were:

Group 1 (Electric Boat design)

Ship name and Hull no. Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS O-1 (SS-62) Portsmouth Navy Yard 26 March 1917 9 October 1918 5 November 1918 11 June 1931 Scrapped 1938
USS O-2 (SS-63) Puget Sound Navy Yard 27 July 1917 24 May 1918 19 October 1918 26 July 1945 Scrapped 1945
USS O-3 (SS-64) Fore River Shipbuilding 2 December 1916 27 September 1917 13 June 1918 11 September 1945 Scrapped 1946
USS O-4 (SS-65) Fore River Shipbuilding 4 December 1916 20 October 1917 29 May 1918 20 September 1945 Scrapped 1946
USS O-5 (SS-66) Fore River Shipbuilding 8 December 1916 11 November 1917 8 June 1918 Lost in a collision 28 October 1923; raised and scrapped 1924
USS O-6 (SS-67) Fore River Shipbuilding 6 December 1916 25 November 1917 12 June 1918 11 September 1945 Scrapped 1946
USS O-7 (SS-68) Fore River Shipbuilding 14 February 1917 16 December 1917 4 July 1918 2 July 1945 Scrapped 1946
USS O-8 (SS-69) Fore River Shipbuilding 27 February 1917 31 December 1917 11 July 1918 11 September 1945 Scrapped 1946
USS O-9 (SS-70) Fore River Shipbuilding 15 February 1917 27 January 1918 27 July 1918 Lost on a test dive 20 June 1941
USS O-10 (SS-71) Fore River Shipbuilding 27 February 1917 21 February 1918 17 August 1918 10 September 1945 Scrapped 1946

Group 2 (Lake Torpedo Boat Company design)

Ship name and Hull no. Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS O-11 (SS-72) Lake Torpedo Boat Company 6 March 1916 29 October 1917 19 October 1918 21 June 1924 Scrapped 1930
USS O-12 (SS-73) Lake Torpedo Boat Company 6 March 1916 29 September 1917 18 October 1918 17 June 1924 Civilian Arctic expedition vessel; scuttled 1931
USS O-13 (SS-74) Lake Torpedo Boat Company 6 March 1916 27 December 1917 27 November 1918 11 June 1924 Scrapped 1930
USS O-14 (SS-75) California Shpbldg, Long Beach, CA 6 July 1916 6 May 1918 1 October 1918 17 June 1924 Scrapped 1930
USS O-15 (SS-76) California Shpbldg, Long Beach, CA 21 September 1916 12 February 1918 27 August 1918 11 June 1924 Scrapped 1930
USS O-16 (SS-77) California Shpbldg, Long Beach, CA 7 October 1916 9 February 1918 1 August 1918 21 June 1924 Scrapped 1930

See also[edit]




External links[edit]