Thursday, November 03, 2005

And You Thought You Understood Submarine Naming

Bubblehead, over at The Stupid Will Be Punished broached the subject of Naming conventions for U.S. submarines. Think you already know the scoop? Most of us read a source or two and think its fairly simple. Wrong. Why are multiple sources wrong? They copy from each other and propagate error.

Take the excerpt Bubblehead cited, for instance:
“Many boats (126) never in their commissioned lifetime carried a name only a letter number designation. This practice was carried forth from 1903 to 1920 and included the A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, L, M, N, O, R and S classes." What is wrong with that statement? (I checked, 126 is correct.) The dates are misleading, however. Try 1911 and 1931.

In 1911, all existing and planned submarines were renamed to alpha-numeric names such as A-1, C-1, H-3, through K-4 [ex-Walrus], by order of the Secretary of the Navy, George von Lengerke Meyer. This 'efficient' convention, by the former U.S. Postmaster and efficiency expert, continued until the SS-163 (commissioned V-1, in 1924) was renamed USS Baracuda in 1931. The submarine designated Sea Wolf at its keel laying in early 1911 was H-1 by the time of its commissioning in 1913.

Commissioned October 12, 1900, the first sub was named Holland to honor its designer and builder, as we all know. Later submarines were given some fishy names (Grampus, Salmon, and Porpoise) and were also named for venomous and stinging creatures (Adder, Tarantula, and Viper). Submarines were renamed in 1911, however, and carried alpha- numeric names such as A-1, C-1, H-3, L-7, and the like until 1931, when "fish and denizens of the deep" once more became their name source. In 1931, most of the existing subs were renamed.

Nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarines, commissioned in the early 1960s, bore the names of "famous Americans (men) and others who contributed to the growth of democracy." Although some of these submarines were later reclassified as attack submarines under Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) agreements, they kept such names as Patrick Henry and Ethan Allen. The newest Trident missile submarines of the Ohio class bear state names. One of these however, Henry M. Jackson, honors a legislator who had a strong share in shaping American defense programs.

Well, we know what happened next with the new Seawolf Class (Seawolf, Connecticut, Carter). Senator Russ Feingold had supported a bill naming one of the modern Seawolf-class nuclear submarines the Manitowoc (Jimmy Carter?).

You can win bets with these two:

Was there ever a sub named AL-1? Yes, the SS-40 (L-1) was theater named AL-1 due to the 'alphabet soup' confusion in WWI with its contemporary, the British submarine L-1. See photo #NH 51156.

Now, what was the name of the submarine whose hull number was SS-105? Its name was S-1.
One reason the Meyer convention was ended was due to this confusion with 'S'
boats. Remember the H-1 (Sea Wolf)? - It was SS-28.


At 10:44 AM, Blogger jeff said...

I seriously doubt that Kamehameha was either an American or a person who (as a conquering Hawaiian warrior king) wanted anything to do with furthering the cause of Democracy.

I suspect it was a sop to the relatively newly created state of Hawaii.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

Agree, Jeff. Another exception I should have remembered. Thank you.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger The Motivation Group said...

Joe Hall STSC(ss)

The biggest sub naming flap I recall on active duty was the USS Corpus Christi. The name as proposed was considered sacrilegious because the literal meaning is USS “Body of Christ!” The issue was resolved when someone suggested naming the sub the USS City of Corpus Christi, then everyone was good with that name! Goofy!!
The Manitowoc name is interesting and would be a nice sub name. This is some trivia! During WWII diesel subs were built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, launched and shakedown and test depth trials were done in Lake Superior, and the boats delivered to the fleet by sailing down the Mississippi River to the designated naval port!

Most submariners in my day detested Jimmy Carter and would not want to serve on a ship named after him. While president, he wanted to show America that the Navy could take a hit from his budget scissors! He slashed the budget for sun food!
On my first boat, Sandlance, we ate well, and had surf and turf every Friday, ie huge steaks and lobster tails and shrimp! Everyone loved Friday dinner! After the Carter budget cuts, we never had anything like that again! However, Boomers were exempt from the budget cuts, so if we wanted steak, we had to be tied up next to a Boomer, and the cooks had to negotiate a swap…coffee for T-bones. But that only happened once!


Post a Comment

<< Home