And You Thought You Understood Submarine NamingBubblehead, 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.