Sargo-class submarine

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Class overview
Name:Sargo class
Builders: Electric Boat Company, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Mare Island Naval Shipyard [1]
Operators:Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States Navy
Preceded by: Salmonclass [2]
Succeeded by: Tamborclass [2]
Built: 1937–1939 [1]
In commission: 1939–1946 [1]
Completed: 10 [2]
Lost: 4 [2]
Retired: 6 [2]
General characteristics
Type: Composite direct-drive and diesel-electric (first 6) or full diesel-electric (last 4) submarine [2]
  • 1,450  tons (1473  t) standard, surfaced [3]
  • 2,350 tons (2,388 t) submerged [3]
Length: 310 ft 6 in (94.64 m) [3]
Beam: 26 ft 10 in (8.18 m) [3]
Draft: 16 ft 7½ in – 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m) [3]
  • 21 knots (39 km/h) surfaced [3]
  • 8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged [3]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) [3]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged [3]
Test depth: 250 ft (76 m) [3]
Complement: 5 officers, 54 enlisted [3]

The Sargo-class submarines were among the first US submarines to be sent into action after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, starting war patrols the day after the attack, having been deployed to the Philippines in late 1941. Similar to the previous Salmonclass, they were built between 1937 and 1939. With a top speed of 21 knots, a range of 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) (allowing patrols in Japanese home waters), and a reliable propulsion plant, along with the Salmons they were an important step in the development of a true fleet submarine. In some references, the Salmons and Sargos are called the "New S Class", 1st and 2nd Groups. [6]

Submarine Watercraft capable of independent operation underwater

A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. It is also sometimes used historically or colloquially to refer to remotely operated vehicles and robots, as well as medium-sized or smaller vessels, such as the midget submarine and the wet sub.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into World War II the next day. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.


The Sargo-class submarine USS Swordfish (SS-193) had the distinction of being the first US Navy submarine to sink a Japanese ship in World War II.

USS <i>Swordfish</i> (SS-193)

USS Swordfish (SS-193), a Sargo-class submarine, was the first submarine of the United States Navy named for the swordfish, a large fish with a long, swordlike beak and a high dorsal fin. She was the first American submarine to sink a Japanese ship during World War II.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.


In most features the Sargos were a repeat of the Salmons, except for the return to full diesel-electric drive for the last four boats and the adoption of the improved Sargo battery design. The first six Sargos were driven by a composite direct-drive and diesel-electric plant (two engines in each mode) in the same manner as the Salmons. In this arrangement, two main engines in the forward engine room drove generators. In the after engine room, two side-by-side engines were clutched to reduction gears which sat forward of the engines, with vibration-isolating hydraulic clutches. Two high-speed electric motors, driven by the generating engines or batteries, were also connected to each reduction gear. [7] The Bureau of Steam Engineering (BuEng) and the General Board desired a full diesel-electric plant, but there were some dissenting opinions, notably Admiral Thomas C. Hart, the only experienced submariner on the General Board, who pointed out that a full diesel-electric system could be disabled by flooding. [8] Technical problems went against the use of two large direct-drive diesels in place of the four-engine composite plant. No engine of suitable power to reach the desired 21-knot speed existed in the US, and the current vibration-isolating hydraulic clutches were not capable of transmitting enough power. It was also not practical to gear two engines to each shaft. [8] So a full diesel-electric plant was adopted for the last four Sargos, and remained standard for all subsequent conventionally-powered US submarines.

Electric generator device that converts other energy to electrical energy

In electricity generation, a generator is a device that converts motive power into electrical power for use in an external circuit. Sources of mechanical energy include steam turbines, gas turbines, water turbines, internal combustion engines and even hand cranks. The first electromagnetic generator, the Faraday disk, was invented in 1831 by British scientist Michael Faraday. Generators provide nearly all of the power for electric power grids.


A gear or cogwheel is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or in the case of a cogwheel, inserted teeth, which mesh with another toothed part to transmit torque. Geared devices can change the speed, torque, and direction of a power source. Gears almost always produce a change in torque, creating a mechanical advantage, through their gear ratio, and thus may be considered a simple machine. The teeth on the two meshing gears all have the same shape. Two or more meshing gears, working in a sequence, are called a gear train or a transmission. A gear can mesh with a linear toothed part, called a rack, producing translation instead of rotation.

Electric motor electromechanical

An electric motor is an electrical machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Most electric motors operate through the interaction between the motor's magnetic field and electric current in a wire winding to generate force in the form of rotation of a shaft. Electric motors can be powered by direct current (DC) sources, such as from batteries, motor vehicles or rectifiers, or by alternating current (AC) sources, such as a power grid, inverters or electrical generators. An electric generator is mechanically identical to an electric motor, but operates in the reverse direction, converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Four of the class (Sargo, Saury, Spearfish, and Seadragon) were equipped with the troublesome Hooven-Owens-Rentschler (HOR) double-acting diesels. An attempt to produce more power from a smaller engine than other contemporary designs, the double-acting system proved unreliable in service. During World War II, all had their engines replaced with GM Cleveland Diesel 16-278A engines, probably during their overhauls in early 1943. [9]

The firm of Hooven, Owens, Rentschler, and Company manufactured steam and diesel engines in Hamilton, Ohio. Because the firm was frequently known by its initials, H.O.R., the Hooven is sometimes incorrectly rendered as Hoover, and the Owens may be mistaken for Owen.

General Motors American automotive manufacturing company

General Motors Company, commonly referred to as General Motors (GM), is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts, and sells financial services, with global headquarters in Detroit's Renaissance Center. It was originally founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908 as a holding company. The company is the largest American automobile manufacturer, and one of the world's largest. As of 2018, General Motors is ranked #10 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

BuEng had designed a new lead-acid battery to resist battle damage, known as the Sargo battery because it was first installed on Sargo and was based on a suggestion by her commissioning commanding officer, Lieutenant E. E. Yeomans. [10] Instead of a single hard rubber case, it had two concentric hard rubber cases with a layer of soft rubber between them. This was to prevent sulfuric acid leakage in the event one case cracked during depth-charging. [11] This remained the standard battery design until replaced with Sargo II and GUPPY batteries in submarines upgraded under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program after World War II. Each battery's capacity was slightly increased by installing 126 cells instead of 120; this also raised the nominal voltage from 250 volts to 270 volts, which has been standard in US usage ever since, including the backup batteries of nuclear submarines.

USS Sargo (SS-188), the lead ship of her class of submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the sargo.

Commanding officer officer in command of a military unit

The commanding officer (CO) or sometimes, if the incumbent is a general officer, commanding general (CG), is the officer in command of a military unit. The commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as they see fit, within the bounds of military law. In this respect, commanding officers have significant responsibilities, duties, and powers.

Sulfuric acid chemical compound

Sulfuric acid (alternative spelling sulphuric acid), also known as vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of the elements sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen, with molecular formula H2SO4. It is a colorless, odorless, and syrupy liquid that is soluble in water and is synthesized in reactions that are highly exothermic.

The original Mark 21 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber deck gun proved to be too light in service. It lacked sufficient punch to finish off crippled or small targets quickly enough to suit the crews. It was replaced by the Mark 9 4-inch (102 mm)/50 caliber gun in 1943-44, in most cases removed from an S-boat being transferred to training duty. [12]

3"/50 caliber gun naval artillery gun class defined by bore diameter and length

The 3″/50 caliber gun in United States naval gun terminology indicates the gun fired a projectile 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter, and the barrel was 50 calibers long. Different guns of this caliber were used by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard from 1890 through the 1990s on a variety of combatant and transport ship classes.

Deck gun naval artillery mounted on the deck of a submarine

A deck gun is a type of naval artillery mounted on the deck of a submarine. Most submarine deck guns were open; however, a few larger submarines placed these guns in a turret.

4"/50 caliber gun

The 4"/50 caliber gun was the standard low-angle, quick-firing gun for United States, first appearing on the monitor Arkansas and then used on "Flush Deck" destroyers through World War I and the 1920s. It was also the standard deck gun on S-class submarines, and was used to rearm numerous submarines built with 3-inch (76 mm) guns early in World War II. United States naval gun terminology indicates the gun fired a projectile 4-inch (102 mm) in diameter, and the barrel was 50 calibers long.

Ships in class

NameHull numberBuilderLaid DownLaunchedCommissionedFate
Sargo SS-188 Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut 12 May 19376 June 19387 February 1939Sold for scrap 19 May 1947 to Learner Company of Oakland, California
Saury SS-189Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut28 June 193720 August 19383 April 1939Sold for scrap 19 May 1947 to Learner Company of Oakland, California
Spearfish SS-190Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut9 September 193729 October 193812 July 1939Sold for scrap 19 May 1947 to Learner Company of Oakland, California
Sculpin SS-191 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine 7 September 193727 July 193816 January 1939Damaged by depth charges and gunfire from the Japanese destroyer Yamagumo 19 November 1943; scuttled
Squalus SS-192Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine18 October 193714 September 19381 March 1939Sank on trials 23 May 1939. Raised and recommissioned as Sailfish 15 May 1940

Sold for scrap 18 June 1948 to Luria Brothers and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Swordfish SS-193 Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California 27 October 19374 January 193922 July 1939Depth charged by Japanese anti-submarine vessels 12 January 1945
Seadragon SS-194Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut18 April 193821 April 193923 October 1939Sold for scrap 2 July 1948 to Luria Brothers and Company of Philadelphia
Sealion SS-195Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut20 June 193825 May 193927 November 1939Bombed by Japanese aircraft at Cavite Navy Yard 10 December 1941; scuttled 25 December 1941
Searaven SS-196Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine9 August 193821 June 19392 October 1939Target in Operation Crossroads atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll 1946, later expended as target 11 September 1948
Seawolf SS-197Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine27 September 193815 August 19391 December 1939Sunk by "friendly fire" from the escort USS Richard M. Rowell 3 October 1944


Periscope photo of a Japanese merchant ship torpedoed by Seawolf sinking. Sinking Japanese ship.jpg
Periscope photo of a Japanese merchant ship torpedoed by Seawolf sinking.

From commissioning until late 1941 the first six Sargos were based first at San Diego, later at Pearl Harbor. The last four were sent to the Philippines shortly after commissioning. In October 1941, the remaining Sargos and most other newer available submarines were transferred to the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines as part of a belated effort to reinforce U.S. and Allied forces in Southeast Asia. The Japanese occupation of southern Indo-China and the August 1941 American-British-Dutch retaliatory oil embargo had raised international tensions. [13]

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the submarines of the Asiatic Fleet were the primary striking force available to Admiral Thomas C. Hart, the fleet's commander. He was assigned sixteen Salmons or Sargos; the entirety of both classes. [14] Seven Porpoise-class and six S-boats rounded out the force. [15] The Japanese did not bomb the Philippines until 10 December 1941, so almost all of the submarines were able to get underway before an attack. Sealion and Seadragon were the unlucky exceptions. In overhaul at the Cavite Navy Yard, Sealion was damaged beyond repair and was scuttled on 25 December. Seadragon, assisted by USS Canopus and USS Pigeon, was able to leave port with emergency repairs and went on to fight for most of the war.

The Sargo class was very active during the war, sinking 73 ships, including a Japanese submarine. Four were lost, including one to "friendly fire".

Sailfish of this class sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Chūyō, which was carrying 21 survivors from the submarine Sculpin; only one of these prisoners survived the sinking. Sculpin had been one of the ships assisting in the rescue of 33 men when Squalus sank during a test dive in 1939; Squalus was refloated and recommissioned as USS Sailfish.

In early 1945 the surviving boats of this class were transferred to training roles for the remainder of the war, eventually being scrapped in 1947-48. Searaven was used in the Bikini Atoll atomic weapon tests in 1946. There was negligible damage so she was later expended as a target in 1948. Sailfish was also due to become a target in the same atomic weapon tests but she was scrapped instead in 1948.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 269–270. ISBN   0-313-26202-0.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311
  4. U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 202–204, 310
  5. Friedman, p. 310
  6. Silverstone, pp. 190-193
  7. Friedman, p. 203
  8. 1 2 Friedman, p. 204
  9. Friedman, pp. 263, 360-361
  10. Friedman, p. 265
  11. The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, Sargo-class article
  12. Alden, p.93.
  13. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships online at
  14. Blair, p.82fn.
  15. US submarine deployment 7 December 1941