Bremerton shipyard’s history with submarines traces back to WW I 

By the end of World War I, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard had built over 1,700 vessels, including seven submarines. One of those submarines was the largest to have ever been built in the Pacific Northwest.

Source: Bremerton shipyard’s history with submarines traces back to WW I |

BREMERTON — While Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has a long history of maintaining, decommissioning and recycling the Navy’s fleet of modern nuclear-powered submarines, the shipyard’s work on such vessels can be traced back a century to the manufacture of early submarines during World War I.

Although the shipyard was originally intended to be a West Coast outpost where the fleet’s vessels would go for repair and overhaul, its mission grew to encompass a variety of new tasks as the American government prepared for the likelihood of being brought into the war in Europe while outwardly maintaining a stance of neutrality.

Almost three years after the start of the conflict, the United States joined the war on April 6, 1917, until it ended on Nov. 11, 1918.

On Sunday, the world observes the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war that claimed the lives of an estimated 9 million service members.

Also see | USS Bremerton returns to Bremerton for final time

By the end of the war, the shipyard had built or nearly completed more than 1,700 small boats, 25 sub-chasers, seven tugboats, two minesweepers, two ammunition ships and seven submarines, according to local historians Louise M. Reh and Helen Lou Ross in their book “Nipsic to Nimitz.”

Those seven submarines, one of which was the largest to have ever been built in the Pacific Northwest, were the only submarines the shipyard has ever built.

The shipyard had unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government for funding to construct facilities where workers could build submarines in the years leading up to the war, according to author Bill Lightfoot’s history of submarines built in Puget Sound, “Beneath the Surface.”

The Navy sought to find a way to break the “stranglehold” that private shipbuilders like Electric Boat Company had on the nascent market for submarine manufacturing, according to Lightfoot. The company, an early precursor to modern submarine manufacturer General Dynamics Electric Boat, built the Navy’s first commissioned undersea warship in 1899.

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 presented the opportunity for the shipyard to take on the task after the federal government authorized the Navy to build two submarines to demonstrate its capacity to do so. The first submarine was to be built at Portsmouth Navy Yard and the second was to built at Puget Sound Navy Yard.

It took some time for the shipyard to get the project up and running.

Three months after America joined the war in April 1917, crews finally laid the keel for the submarine built in Bremerton, which was named O-Two. It took a total of 10 months to build what was the largest submarine ever to have been built in Northwest, according to Lightfoot.

Also see | Navy estimates $1.5 billion pricetag to recycle USS Enterprise in Bremerton

O-class submarines, known as “pig boats” for their “foul living quarters and unusually stubby hull shape,” had a crew of 29 sailors, according to the Puget Sound Navy Museum.

The subs were almost 173 feet in length and 18 feet wide, with a diving depth of 200 feet. They were armed with one 3-inch gun and four 18-inch torpedo tubes, and the sub carried eight torpedoes onboard.

Two diesel engines powered the vessel when it was on the surface, where it could reach a speed of 14 knots. When submerged, two electric motors powered the submarine and it could reach a speed of almost 11 knots, according to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

After being commissioned in October 1918, O-Two patrolled the New England coast for a short while until the war ended on Nov. 11, according to records from the Navy History and Heritage Command.

While the submarine missed most of the war, O-Two went on to train crews during World War II.

Although that was the shipyard’s first foray into submarine construction — it wasn’t the last time crews tackled such an undertaking during the war.

As Allied demand for submarines continued to increase, it presented an opportunity for the shipyard to once again undertake the task of building the vessels.

Also see | USS Nimitz enters shipyard’s dry dock for a year of maintenance

In 1917, the Russians had purchased a lot of six submarines from Electric Boat, only to have the order fall through after the start of the Russian Revolution. The submarine parts, which were manufactured in Vancouver, B.C., waited pier-side in crates while the company decided what to do with them.

After almost four months of negotiations, the Navy purchased the unassembled submarines at a price of $395,000 each and settled on having them manufactured in Bremerton.

The submarines, known as USS H-Four through H-Nine, were built at the same time as workers were finishing O-Two, in the area where Pier 7 currently stands at the shipyard.

The H-class submarines, with crews of 25 sailors, were 150 feet long and could dive in depths up to 200 feet. Powered by two diesel engines and two electric motors, the vessels could reach up to almost 11 knots while submerged and 14 knots while on the surface. Each sub could be armed with up to eight torpedos, according to the Puget Sound Navy Museum.

Within six months, the shipyard had manufactured all six of the vessels. While most of the submarines were commissioned in the months leading up to the end of the war, all six of them missed joining the war effort before the end of hostilities.

During the interwar years, those six submarines participated in a number of training exercises along the West Coast, with intermittent patrol duty off Santa Catalina Island and trips to Mare Island Navy Yard in California for maintenance, according to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

Eventually, all six of the shipyard’s submarines were decommissioned in Norfolk in September 1931, where they waited for more than two years until they were sold for scrap in 1933.


‘Hunter Killer’: 5 astonishing things that happen on a nuclear sub

SAN DIEGO – You notice the stillness, most of all, once the nuclear-powered submarine USS Annapolisdrops beneath the choppy surface offshore. The unwieldy-looking vessel cuts through the water like a cruising Cadillac.

My pre-departure decision to pop Dramamine (to fend off motion sickness) was an unnecessary step for USA TODAY’s exclusive journey aboard a real Navy fast-attack sub, the vessel that’s the star of “Hunter Killer,” the action thriller in theaters now.

Fully nausea-free, I was able to marvel at the 360-foot long underwater city that houses a crew of 170. Here’s what else blew me away during the daylong embark.

‘Angles and Dangles’ is a moving experience

It looks bizarre when Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) takes his “Hunter Killer” submarine on such a steep ascent that he and his whole crew are seemingly blown backward with their feet nailed to the floor. But “Angles and Dangles” is a legit exercise the Navy undertakes once the crew hits deep water. Our submarine made both a 25-degree ascent, which pushed us all comically backward and a 25-degree descent, pushing everyone forward.

The drill checks for items that aren’t properly stowed (“dangles”) and could come loose, making noise at a critical moment. The crazy descent also allowed for a pretty cool Superman one-fist-forward flying pose.

You could probably stay down there forever, but you’d starve

Nuclear submarines are entire worlds unto themselves, capable of producing oxygen and distilling fresh water from salty seawater. So the maximum time underwater depends entirely on how much food can be crammed onboard (approximately 90 days worth and no alcohol is allowed).

After even a few minutes, you almost forget you’re underwater, except for the thought that one bad navigational move (or enemy attack) means unthinkable death.

“That’s what makes submarine movies so great,” says Butler. “You’re trapped 1,000 feet below the surface, having to make gut-wrenching calls, knowing that if anything goes wrong, a horrific, agonizing and terrifying death awaits you.”

Give up on personal space

You have to be OK with being physically close to other people while you’re working in tight spaces. Every stairway, every door requires avoiding crew members going the other way. Don’t even start with the crowded bunks, shared by crew members on different shifts (one sleeps, one works).

There was some privacy in the officers’ toilet, where a sliding door reveals instructions on how to use the protruding water-control handle. But it’s not a place where you’d leisurely read the latest issue of “Navy Times.”

The captain never puts his screen down

If you think you have issues with phone screens, consider that Cmdr. John C. Witte never gets away from his navigational screens or the job. Even when he steps out of the control room, there are screens in his tiny quarters, and his seat faces a massive panel in the wardroom, the traditional officers’ mess.

During lunch, there was a surprise buzzing sound, and Witte pulled out a bulky phone intercom from beneath the table top to receive information, mid-hamburger, from another part of the ship.

The ‘flying’ bridge is unforgettable (even before the dolphins)

Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery chatting in the open air at the end of “The Hunt for Red October” is a classic moment. I knew that being outdoors on the sub surfaced atop the “flying” bridge would be great.

The climb up the complicated hatch ladders to daylight made it all the more inspiring. Secured by a bulky harness to prevent an unfortunate overboard situation, watching the world pass as waves crashed over the bow was unforgettable. That was even before the dolphins appeared, jumping near the forward missile tubes.




Source: ‘Hunter Killer’: 5 astonishing things that happen on a nuclear sub

The Origin of Submarine Dolphins – The Fourth (and I think) Final Chapter « theleansubmariner

This will hopefully be the final segment in my saga of how the Submarine Dolphin insignia came to be. Each stage along the way has been a lot of fun as I have sifted through magazines, articles on line, historical societies, the Library of Congress and a source which contains electronic copies of nearly every book that has been printed in the world for the past hundred plus years.

Source: The Origin of Submarine Dolphins – The Fourth (and I think) Final Chapter « theleansubmariner

America’s Best Sub Commander in the Pacific War

The Medal of Honor is often the pinnacle of an individuals’ path from modest and unassuming beginnings. In the case of WW2 submarine legend Eugene Fluckey, the prestigious award was but one of many significant events in a proud career of determination and courage.

The attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 left the United States Navy at an extreme disadvantage. The total loss of ­­four battleships and the considerable damage to four more stunted the offensive capability of American naval forces at the start of the war.

Untouched, however, were the submarine base and the four submarines moored there. If the United States was to jump back into the fight as quickly as possible it would take men like Eugen Fluckey to lead the way.

Source: America’s Best Sub Commander in the Pacific War

USS O-2 (SS-63) – Commisioned 10/19/1918

O Class Submarine: Laid down, 27 July 1917, at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, WA.; Launched, 24 May 1918; Commissioned, USS O-2, 19 October 1918; Designated (SS-63), 17 July 1920; Reclassified a 2nd line submarine 25 July 1924 and to a 1st line submarine, 6 June 1928; Decommissioned, 25 July 1931, at Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, PA.; Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet; Recommissioned, 3 February 1941, at Philadelphia; Decommissioned, 26 July 1945; Struck from the Naval Register, 13 August 1945; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 16 November 1945.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 521 t., Submerged: 629 t.; Length 172′ 4″; Beam 18′ 0″; Draft 14′ 5″; Speed, Surfaced 14 kts, Submerged 10.5 kts; Operational Depth Limit 200 ft; Complement 2 Officers 27 Enlisted; Armament, four 18″, torpedo tubes, 8 torpedoes, one 3″/23 deck gun; Propulsion, diesel-electric, New England Ship and Engine Co, diesels, 880 hp, Fuel Capacity, 21,897 gal.; New York Navy Yard electric motors, 740 hp, Battery Cells 120, single propeller.

Source: Submarine Photo Index

Russia Lost Two Nuclear Weapons. Why? They are Trapped 5,000 Feet Below the Waves on a Dead Submarine. | The National Interest

Komsomolets sank in 5,250 feet of water, complete with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear-armed Shkval torpedoes. Between 1989 and 1998 seven expeditions were carried out to secure the reactor

Komsomolets sank in 5,250 feet of water, complete with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear-armed Shkval torpedoes. Between 1989 and 1998 seven expeditions were carried out to secure the reactor against radioactive release and seal the torpedo tubes. Russian sources allege that during these visits, evidence of “unauthorized visits to the sunken submarine by foreign agents” was discovered.

In the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union constructed a super submarine unlike any other. Fast and capable of astounding depths for a combat submersible, the submarine Komsomoletswas introduced in 1984, heralded as a new direction for the Soviet Navy.

Five years later, Komsomolets and its nuclear weapons were on the bottom of the ocean, two-thirds of its crew killed by what was considered yet another example of Soviet incompetence.

The history of the Komsomolets goes as far back as 1966. A team at the Rubin Design Bureau under N. A. Klimov and head designer Y. N. Kormilitsin was instructed to begin research into a Project 685, a deep-diving submarine. The research effort dragged on for eight years, likely due to a lack of a suitable metal that could withstand the immense pressures of the deep. In 1974, however, the double-hulled design was completed, with a titanium alloy chosen for the inner hull.

Project 685, also known as K-278, was to be a prototype boat to test future deep-diving Soviet submarines. The Sevmash shipyard began construction on April 22, 1978, and the ship was officially completed on May 30, 1983. The difficulty in machining titanium contributed to the unusually long construction period.

K-278 was 360 feet long and forty feet wide, with the inner hull approximately twenty-four feet wide. It had a submerged displacement of 6,500 tons, and the use of titanium instead of steel made it notably lighter. It had a unique double hull, with the inner hull made of titanium, that gave it its deep-diving capability. The inner hull was further divided into seven compartments, two of which were reinforced to create a safe zone for the crew, and an escape capsule was built into the sail to allow the crew to abandon ship while submerged at depths of up to 1,500 meters.

The submarine was powered by one 190-megawatt OK-650B-3 nuclear-pressurized water reactor, driving two forty-five-thousand-shipboard-horsepower steam-turbine engines. This propelled it to a submerged speed of thirty knots, and a surface speed of fourteen knots.

The sub had the MGK-500 “Skat” (NATO codename: Shark Gill) low-frequency passive/active search and attack spherical bow array sonar system, the same sonar used in today’s Yasen-class attack submarines, which fed into the Omnibus-685 Combat Information Control System. Armament consisted of six 533-millimeter standard diameter torpedo tubes, including twenty-two Type 53 torpedoes and Shkval supercavitating antisubmarine torpedoes.

The submarine joined the Red Banner Northern Fleet in January 1984 and began a series of deep diving experiments. Under Captain First Rank Yuri Zelensky the submarine set a record depth of 3,346 feet—an astounding accomplishment considering its American equivalent, the USS Los Angeles class, had an absolute maximum depth of 1,475 feet. Crush depth was estimated at approximately 4,500 feet. The submarine had a special surfacing system, “Iridium,” which used gas generators to blow the ballast tanks.

The Soviet Navy considered K-278 invulnerable at depths greater than one thousand meters; at such depths, it was difficult to detect and enemy torpedoes, particularly the American Mark 48, which had a maximum depth of eight hundred meters. Although the submarine was originally to be a test ship, it was eventually made into a fully operational combat-ready ship in 1988. It was given the name Komsomolets, meaning “member of the Young Communist League.”

On April 7, 1989, while operating a depth of 1266 feet, Komsomolets ran into trouble in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. According to Norman Polmar and Kenneth Moore , it was the submarine’s second crew , newly trained in operating the ship. Furthermore, its origins as a test ship meant it lacked a damage-control party.

A fire broke out in the seventh aft chamber, and the flames burned out an air supply valve, which fed pressurized air into the fire. Fire suppression measures failed. The reactor was scrammed and the ballast tanks were blown to surface the submarine. The fire continued to spread, and the crew fought the fire for six hours before the order to abandon ship was given. According to Polmar and Moore, the fire was so intense that crewmen on deck watched as the rubber anechoic coating tiles coating the outer hull slid off due to the extreme heat.

The ship’s commanding officer, Captain First Rank Evgeny Vanin, along with four others, went back into the ship to find crewmembers who had not heard the abandon ship order. Vanin and his rescue party were unable to venture farther—the submarine was tilting eighty degrees headfirst—and entered the rescue chamber. The chamber failed to dislodge at first, but eventually broke free of the mortally wounded sub. Once on the surface, the abrupt pressure change caused the top hatch to blow off, throwing two crewmembers out of the chamber. The chamber, as well as the captain and the rest of the rescue party, sank under the waves.

Only four men had been killed in the incident so far, but after the submarine sank many men succumbed to the thirty-six-degree (Fahrenheit) water temperatures. After an hour the fishing boats Alexi Khlobystov and Oma arrived and rescued thirty men, some of whom later succumbed to their injuries. Of the original sixty-nine men on board the submarine when disaster struck, forty-two died, including Captain First Rank Vanin.

Komsomolets sank in 5,250 feet of water, complete with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear-armed Shkval torpedoes. Between 1989 and 1998 seven expeditions were carried out to secure the reactor against radioactive release and seal the torpedo tubes. Russian sources allege that during these visits, evidence of “unauthorized visits to the sunken submarine by foreign agents” were discovered.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.


Source: Russia Lost Two Nuclear Weapons. Why? They are Trapped 5,000 Feet Below the Waves on a Dead Submarine. | The National Interest

Fundraiser by Jim Plummer : USS Buffalo fuel cost

We the USS Buffalo, ALUMNI are raising money to ship the SCP/BCP from the USS Buffalo, in Washington state to Naval Park in Buffalo, New York. This will help cover the cost of fuel and any needed items along the trip.

Disclaimer: That neither the USS BUFFALO, the Department of the Navy, nor the Department of Defense is soliciting any funds.  This donation and all related expenses that are at no cost to the government.

Source: Fundraiser by Jim Plummer : USS Buffalo fuel cost