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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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A-6

 

(Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 7: dp. 107; l. 63'10"; b. 11'11"; dr. 10'7"; s. 8 k. (surf.), 7 k. (subm.); cpl. 7; a. 1 18" tt.; cl. Plunger)

 

The submarine torpedo boat A-6 was originally laid down as Porpoise (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 7) on 13 December 1900 at Elizabethport, N.J., by the Crescent Shipyard of Lewis Nixon, a subcontractor for the John P. Holland Torpedo Boat Co. of New York; launched on 23 September 1901; sponsored by Mrs. E.B. Frost, the wife of E.B. Frost of Crescent Shipyard; and commissioned at the Holland yard at New Suffolk, N.Y., on 19 September 1903, Lt. Charles P. Nelson in command.

 

Assigned initially to the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport for experimental torpedo firing work, Porpoise entered the New York Navy Yard in September 1904 for repairs and alterations, remaining there until February 1906. Assigned then to the First Torpedo Flotilla on 7 March 1907, the submarine torpedo boat operated at Annapolis, Md., temporarily assigned to the Naval Academy for instruction of future naval officers, untilJune 1907. Taken subsequently to the New York Navy Yard, she was decommissioned on 21 April 1908. Partially disassembled, she was then loaded on the after well deck of the collier Caesar for a voyage to the Philippine Islands as deck cargo along with her sister ship Shark (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 8), via the Suez Canal.

 

Arriving at the Naval Station at Cavite, Porpoise was launched on 8 July 1908, and recommissioned on 20 November. Due to the small size of these "boats," officers and men lived on board the gunboat Elcano.

 

In April 1909, Ens. Kenneth Whiting, a future naval aviation pioneer, became Porpoise's commanding officer. On 15 April, Whiting and his crew of six took the submarine out for what was to be a routine run. Porpoise got underway, cleared the dock and moved out into Manila Bay. She dove soon thereafter, and leveled off at a depth of 20 feet. Only then did Whiting, with contagious confidence, reveal his intentions.

 

Convinced that a man could escape from a submarine through the torpedo tube, Whiting determined that he was going to try and test his theory with himself as a guinea pig. Squeezing into the 18-inch diameter tube, he clung to the crossbar which stiffened the outer torpedo tube door, as the crew closed the inner door. When the outer door was opened and water rushed in, Whiting hung onto the crossbar that drew his elbows out of the tube's mouth, and then muscled his way out using his hands and arms, the entire evolution consuming 77 seconds. He then swam to the surface, Porpoise surfacing soon thereafter. Reticent to speak about the incident in public, he nevertheless informed his flotilla commander, Lt. Guy W.S. Castle, who submitted a report on how the feat had been accomplished. In Porpoise's log that day, Whiting had simply commented: "Whiting went through the torpedo tube, boat lying in (the) water in (a) normal condition, as an experiment . . . ."

 

Subsequently becoming a unit of the First Submarine Division, Asiatic Torpedo Fleet, on 9 December 1909, the submarine torpedo boat continued her routine of local operations out of Cavite for the next decade. Renamed A-6 (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 7) on 17 November 1911, she patrolled the entrance to Manila Bay and convoyed vessels out of port during World War I, under the command of Lt. A.H. Bailey. Placed in ordinary on 1 December 1918, she spent a little over a year in that status, until decommissioned on 12 December 1919 and turned over to the Commandant of the Naval Station at Cavite, for disposal. Given the alphanumeric hull number SS-7 on 17 July 1920, A-6 was authorized for use as a target in July 1921 and as of 16 January 1922 was struck from the Naval Vessel Register.