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F-4 (Submarine No. 23)


(Submarine No. 23: displacement 330; length 142'7"; beam 15'5"; draft 12'2"; speed 14 k.; complement 22; armament 4 18-inch torpedo tubes; class F-1)

Skate (Submarine No. 23) was laid down on 21 August 1909 at Seattle, Wash., by The Moran Co. [a subcontractor for the Electric Boat Co.]; renamed F-4 on 17 November 1911; launched on 6 January 1912; sponsored by Mrs. M. F. Backus; and commissioned on 3 May 1913, Lt. (j.g.) Kirkwood H. Donavin in command.

Joining the First Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, F-4 participated in the development operations of that group along the west coast, and from August 1914, in Hawaiian waters, the bpoats towed to their new opeerating area by armored cruisers. During maneuvers off Honolulu on 25 March 1915, she sank in 51 fathoms, one and a half miles from the harbor. Despite valorous efforts of naval authorities at Honolulu to locate the missing boat and save her crew, Lt. (j.g.) Alfred L. Ede [U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1909] and his men, 21 souls all told, perished.

On 17 April 1915, during diving operations less than a month after the boat was lost with all hands, CGM William F. Loughman  became fouled in the cables from one of the hoisting vessels to the submarine at a depth of 275 feet. CGM Frank Crilley volunteered to descend and free his shipmate. Immediately suiting up in diver's dress, he brought Loughman to the surface where the semiconscious diver would spend nine hours in a recompression tank. Crilley received the Medal of Honor for his heroic the risk of his own life.

The Navy's raising of the submarine on 29 August 1915 established a diving and engineering precedent, as courage and tenacity marked the efforts of divers who descended to attach cables to tow the boat into shallow water; while ingenuity and engineering skill characterized the direction of Naval Constructor Julius A. Furer, Rear Adm. Charles B. T. Moore (commandant of the naval station), and Lt. Charles E.. Smith (commander of the unit to which the boat had been attached) who accomplished the feat with the aid of specially devised and constructed pontoons that had been brought out from the west coast on board Maryland (Armored Cruiser No. 8).

The investigating board subsequently conjectured that corrosion of the lead lining of the battery tank had permitted seepage of sea water into the battery compartment and thereby caused the commanding officer to lose control on a submerged run.

F-4 was stricken from the Navy Register on 31 August 1915.

Updated,. Robert J. Cressman

15 May 2020 

Published: Mon May 18 09:00:59 EDT 2020