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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • Boats-Ships--Submarine
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(SS-109: dp. 876 (surf.), 1,092 (subm.) ; l. 231'; b. 21'10"; s. 15 k. (surf.), 11 k. (subm.); cpl. 42; a. 4 21" tt., 1 4"; cl. S-3)

S-4 (SS-109) was laid down on 4 December 1917 by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard; launched on 27 August 1919; sponsored by Mrs. Herbert S. Howard; and commissioned on 19 November 1919, Lt. Comdr. Percy K. Robottom in command.

Following acceptance trials and a visit to Havana, Cuba, from 14 to 19 January 1920, and subsequent operations along the Gulf and New England coasts, S-4 departed New London on 18 November 1920 to rendezvous with her assigned division, SubDiv 12, and SubDiv 18 off New Hampshire. The two divisions were about to embark on a historic voyage which, at that time, was to be the longest cruise undertaken by American submarines. Assigned to Submarine Flotilla 3 of the Asiatic Fleet at Cavite in the Philippine Islands, they sailed via the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor and arrived at Cavite on 1 December 1921.

S-4 operated out of the Cavite Naval Station, with occasional visits to Chinese ports, until late in 1924, when the two divisions were reassigned to the west coast. Departing Cavite on 29 October, they arrived at Mare Island, Calif., on 30 December.

Remaining at Mare Island in 1925, she operated along the west coast through 1926, mainly at San Francisco, San Pedro, and San Diego. She departed Mare Island on 10 February 1927 and sailed to the Panama Canal Zone, where she operated through March and April, then proceeded to New London, arriving on 3 May. For the remainder of the year, she operated off the New England coast until, on 17 December, while surfacing from a submerged run over the measured-mile off Provincetown, Cape Cod, Mass., she was accidentally rammed and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Paulding.

The only thing to surface, as Paulding stopped and lowered life boats, was a small amount of oil and air bubbles. Rescue and salvage operations were commenced, only to be thwarted by severe weather setting in. Gallant efforts were made to rescue six known survivors trapped in the forward torpedo room, who had exchanged a series of signals with divers, by tapping on the hull. However, despite the efforts, the men were lost. S-4 was finally raised on 17 March 1928 and towed to the Boston Navy Yard for drydocking. She was decommissioned on the 19th.

S-4 was recommissioned on 16 October, after repairs. She served at Key West, Fla., early in 1929 and 1930, and in the northeast during the remainder of those years. In 1931, she operated again at New London until departing there on 3 January 1932 for Pearl Harbor. Sailing via the Panama Canal, she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 29 August. On 7 April 1933, S-4 was decommissioned and laid up. She was struck from the Navy list on 15 January 1936 and destroyed on 15 May by sinking.

Published: Tue Sep 01 09:33:18 EDT 2015