Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Commander Guy E. Davis, Commander, Submarine Division Seven, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

COPY AG

11 September, 1918.

From:     Commander Submarine Division Seven.

To:       Bureau of Operations.

Via: Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.1

Subject:  War Diary.

Enclosures: (1)

     1.   There is enclosed a copy of the War Diary for the Independent Unit, consisting of U.S.S. CHARLES WHITTENMORE, U.S.S. N-5, and U.S.S. N-6, from 15 August, 1918 to 9 September, 1918. . . .2

     4.   During this cruise the organization on board the Tender, and on board the submarine, U.S.S. N-5, was as nearly perfect as could be desired. The crew on the Tender were carefully indoctrinated with the requirements of the patrol, and every officer and man on board the Tender carried out the spirit of the cruise wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. The Commanding Officer of the Tender, Lieutenant Joseph Lyons, U.S.N.R.F., assisted in every way possible in the handling of the submarine crew, and in the repairs required on board the submarine and on board the Tender. The crew of the Tender was made to resemble a fishing vessel’s crew in all ways possible, both as to uniform, and as to the looks of the ship itself. The discipline on board the Tender was strict and in accordance with U.S. Navy Regulations; extra careful lookout being kept at all times at the masthead and on deck. All officers and men in the expedition worked together.

     5.   As there was but fifty-eight hundred (5800) gallons of fresh water on board the Tender to be used by about sixty-five (65) men, it was imperative that this water be husbanded as much as possible. Accordingly, the men on the Tender and on the submarine were called together, and the object of the expedition carefully explained to them, and they were requested to use as little fresh water as possible. An order was also published to this effect (Exhibit A-1)3 During the entire trip every man on board the Tender was most careful of the water. . . .

     7.   During the entire period the crew of the submarine and the crew of the Tender were continually requiring some piece of apparatus on the submarine, mostly slight accidents due to grounds or short circuits. The hydroplanes, on a trip similar to this, are a source of great weakness to the boat, and it is believed by the Division Commander that the Holland design of boats, with the bow rudders, is a more efficient submarine to use on such duty. The following is a partial list of the accidents that took place on the U.S.S. N-5 during the cruise of twenty-three days just completed:-

          (a) Starboard forward hydroplane struck Tender on port side amidships, upsetting hydroplane pad inside of submarine, and causing it to leak very badly at this point. This leak was caulked with oakum and with soft copper wire, and after one week of caulking and recaulking, it was made tight at a depth of seventy to one hundred feet. During this week of constant caulking and recaulking, there were from one to twelve inches of water in the battery tank forward during the entire time, it being necessary to pump each watch, in order to keep the water from coming up over the tops of the battery jars. It was most lucky that there were no cracked cells in this battery.

          (b) Contact points were burned off from the main motor control.

          (c) Hydroplane rudder clutch-handle broken.

          (d) Both muffler exhaust valve seats leaked badly.

          (e) Hydroplane motor grounded (this happened several times).

          (f) Sterring [i.e. stearing] motor grounded.

          (g) Adjusting pump driving gear stripped.

          (h) Both main pumps out of commission.

          (i) Both main motors grounded thru moisture and water.

          (j) Leak in auxiliary blow valve.

     8.   Great trouble was experienced on board the submarine thru dampness, caused by the condensation of water from the atmosphere. This dampness causes most of the trouble with the electrical apparatus, causing shorts and grounds in nearly every controlling device on board the submarine, and causing frequent blowing of fuses. This not only seriously deranges the electrical and mechanical efficiency of the submarine, but it lowers the efficiency of the personnel; for everything on board, including the decks, beds and walls of the submarine, are very damp, and the health of the men is not improved thereby. Something should be done to eliminate this undesirable feature, and it is urgently recommended that the Bureau’s attention be directed to the establishment of a refrigerating plant, or some other apparatus capable of condensing this water, removing it from the atmosphere, thereby giving the men pure, dry air to breathe, and removing all shorts and grounds from the electrical machinery. . . .

     10.  On August 24, 1918, while making ready for a probable attack by an enemy submarine, all tubes were flooded, and made ready for war shots. Upon closing the bow caps after the danger of attack had passed, it was found upon withdrawing the torpedoes, that all four torpedoes had been flooded in the after bodies, although the boat had not been down below a depth of forty-five feet. . . .

     12.  Experiments were held to find the best means of communicating with the submarine when the submarine telephone was out of order, and it was found that when a Springfield Rifle was fired from the ship into the water, the bullet striking in the approximate position of the submarine, the submarine could easily get the sound from the blow of the bullet on the water no matter how deeply she might be submerged; not only thru listening tubes, but thru the hull itself. Accordingly, a system of signaling to the submarine was made by using a Springfield Rifle as a transmitter. This system to be used only when the submarine was out of communication with the Tender by telephone and when the submarine was totally submerged. . . .

     14.  The periscopes during the entire trip gave excellent service, and are considered to be the best periscopes that have yet been issued to submarines. During the entire cruise they were subjected to the worst possible conditions, both on the surface and submerged, and it was reported that they did not cloud up once during the entire patrol. One recommendation in regard to these periscopes is, that a larger magnification periscope similar in design be installed on future submarines.

     15.  The radio set as originally fitted could not send or receive messages at a distance greater than fifty miles. As the radio on the submarine was of no use whatsoever, owing to the fact that the submarine was submerged during nearly the entire time, the aud[i]tion and amplifier were taken from the submarine and installed on the Tender. From this time on the Tender could receive all messages and schedules, but owing to the poor sending apparatus it was impossible to answer messages. As a result of this many messages were received from the Commandant of the Second Naval District4 requesting a rendezvous be made for the U.S.S. N-6 to join the Unit. On each occasion the rendezvous was made and carefully kept by the Tender and the U.S.S. N-5, but it is believed that the Commandant of the Second Naval District on no occasion received the radio setting the rendezvous sent out by the Tender.

     16.  It is considered by the Division Commander, after the experience of this last tour of duty, that it would be better to send only one submarine out with a Tender. The same results would be accomplished if the Tender had but one submarine with her, and there would be no advantage in having another submarine cruising in the area designated to be patrolled, as this submarine would invariably confuse the listeners and cause considerable trouble in remaking the tow line when it became time for the submarines to change positions on the tow. The health of the men would be better conserved with the Tender and one submarine unit. . . .

     19.  During this cruise the Division Commander was especially lucky in having with him, P.A. Surgeon, E.F. DuBois, U.S.N.R.F.,5 who has shown great enthusiasm and ability in investigating the conditions of the personnel on board the submarine, and in taking care of the health of the crew when they returned on board the Tender. During the entire trip especial attention has been directed to the purification of the air in the submarine at all times, and to the food served out to the men on the submarine, both with the intention of giving them the nourishment required while on the submarine, and secondly to eliminate all offensive odors from the air in the submarine. . . .

     20.  It is urgently recommended that every submarine in commission be immediately furnished with at least sixteen (16) chlorine masks. These masks to be used by the personnel in case any sea water or leaks in the boat flood the battery tanks. During this recent trip had there been a crack in any one of the sixty cells of the forward battery, the boat would have been immediately flooded with chlorine gas, and either the boat would have been lost, or the forward battery would have been hopelessly ruined, due to the crew having been forced out of the forward battery compartment by the chlorine gases, and abandoning their efforts to stop the leak in the forward starboard hydroplane. Had there been a leak in any one of the cells of this battery, nothing could have saved the entire battery from being hopelessly ruined by salt water. The need of these masks is most imperative. . . .

     22.  During the cruise, when the crew from the submarine reported on board the Tender after a period of duty on the submarine, they were immediately examined by the Surgeon, and were put thru physical exercises on the decks of the Tender, in order to limber up every muscle and to exercise them properly. By this means and by allowing the men all the sleep they wished on board the Tender, it is believed that the crew of the submarine was in better condition at the end of twenty-three days tour, then it was at the commencement of this tour. This is without a single exception.

     23.  Throughout this patrol it has been noticed by the Division Commander that the weak point in our submarine is undoubtedly the personnel; for with a personnel in the best possible condition as regard energy, ingenuity and enthusiasm, the machinery on the submarine would run nearly indefinitely, with the usual renewals for wear. It does not seem as if enough attention was paid in the design of submarines to the health and contentedness of the crews on board the submarine itself, and it is the opinion of the Division Commander that nearly every accident or derangement in the equipment or machinery of the submarine can be traced directly or indirectly to a debilitated personnel. This debilitated personnel caused thru:

          (a) Dampness in the boat.

          (b) Unsuitable food.

          (c) Cramped quarters.

          (d) Lack of toilet facilities.

          (e) Poor air.

     24.  With the personnel in first class condition as regards health, mental activity, accidents to apparatus and to equipment would all decrease at least 90%. It was noticed during this cruise that the only troubles experienced by the men on board the submarine was constipation, and it was found that this was caused directly by the abominable toilet facilities installed on these boats. For the men to relieve themselves on board the submarines, it is necessary that they go back to the starboard side in a small box fitted up with a seat, and there work from three to five valves, in order to complete the operation. Most men will neglect this important duty, having in mind difficulties attendant, and their health will suffer thereby, sometimes to a most serious degree. This was found to be a fact during this cruise, and one of the most urgent things in the fitting up of future submarines should be the design and installation of proper toilet facilities, so that the personnel will use them freely.

     25.  It is recommended that a Naval Constructor who is entrusted with the design of future submarines, be ordered on a twenty-day trip of a submarine, in order that he may understand the requirements, both as to the personnel and to the material, it is believed that if he was brought face to face with the conditions on board our submarines, a better internal design of submarines would be forthcoming in the future.

/s/ Guy Davis.          

 

 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 415.

Footnote 1: Capt. Samuel S. Robison, Commander, Submarine Force.

Footnote 2: The referred to enclosure was not attached. U.S.S. CHARLES WHITTENMORE was a submarine tender.

Footnote 3: The exhibit referred to was not attached.

Footnote 4: Commo. James P. Parker, Commandant, Second Naval District, Narragansett.

Footnote 5: Past Assistant Surgeon Eugene F. DuBois, U.S.N.R.F.