Submarine USS S-19 (SS-124)

By: Robert Loys Sminkey,

Commander, United States Navy, Retired

The keel of USS S-19 (SS-124) was laid down on 15 August 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation...a subcontractor of the Electric Boat Company of New York City, New Quincy, Massachusetts. The submarine was christened by Miss Genevieve Kittenger and launched on 21 June 1920. The S-boat was commissioned on 24 August 1921 with Lieutenant Commander P. T. Wright in command.

When commissioned, the S-1 Class coastal and harbor defense submarine was 219'3" in length overall; had an extreme beam of 20'8"; had a normal surface displacement of 854 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 15'11". Submerged displacement was 1,062 tons. The submarine was of riveted construction. The designed compliment was four officers and thirty-four enlisted men. The boatcould operate safely to depths of 200 feet. The submarine was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes...installed in the bow. Twelve torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50 caliber deck gun was installed. The full load of diesel oil carried was 41,921 gallons, which fueled two 600 designed brake horsepower Model 8-EB-15NR diesel engines manufactured by the New London Ship and Engine Company at Groton, Connecticut...which could drive the boat...via a diesel direct drive propulsion 14.5 knots on the surface. Power for submerged propulsion was provided by a main storage battery, divided into two sixty-cell batteries, manufactured by the Electric Storage Battery Company (EXIDE) at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...which powered two 750 designed brake horsepower main propulsion motors manufactured by the by the Ridgway Dynamo and Electric Company at Ridgway, Pennsylvania... which turned propeller shafts...which turned propellers...which could drive the submarine at 11 knots for a short period of time when operating beneath the surface of the sea. Slower submerged speeds resulted in greater endurances before the batteries needed to be recharged by the engines and generators.

After preliminary shakedown operations, USS S-19 (SS-124) was decommissioned and returned to the contractor on 8 March 1922 for further work to remedy defects revealed in her first weeks of operation. Upon her return to the United States Navy, USS S-19 recommissioned at the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut, on 6 January 1923 with Lieutenant Commander William J. Butler in command.

USS S-19 operated off the northeastern coast of the United States from 1923 into 1930, taking part in fleet exercises off Panama in the early months of each year. This routine was interrupted in the foggy, early hours of 13 January 1925, when the submarine ran aground off Chatham, Massachusetts, on the southern coast of Cape Cod...after strong winds and unusually heavy seas had pushed her far from her course. She had departed the Portsmouth Navy Yard at Kittery, Maine, the previous afternoon after overhaul, and was en route to New London/Groton, Connecticut. United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Tampa and USCGC Acushnet came to USS S-19's assistance, as did life-saving crews from two nearby Coast Guard stations. Heavy seas made it impossible to pass a line to the grounded submarine or to reach her by boat until late in the evening of 14 January, when a party from the Nauset, Massachusetts, Coast Guard Station succeeded in boarding. By the morning of the 15th, USS S-19's crew had been safely brought to shore. After strenuous effort by Navy tugs and the Coast Guard cutters, USS S-19 was finally freed from the shoal.

Repaired and returned to service with the fleet, USS S-19 continued her Atlantic operations until 22 October 1930...when she departed New London/Groton for the Pacific.

The submarine arrived at Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii on 7 December 1930, and, for the next three years, operated out of the Hawaiian Islands.

USS S-19 (SS-124) was decommissioned at Pearl Harbor on 10 February 1934, was struck from the Navy List on 12 December 1936, and was towed to sea and sunk on 18 December accordance with the terms of the London Treaty.