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The B-Boats

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All 3 of the B-Class submarines.
Left to Right, USS Tarantula, USS Viper and USS Cuttlefish.
Unknown and unidentified class of submarine in the background.

From the Private collection of Ric Hedman
Photo Not In Public Domain.


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This photo came in a collection of B class submarine images.
As per the notations on the back the men are L to R are:

Lieutenant Donald C. "Bingie" Bingham of the Viper- Flotilla Commander
Lieutenant Edward J. G. Marquart of the Cuttlefish - detached
"Bobs"
Lieutenant Joseph F. Daniels of the Tarantula.

From the Private collection of Ric Hedman Photo Not In Public Domain.


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The USS Viper (B-1) and the USS Cuttlefish (B-2) sailing in formation in review. There is no information as to the location but the day is sunny and the ships are dressed with flags and bunting. The large ships are crowded with spectators so this must be some sort of holiday. Perhaps Memorial Day formerly known as "Decoration Day" or it could maybe be the 4th of July circa 1910. There is another flag hoisted to the top of the periscopes. The nationality of the flag has not been determined.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman

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In this photo only a number of things are known for certain the rest can only be speculated on. The USS Viper (B-1) was commissioned October 18, 1907 with Lieutenant Donald Cameron Bingham in command. On November 17, 1911 her name was changed from Viper to B-1. The submarine has the name Viper clearly painted on the hull. From the pigstick atop her periscope is the vessels Commissioning Pennant along with another flag, probably a squadron flag. These are the time frames that bracket this photo. To narrow it down still further, it is winter and cold enough to have the river or bay awash with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of chunks of ice covering its surface.

So we can also assume it is either winter 1907/08, (winter 1908/09 she has been placed in reserve and out of commission at Charleston). Recommissioned April 15, 1910, winter 1909/10 and winter 1910/11 are also time frames this image could have been snapped.

Submarine historian David Johnston thinks that the photo was taken at or near the Brooklyn (New York) Navy Yard just prior to a dry dock period that all three B-boats had in January, 1908. If it was after dry docking the waterline would appear cleaner and crisper.

The submarine has much of the look of the paint jobs given to the vessels around the time of their commissioning with darker colors, (black), and a light, (white), boot-top. On the foremast are the submarines red and green running lights attached to their reflector boards. These boards are to limit the direction that the lights can be seen from. Above them, is the anchor light higher on the mast. This is a white light and used when at anchor to note it position to other vessels. All these lights and the mast, are portable and are removed and sent below when the submarine is going to dive. Stanchions and a lifeline surround the small walking deck that submarine inventor John Holland so detested, ("...for officers to strut on...", he said). These, too, were sent below when diving.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman

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The Viper is moored to a high pier, that is evident by the boarding plank stretched between the pier and the top of the bridge access fairwater. A civilian is standing midspan talking with an officer, (Captain Bingham?), about something. The civilian looks to be carrying a briefcase of some sort in his left hand. The officer is gesturing towards the camera and down about something, maybe in the water. The officer is wearing a wool Naval Academy Great Coat and white, (wool?), gloves. Seen just behind the officers legs is the tall Engine Room ventilator.

The top of the bridge is surrounded by weather cloths to protect the crew, (duty officer and helmsman), from spray and wind. Just forward of these cloths is ventilator used to bring or exhaust air from inside the submarine. Its opening is pointing to the subs port side. These, along with all the above mentioned items, are also sent below before diving. Pressure of moving though the water would restrict the vessels movements, reduce its speed and probably destroy canvases.

There appears to be a fairly stiff wind blowing by the looks of all the flags and that wind seems to be coming from the subs after port quarter. The flag is a thirteen star Naval Ensign. As related by flag historian Jeff Bridgman..."It wasn't until 1916, however, that President Woodrow Wilson wrote an executive order that terminated their use entirely in favor of 48 star flags. But even this did not completely put an end to it. According to at least one flag historian, Wilson's order was not immediately accepted on all navy ships. Old habits die hard..." The flag being flown seems to be of an older design that was flown between 1890 and 1900 with the rows of 3 stars with points pointing up and the rows with two stars with the points pointing down.

The wind chill factor must make the temperatures must feel like they are in the upper 20's down into the teens or lower.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman

In the left background, under the gangway and just sticking out from behind the floating shack, is the bow of another "B" class submarine. Draft makings like the ones on the bow of the Viper resemble each other. Its periscope can be seen sticking up at the left edge of the shack with a pennant flying from its top. Identity unknown at this time. Thanks to submarine historian David Johnston for pointing out this important piece of information for us.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman

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We have another clue but the identity of that clue is unknown, at this point, that is the sleek steam yacht, with its raked masts and funnel, seen in the background. If we knew what vessel this was and where it was at we could pin down the year/s and location with more certainty.

Further evidence is the presence of the large 100 ton derrick seen over the top everything at the right side in the background of the photo that resided at the New York Navy Yard and is in evidence in other photos taken at this location and time period.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman

USS Viper (B-1) SS 10
USS Viper (B-1) SS 10

Torpedoroom USS B-1
Torpedoroom USS B-1

Crew muster

USS Viper, Submarine No 10, later renamed B-1 attached to submarine April 15, 1910

Rall W. F. - Enlisted Man - age 27- Born; New York
Sylvester H. - Enlisted Man - age 26 - Born; Oregon
Kirkhacket R. W. - Enlisted Man - age 25 - Born; Illinois
Johnston F. A. - Enlisted Man - age 21 - Born; Pennsylvania
Barto D. B. - Enlisted Man - age 28 - Born; Delaware
Regan J. A. - Enlisted Man - age 24 - Born; Ohio
Doom R. W. - Enlisted Man - age 36 - Born; Ohio
Poncet J. L. - Enlisted Man - age 20 - Born; Louisiana
Noltny C. F. - Enlisted Man - age 30 - Born; Missouri
Cole C. D. - Enlisted Man - age 30 - Born; Massachusetts
Romulus G. J. - Enlisted Man - age 34 - Born; Massachusetts
Boyan J. - Enlisted Man - age 26 - Born; New Jersey

Thank you to Linda Talbott of the US GenWeb Census Project ® for providing this information.

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USS Hector (Collier No.7). This photo is taken mid April 1915 in Cavite Harbor, Philippines. The Hector had left the US in March 1915 with the submarine boats USS A-3, (center); USS A-5, (front) and the USS B-1, (rear) as deck cargo for transport to the Philippines since the craft were too small to make the trip on their own. Note that the B-1 has both its periscopes still installed where the "A" boats had been removed for transit.

In preparation for the trip the batteries had been removed as well as the propellers and the stern planes; all to lighten the weight of these vessels for transport as deck cargo.

The view above is from the port side of the Hector. Launching skids have been constructed for launching the little submarines over the side. Hectors bow is to the left in this photo.

US Navy Photo


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Photo taken from on deck of the USS Hector showing the final preparations for the launching of the USS B-1. Date is April 15, 1915.

In this photo it is quite clear that this larger vessel needed three launch ramps compared to the two used by the smaller "A" boats. These smaller submarines have already been launched as the deck to the left in the photo is empty.

Several other things to notice are the lack of rudders, stern planes and the propeller. All items removed to make the submarine lighter to transport and also to prevent damage to them during the launch which consisted of literally throwing them off the ship into the water.

There is an assortment of personnel seen working on the vessel. The men in broad hats are probably Filipino contractors where as the sailors pretty much look like sailors. At the top of the submarines periscopes is a large American Flag. Keep your eye on this flag in the next photo.

Photo From The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman


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April 15, 1915, USS B-1 goes over the side with a large crowd of Navy and Filipinos watching. The ramps have been tipped up and the little submarine becomes airborne, probably one of the few times a submarine will ever "fly".

The view is of the Starboard side of the Collier, USS Hector, view is looking forward. At the top of the periscopes the American Flag is now flying out stiffly horizontal to the left in the photo showing the speed in which the craft is moving.

US Navy Photo


USS B-2 (Cuttlefish) launch 9/01/1906
USS B-2 (Cuttlefish) launch 9/01/1906

USS B-2 (Cuttlefish)
USS Cuttlefish, (B-2) SS 11 In dry dock getting her bottom cleaned and painted.

USS Cuttlefish, (B-2)
USS Cuttlefish, (B-2) SS 11

USS Cuttlefish on builders trials
USS Cuttlefish on builders trials

Crew muster

USS Cuttlefish, Submarine No 11, later renamed B-2 attached to submarine April 15, 1910

Lesher Frank B. - Captain - age 25 - Born; Pennsylvania
Johnson Michael A. - Enlisted Man - age 28 - Born; Rhode Island
Witcomb Harris A. - Enlisted Man - age 29 - Born; New Hampshire
Kirstof John - Enlisted Man - age 23 - Born; Missouri
Pearson Karl - Enlisted Man - age 33 - Born; Sweden
Meeks John R. - Enlisted Manr - age 27 - Born; Ohio
Hayes Spencer W. - Enlisted Man - age 23 - Born; Pennsylvania
Sarre John V. - Enlisted Man - age 26 - Born; Canada
Morris Edward E. - Enlisted Man - age 32 - Born; Connecticut
Stone Leland - Enlisted Man - age 28 - Born; Maine
Kelly Dan - Enlisted Man - age 28 - Born; Massachusetts
Sohn Robert L. - Enlisted Man - age 26 - Born; Tennessee

Thank you to Linda Talbott of the US GenWeb Census Project ® for providing this information.

USS Tarantula (B-3) SS 12
USS Tarantula ( B-3 ) SS 12

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USS Tarantula crew posing for a photo op.
Caption from the scrapbook is "The little submarines with the funny noses"
Commanding officer is Lt. D. A. Weaver.
The black dots are inkspots on the photo face.

From the Private collection of Ric Hedman
Photo Not In Public Domain.


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USS Tarantula crew posing for a photo op.
Caption from the scrapbook is "The little submarines with the funny noses"
Commanding officer is Lt. D. A. Weaver.
The black dots are inkspots on the photo face.

From the Private collection of Ric Hedman
Photo Not In Public Domain.


USS Tarantula ( B-3 ) SS 12 Crew Photo
USS B-3 (Tarantula) Crew on deck for a photo.
Possibily a re-commissioning photo taken at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands. circa Sept. 2, 1913
If you look to the left of the periscopes of the B-3 you can see another set of periscopes. Most likely the B-2 which had been re-commissioned in Aug, 1913. The B-2 & B-3 had traveled to the Philippines as deck cargo aboard the transport Ajax(AC-15) being unable to travel there on their own.

Thanks to Rick Larson MMCM (SS) ret. for the photo.

USS Tarantula ( B-3 ) SS 12 Crew Photo
USS B-3 (Tarantula) Crew on deck for a photo.
Possibily a re-commissioning photo taken at Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands. circa Sept. 2, 1913

Thanks to Rick Larson MMCM (SS) ret. for the photo.

Crew muster

USS Tarantula, Submarine No 12, later renamed B-3 attached to submarine April 15, 1910
Data is incomplete due to lost or missing records.
Rotherwell M. L. - Enlisted Man - age 25 - Born; New York
Fredericks H. W. - Enlisted Man - age 20 - Born; Kentucky
Dunn C. B. - Enlisted Man - age 25 - Born; New York
Ballard M. - Enlisted Man - age 38 - Born; Russia
Stine C. E. - Enlisted Man - age 36 - Born; Sweden
Anderson A. W. - Enlisted Man - age 20 - Born; New Jersey

Thank you to Linda Talbott of the US GenWeb Census Project ® for providing this information.

USS Tarantula SS 12
USS Tarantula SS 12.
Photo appears to be taken at the same time as the photo above.

USS Tarantula crew on deck
USS Tarantula crew on deck

Stern of a B class submarine
Stern of a "B" class submarine

Length 82' 3"
Beam 12' 6"
Disp. Sur. 145 tons
Disp. Sub. 173 tons
Test Depth 150'
Crew 10
Armament 2 18" Torp Tube

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