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The V-Boats ~ Page 4
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The USS Dolphin, (ex-V-7), doing trial runs off Provencetown ,Massachusetts circa June 1932. Here she is just doing photo ops for the camera but she would have also done surface and submerged speed runs demonstrating depth and endurance. Crew are on deck taking advantage of a bit of fresh air.


US Navy Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman

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In this photo the USS Dolphin, (ex-V-7), is going the other direction on her trial runs off Provencetown ,Massachusetts circa June 1932. Here she is just doing photo ops for the camera but she would have also done surface and submerged speed runs demonstrating depth and endurance. Crew are on deck taking advantage of a bit of fresh air.


US Navy Photo

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The USS Dolphin, (ex-V-7), performing diving tests off Provencetown, Mass during seatrials


Wire Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman

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The USS Dolphin, (ex-V-7), at gunnery practice circa 1938. The gun crew has just fired a round and the smoke from that can be seen at the left, in front of the submarines bow. The gun crew is busy loading another round for the next shot. The Dolphin carried a 4"/50 caliber as her main gunnery weapon.


News Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman

USS Dolphin SS 169
USS Dolphin SS 169

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The USS Cachalot (SS-170) seen here on the building ways at Portsmouth Navy Yard on October 10, 1932. The view is from the bow looking aft. The portion of the hull that will hold the 4 torpedo tubes has just started to be built. On the left side of the hull near the camera is a ballast tank hull form used to ensure the pressure hull is holding the shape it should have an the part to be made from this form had the correct shape. Note the large cross bracing in the end of the hull holding the shape of the hull. On top of the hull are two workmen seen as blurry shapes since this was a time lapse photo. It was probably quite dark in the boat shed.


Photo courtesy of the Late Rick Larson

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The USS Cachalot sitting on the building ways ready for launching. The date is October 18, 1933. Her two stern torpedo tube outer doors can be seen in this photo. Unlike the later fleet boats, these earlier boats didn't have shutter doors to fair in the hull and reduce drag. The size of Cachalot can seen by the two men standing on the photos right edge.

Some crew are standing on deck perhaps in making preparation for launching the next day. Just on the forward edge of the rudder two plates can be seen bolted to the rudder itself. These are made of Zinc and are sacrificial in nature being the least 'noble' of the metals and will corrode away before the harder more important metals of the hull. There is also one near where the propeller shaft exits the shaft tube.


Photo courtesy of the Late Rick Larson

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October 19, 1933 the USS Cachalot (SS-170) slides down the ways at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, having been christened by Miss Catharine Duar Kempff, daughter of the late Rear Admiral Louis Kempff. Real champagne was used for the launching, the newspapers touted proudly, as America was about to repeal the 18th Amendment ending Prohibition. The repeal was enacted on December 5, 1933.

Cachalot was to be the 8th submarine of the loosely defined "V" class of submarines. She was to have one sistership, the Cuttlefish, V-9. In all, the "V" class was to have 5 separate sub-classes of vessels. The triplets, V-1, 2 and 3. V-4 all by itself. Twins V-5 & 6 and then the lonely V-7, Dolphin, D-1. And ending with twins, again, the V-8 & 9.

Cachalot and her near sister Cuttlefish were the last two boats in the so-called "V" class of submarines. Until 1911, submarines were named after marine creatures, but on the 17th of November of that year the Navy changed the naming convention, adopting a practice similar to most foreign navies in which submarines were given a letter/number name, i.e B-1, G-4, S-51, etc. This practice lasted until February, 1931. At that time the Navy reverted to the previous system. All submarines prior to the V-class retained their letter/number name, but starting with V-1 boats were renamed into the new convention and nearly all subsequent boats until the early 1970's were so named.

The V-class were the first boats designed to be "Fleet Submarines", theoretically capable of operating directly with the battle fleet in the open ocean. They were significantly larger and more capable than previous classes and thus it was thought that they merited a more significant name.

The naming convention changed while the V-class was under construction. V-1 through V-6 were all commissioned with the old names, and then received new marine creature monikers in February and March 1931. V-7's construction was underway at that time and she was renamed Dolphin prior to sliding down the ways. The names V-8 and V-9 for the last two boats appear only on the construction authorization documents. Before the boats were even laid down the names were changed to Cachalot and Cuttlefish, and thus they never carried the V-class names at any time during their service lives.

In truth the "class" was to be a rapidly evolving series of experimental designs that ended up being pathfinders for the whole Fleet Submarine concept. The still primitive state-of-the-art in submarine construction and an as yet under-developed industrial base resulted in these boats being largely unsuccessful in the role. Even though the Navy struggled with the concept with the V-class, the mistakes and miscues with them led to solid development throughout the 1930's. The subsequent Porpoise, Shark, Perch, Salmon, Sargo and Tambor/Gar Classes refined the concept of the Fleet Submarine, allowing the Navy to just barely make it to the wire to meet the demands that Pearl Harbor would thrust upon it.


V-CLASS WW II SERVICE
By David L Johnston 2017 ©

Overweight with poor seakeeping qualities and underpowered engines, Barracuda, Bass, & Bonita (the former V-1, 2, & 3) ended up being roundly disliked in service yet clung to life until 1937 when they were decommissioned and laid up in reserve. They were recommissioned in 1940 as the war crisis loomed and performed local patrols and training cruises in the Canal Zone and East coast areas. Bass was even converted to a cargo carrying configuration but was completely unsuccessful in that role too. All three were decommissioned and disposed of in early 1945.

The big Argonaut (formerly V-4) was a purpose built minelayer that performed reasonably well even though her unique minelaying gear proved unpopular. Very large with poor underwater maneuverability she was lost to Japanese destroyers in 1943.

Narwhal & Nautilus (formerly V-5 and V-6) were the most successful of the V-boats despite being underpowered. Too big to be effective patrol submarines they performed mostly special missions during the war like reconnaissance, cargo transport, and landing raiding parties, and did manage to sink a few ships.

Built to a more optimum size and configuration Dolphin was lightly built to save weight and by the time the war started was thoroughly worn out and in bad shape. She conducted three zero war patrols and was then sent back to the East coast for training duties. An even further attempt to cut back on size, Cachalot and Cuttlefish proved too small for effective patrol service and were also sent back to the East coast for training duties, were they turned in yeoman service for the remainder of the war.



Caption Co-authored by Dave Johnston & Ric Hedman
Photo Courtesy of Senior Chief Don

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The USS Cachalot, SS 170, (ex-V-8), seen here on seatrials off the Isle Of Shoals, New Hampshire, circa 1933/34. A breaking wave is just about covering her name. The break in the deck superstructure is where the fold down boarding ladder is to be placed.

In the background, to the left of the conning tower, Star Island can be seen with the Oceanic Hotel. At the far left at the top edge of the photo Lunging Island can just be made out. This places the Cachalot on an Easterly heading just off the north shore of White Island to the south and out of the photo to get this perspective. To the right the horizon has been painted out by the newspaper artists. There a number of small "tweaks" made by the newspaper artists to enable the photo to print with better definition.

Cachalot was the near culmination of a long trial process to make a true "Fleet Boat".

On December 7, 1941 Cachalot was in Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in overhaul. During the attack one of her men was wounded, the submarine suffered no damage. Yard work on her was completed at a furious pace, and on January 12, 1942 she sailed on her first war patrol. After fueling at Midway, she conducted a reconnaissance of Wake, Eniwetok, Ponape, Truk, Namonuito, and Hall Islands, returning to Pearl Harbor March 18, 1942 with vitally needed intelligence of Japanese bases. Her second war patrol, she left from Midway on June 9, 1942 and was conducted off the Japanese home islands, where she damaged an enemy tanker. Returning to Pearl Harbor July 26, 1942, she left on her final war patrol September 23, 1942 penetrating the frigid waters of the Bering Sea in support of the Aleutians operations.

Overage for strenuous war patrols, she spent the remainder of the war as a training ship for the Submarine School at New London. She served here until June 30 1945, when she sailed to Philadelphia where she was decommissioned October 17, 1945. She was sold January 26, 1947. Cachalot received three battle stars for World War II service.


News Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman

USS Cachalot SS 170
USS Cachalot SS 170 (ex- V-8)

USS Cachalot SS 170
C-1, USS Cachalot SS 170 (ex- V-8)
She looks to be moored someplace in the Caribbean or Panama, most likely mid 1930's.
Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman


USS Cachalot SS 170
C-1, USS Cachalot SS 170 (ex- V-8)
She looks to be moored someplace in the Caribbean or Panama, most likely mid 1930's.
Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman


USS Cachalot SS 170
C-1, USS Cachalot SS 170 (ex- V-8)
She looks to be moored someplace in the Caribbean or Panama, most likely mid 1930's.
Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman


USS Cachalot SS 170
C-1, USS Cachalot SS 170 (ex- V-8)
She looks to be moored someplace in the Caribbean or Panama, most likely mid 1930's.
Bedding is being aired. Topside watch is looking around the back of the conning towwer fairwater
Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman


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USS Cuttlefish on launch day sliding down the ways at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. November 21, 1933 into the Thames River. The skyline of New London, Conn. is in the background. The sub is decked out in bunting and signal flags. A man at the side of the conning tower fairwater throws his arms in in joy or exhilaration as the sub slide down the ways.

This photo was taken by a spectator to the launching, maybe a yard employee or guest or family member.

Original Snapshot in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman
~NOT A Navy Photo - NOT In Public Domain~

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USS Cuttlefish in a pre-commissioning photo. The image is date stamped on the back with March 27, 1934. Any location information has been lost. The submarine is anchored off a shoreline that may be almost anywhere off the New England coast but since she was an Electric Boat built submarine probably the Long Island Sound area. Her boarding ladder is partly lowered out of her after starboard superstructure. A number of men are seen standing around her 3"/50 high mount deck gun, maybe operating the boarding ladder. Another looks from around the conning tower fairwater forward. Below the "2"on the conning tower, on the side of the hull superstructure, are the rungs of an installed external ladder.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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A detail from a USS Cuttlefish pre-commissioning photo. This shows the submarines anchor chain leading out of the anchor housing. There, also, seems to be a lot of water abrasion to the paint at the waterline and around the limber holes.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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A detail from a USS Cuttlefish pre-commissioning photo. This detail show the extended gangway used to ease transfer of personnel from small boats to and from the submarine. Forward on the hull can be seen the four rungs of a permanently mounted ladder.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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USS Cuttlefish (C-2) on commissioning day, June 8, 1934. Presiding over the commissioning was Captain Thomas Withers, Commandant of the New London Submarine Base. Lt. Commander Charles Styer took command of the Cuttlefish as her first Captain.

Fifteen members of the crew, perhaps the duty section, are seen in this photo. The man in the center may be the Duty Officer, he is an Ensign. The man to his left is wearing a web belt and is probably the Topside Watch. The second and fourth men from the left are Chief Petty Officers. The man on the right at the bow seems to missing his ring finger on his left hand.

At the top of the radio mast flies her newly raised Commissioning Pennant. At the extreme left on the photo edge the US Flag is flying from the flag staff.

News Wire Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

USS Cuttlefish SS 171
USS Cuttlefish SS 171 (ex- V-9)

USS Cuttlefish SS 171
USS Cuttlefish SS 171

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USS Cuttlefish seen surfacing from one of her dives during sea trials spring of 1934.
Original Photo from the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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USS Cuttlefish seen surfacing from one of her dives during sea trials spring of 1934.
Original Photo from the Private Collection of Ric Hedman/center>

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USS Cuttlefish pre commissioning photo spring 1934. A miniature version of this photo is used on the covers below. The Cuttlefish was decommissioned on October 24, 1945.

Original Photo from the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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On October 5, 1941 the USS Cuttlefish cleared Pearl Harbor for an overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard. She was there when the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was launched.

After overhaul she returned to Hawaii. Her first war patrol commenced on January 29, 1942. On the 13th of February Cuttlefish was off Marcus Island, gaining valuable information from her reconnaissance, and after patrolling in the Bonin Islands, returned to Midway on March 24, 1942.

She refitted at Midway and at Pearl Harbor, and on May 2nd she cleared Midway after topping off with fuel for her second war patrol. Between May 18 and 24, she reconnoitered Saipan and the northern islands of the Marianas group.

On May 19 she attacked a patrol ship, and while maneuvering for a second attack, was detected. She was forced deep to endure 4 hours of severe depth charging, more of which came her way on May 24 when she challenged three enemy destroyers. The next day an alert enemy plane caught her on the surface and dropped two bombs as she went under, both of them misses. Her riveted hull was taking a beating.

As it became obvious that the Japanese Fleet was out in strength, Cuttlefish was ordered to patrol about 700 miles west of Midway, remaining on station during the Battle of Midway of June 4 to 6, 1942. She returned to Pearl Harbor June 15th.

Her third war patrol, for which she sailed on July 29, 1942, patrolling off the Japanese homeland, she attacked a destroyer on August 18th, and received a punishing depth charge attack. Three days later she launched a spread of torpedoes, three of which hit a freighter and one of which hit an escort. Explosions were seen, but the sinking could not be confirmed. On September 5, 1942 she attacked a tanker which, it is believed, she sunk.

Returning to Pearl Harbor September 20, 1942, Cuttlefish was ordered to New London, where she was to serve the Submarine School as a training ship from December 1942 until October 1945.

This photo has a date as being taken on or about June 8, 1943, which was a Tuesday that year. The submarine must have been in port as the type of activity seen here speaks of men in off hours, probably after the evening meal and not at sea and most likely moored at the Submarine Base, New London.

The man in the foreground is shining his shoes. You don't do that during the "work day". The man on the bunk and the man with the coffee cup are talking. The sailor in the top bunk is reading a Zane Grey western novel called Wildfire. Western books were very popular with sailors and were still taken to sea in the 60's and 70's. Who knows they may still go to sea in the modern Navy. The readers shoes are sitting on the deck at the photos left.

There is no clear evidence but the photo looks to be taken in the after Battery and looking aft. The door leading into what is most likely the Crews Head or Bathroom. The Oval water tight door then should probably lead into the engine room.

On the right edge of the photo is a Bunk Bag hanging from the triced up bunk. This bag was used to stow various items of clothing or towels or just about anything the sailor wanted to have at the ready. Personal storage space was at a premium so any extra space you could make for yourself was welcomed. This bag is made from cloth with a zipper. Modern bags are made from synthetic materials.

Behind the seated man on the right is a locker cabinet up against the bulkhead. There is probably a series of small lockers for men to use for personal items and clothing. The compartment was riddled with many of these small lockers all along the outer bulkheads between the bunks. The stack of bunks on the right is actually double sided with an identical stack of bunks on the opposite side and then more bunks that mirror the bunks on the left in the photo. In all, this compartment would have between 36 to 40 bunks for crew.

Air conditioning outlets and duct work are seen at the top of the photo. By this time in the war all the older boats that were built without air conditioning, mainly the O, R and S class submarines, had been retro fitted. Air conditioning eliminated most of the condensation and humidity in submarines that contributed to electrical shorts and grounds. The one big problem submarines had suffered since the beginning. A side benefit was the crews morale was higher and people more comfortable aboard the vessel. The Cuttlefish was the first submarine to have such a system installed in 1935.

Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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This close up of the man reading shows the cover of the novel clearly, Wildfire by Zane Grey, which was published in 1917, during the last World War. It was still favorite reading by servicemen 25 years later in the midst of another war. It was still being read at sea 50 years later. A classic of Western themed writing genre.

Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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This close up of the right edge of the photo is of a Bunk Bag hanging from the triced up bunk. This bag was used to stow various items of clothing or towels or just about anything the sailor wanted to have at the ready. Personal storage space was at a premium so any extra space you could make for yourself was welcomed. This bag is made from cloth with a zipper. Modern bags are made from synthetic materials.

Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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USS Cuttlefish decommissioning covers. These are unused with no addresses or stamps or cancellation stamps. The Cuttlefish was decommissioned on October 24, 1945. The top one is done with gold embossing ink and has a noticible bumpiness to the ink. The bottom one had minor relief to the blue ink. Both envelopes have an actual miniature photo attached to the face of the envelope. The photos are small versions of the photo just above this one.

Original Covers from the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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USS Cuttlefish decommissioning covers close-ups. These are unused with no addresses or stamps or cancellation stamps. The Cuttlefish was decommissioned on October 24, 1945. The right one is done with gold embossing ink and has a noticible bumpiness to the ink. The left one had minor relief to the blue ink. Both envelopes have an actual miniature photo attached to the face of the envelope. The photos are small versions of the photo just above.

Original Covers from the Private Collection of Ric Hedman


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