G-4

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G-4 was an attempt to introduce competition to the submarine acquisition process in the years immediately before WWI. Authorized in Fiscal Year 1910 along with Lake's Turbot, Thrasher was built to an Italian design by naval architect Cesare Laurenti, whose boats for the Italian Navy had gained some recognition. Laurenti contracted with the William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Co. in Philadelphia for construction. The design had two forward 18" torpedo tubes that were situated below the elongated bow, with two more aft under an overhanging flat "shovel" shaped stern. These aft tubes were the very first aft firing tubes in a USN submarine. She was a double hull boat, with an inner elliptically shaped pressure hull wrapped by a flattened circle shaped outer hull. Two fixed height periscopes were fitted forward of the conning tower. She also had two rudders, one below the stern and a smaller one topside on the aft deck. Thrasher (G-4) suffered from numerous mechanical and stability problems and was not considered successful, despite being liked by her crews. She was the only submarine built to a foreign design ever commissioned into the USN.

Drawing by Jim Christley, courtesy of Navsource.org

G-4 at the Cramp yard during her 'fitting out' period, fall of 1912. This is a good overhead view of some of her more unusual features. The bow planes lay flat on the fore deck. They fold out and down and lock on to an axle that then rotates the planes to dive and rise positions. Although hard to see at the stern, the stern planes operate like the bow planes and are partly extended. The port plane can be seen as a square shape just forward of the 'doghouse' on the stern. The starboard plane is actually seen edge on, but its reflection can be seen in the water and you can se its square shape there. In the fully extended position both sets of planes would be flat to the water. Cramp yard slipways can be seen in the background.

National Archives photo.

G-4, seen on October 2, 1912, at the Cramp yard going through her 'fitting out' period where she will receive a majority of her piping, electrical and internal systems and habitability features. On the right near the bow the anchor hawsepipe can be seen, with an anchor chain running aft into an enclosed locker. This locker housed the anchor itself, attached to a "billboard" style release mechanism. The locker doors had to be opened to release the anchor. Billboard style anchor mounts were common on surface ships of this time, but very unusual on submarines.

Photo NH 43799 courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

Photo from the Rick Larson Collection, now in the private collection of Ric Hedman.

National Archives photos.

A few of the workmen from the Cramp ship yard that built the G-4. Seen here are yard officials, shop and department supervisors and the craftsmen who were putting the G-4 together. Commissioning was still 14 months away.

Photo NH 73381 courtesy NHHC.


Ensign Paul Frederick Foster, USN, photographed circa 1914. Foster was born on March 25, 1889 in Wichita, Kansas. He received a senatorial appointment from the State of Idaho to the U.S. Naval Academy. Following graduation in 1911, he served on the cruiser USS Washington (Armored Cruiser No. 11) and the battleship USS Utah (BB-31) as a midshipman and, in March 1912, was commissioned as an Ensign. On 21-22 April 1914, Foster participated at the intervention at Vera Cruz, Mexico, leading his landing company with skill and courage. For his "distinguished conduct in battle", he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

After submarine instruction on board the auxiliary cruiser USS Prairie, he reported on board the G-4. In March 1915, Foster was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade and, in early 1916, was given command of G-4.

Relocating to Ireland in December 1917, he was assigned to the submarine tender USS Bushnell (Submarine Tender No. 2) in Bantry Bay, Ireland. Foster was temporarily promoted to Lieutenant in May 1918. While serving in Irish waters, he took command of the submarine L-2 (Submarine No 41). Lieutenant Foster was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his role in the sinking of the German submarine UB-65 off the Irish coast on 10 July 1918.

National Archives photo.

National Archives photos.

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