L-1 Rammed Off Delaware Capes
The Fifth Submarine Division was ordered from Hampton Roads to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The submarines involved with this transit were the USS L-1, L-2, L-3 and L-9. The submarines left Hampton Roads on February 1, 1921. During the trip the crews practised a number of drills, among them were diving and surfacing drills used in developing submarine warfare tactics learned and expanded on from WW I.
"The four submarines, practising manoeuvres, alternately diving and steaming on the surface, gambolled like huge dolphins up the coast..." the newspapers reported.
The USS L-1 was under the command of Lieut Robert Philip Luker. The L-2, by Lieut John Kennon Jayne, the L-3 by Lieut Lew Wallace Bagby and the L-9 was commanded by Lieut Ernest Homer Krueger.
First one submarine and then another would dive and run submerged for a while and get their trim and then run a simulated attack on one of her number and then surface. The next submarine would do the same and so on. This pattern progressed on into the night. When surfaced the submarines adhered to the rules of the road in displaying proper navigational lighting.
The small flotilla progressed up the Delaware coast and well after midnight the group was approaching the Delaware Capes still running their drills. They were about eight miles off Cape Penlopen, near the Overfalls Light ship, the seas were smooth and the night was very dark.
Captain John H. Kelly. skipper of the pilot boat Philadelphia saw the small lights out to sea and set off to inquire if the vessel needed a pilot. Due to the darkness of the night and how close to the waters surface the light appeared Kelly misjudged the distance to the L-1 thinking it was a larger ship at a much further distance. At 2:50 AM, before either vessel could react, the bow of the Philadelphia ran up onto the port quarter of the L-1 denting her plates and opening seams. Water began entering the submarine in her engine room but the pumps seemed to be keeping up for a bit.
Kelly passed a tow line to the L-1 but Captain Luker was of the opinion he could make shore but soon the engines stopped and were not able to be restarted. The Philadelphia took the L-1 in tow and managed to get her behind the breakwater at Lewes, Del. The submarine made it this far before she settles stern on the bottom between the Queen Anne pier at Lewes, Del., and the end of the breakwater.
Making sure the submarine was as secure as it could be the crew was removed from the ill-fated vessel and taken to various homes around the area and the men were fed and had a warm place to sleep.
The crew was listed as;
The L-1 Commanding Officer Lieutenant Robert Philip Luker
Lieutenant P. S. Cochran, XO
Alfred Sharon Worthine, Philadelphia
Harold Frank Aldrich, Wellsville, NY
Rupert Beaty, Cabot, Ark
Dominico Bnccino. 309 West 116th street, NY
Leetis Cobb, West Baden, Ind
Gus Farmer, Mayodan, NC
Julius Jacob Fieghene, Berwyn
Chas Wesley Fillmore, Boone, la
Ralph Tracy Hill, Los Angeles, Cal
Julius Loson Hicks, Etowsh, Tenn
William Joseph Leyhan, Louisville. Ky
William Oscar Lindquist, Wavward, Wis Clarence Eugene Mitchell, Houston. Tex
George Quade, Anacostia D. C.
Frank Charles Quaver, White Haven. Pa
Alphonso Joseph Souey, Danvers, Mass
Milo Bernard Thiese, Oelwein, Ia
Ralph Marion Wycroff, Toppenish, Wash
Calls were put into the Navy Yard and the salvage tug Kalmia was dispatched to Lewes to re-float he L-1. After a few days work in assessing the damage and placing collision matting on the damaged area of the hull the submarine, pumping of the engine room was begun. On February 8 the L-1 was slung between the Kalmia and the Navy Tug Modoc and the 85 mile trip up to Philadelphia begun.
Unfortunately, there is little or no more readily available information about the repair of the L-1 or its return to the fleet. This is just one of those little known or reported happenings that doesn't make it in to the official histories of ships.
Thanks to Ron Reeves for finding the commanding officers of the other three submarines.
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