S-30 through S-41

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Design and Construction Notes

These 12 submarines made up the second contract awarded to the Electric Boat Company (EB), and all were assigned for construction to an EB sub-contractor, Union Iron Works in San Francisco. By the time of the start of construction, UIW had been sold to Bethlehem Steel and it was known as Bethlehem San Francisco (BSF). The boats were near duplicates of their 20 series sisters, with the only noticeable difference being the smaller, rounded shape of the bow plane pivot fairings. Like the boats built by Bethlehem Quincy, the 30 series boats were all of the standard EB single hull design with an axial mounted rudder, stern planes, and propellers. BSF got an immediate start on the boats and worked in parallel with the Quincy yard. In fact, S-30 was the 2nd of the EB boats to be commissioned, following S-1 by only four months.

These boats suffered from the same engine problems as the Quincy built boats, with their introduction into active service being greatly delayed until the solution of a larger diameter crankshaft was decided upon and implemented. Once fixed, these boats provided great service to the fleet, and they could be found in every theater that the U.S. Navy operated in.

The initial lack of adequate numbers of fleet boats meant that the Navy relied heavily on these submarines in the early months of the war. Most made many war patrols, with the high operational tempo being very hard on these then 20 year old submarines. Two of them were lost. The remainder served until the end of the war, receiving many upgrades like air conditioning, radar, rebuilt superstructures, and additional guns. The remaining boats were quickly discarded at the end of the war, but they had proved their worth by stepping up for war duty when called for.

S-30 (SS-135)

Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
S-30 hauled out in the floating drydock at Submarine Base New London, Groton, CT. The date is approximately 1935-1936. S-30 has received all of the safety improvements following the S-4 disaster. Her aft superstructure skeg has been cut away forward of the rudder, an escape hatch has been installed in the motor room, and a rescue marker buoy has been installed at the new aft end of the superstructure.

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S-31 (SS-136)

Photo NH 93671 courtesy of the NHHC.
Photo NH 93671 courtesy of the NHHC.
A port side view of S-31 at Culebra, Puerto Rico, February 22, 1924. In the background is the Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Kingfisher (AM-25).

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S-32 (SS-137)

Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
S-32 maneuvering along a shoreline with a Chinese style junk or sampan in the foreground.

The photo is captioned on the back and states that the submarine is "...now stationed at Manila..." with a date of February 1, 1932. Though this same exact photo is seen in a newspaper story in late 1928 and says it is at Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China.

It is likely that the photo was taken in 1928 in or near a Chinese port and was later reused by a newspaper.

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S-33 (SS-138)

U.S. Navy photo
U.S. Navy photo
S-33 on builder's trials off San Pedro (Los Angeles), CA., November 23, 1920. When this photo was taken, the full extent of the engine issues facing Electric Boat was not yet fully known. S-33 would not be able to complete the full speed portion of her trials. The Navy had mandated lower power settings until the engines could be fixed by EB. Her commissioning was delayed until 1922 while the Navy and EB searched for a solution. After commissioning, S-33 immediately (and slowly) headed for New London where the engine rebuild was accomplished.

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S-34 (SS-139)

Photo NH 108437 courtesy of the NHHC.
Photo NH 108437 courtesy of the NHHC.
S-34 sits in drydock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA., August 22, 1924. S-34 had run aground 13 days earlier near Benicia, CA. Luckily damage was minor, and it can be seen low on the hull, aft of the conning tower fairwater. She would be quickly repaired and put back into service. This photo also clearly shows the smaller rounded fairings for the bow plane pivots, a noticeable change from the slab sided angular fairings of the Quincy built boats. Low on the hull underneath the "S 34" on the superstructure is a tubular fairing for the MV series passive sonar. There was a similar fairing on the starboard side.

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S-35 (SS-140)

U.S. Navy photo.
U.S. Navy photo.
S-35 shown here, likely in Asian waters, 1925-1926. Another S-boat is behind her. There was a tremendous variation in how the boat's name was displayed. In this case, only the 35 is shown, in white numerals painted on a black background near the upper forward end of the bridge fairwater. There were at least five different schemes for this, and this led the Navy to standardize on using only the hull number in 1938.

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S-36 (SS-141)*

Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
S-36 off Tsingtao (Qindao), China, circa 1927. She is displaying yet another of the many methods of displaying the boat's name. The aft end of the conning tower fairwater has been raised from her as-built configuration. This area contained an access hatch to the after battery compartment and a ventilation intake. It was found to be too low and it frequently shipped water in even a moderate sea. This part of the fairwater was raised to the height shown here within one to two years of commissioning. On the far left it can be seen that the aft end of the superstructure skeg has been cut away. It was found that this area had been lightly built and it was rather narrow, making proper maintenance very difficult. It suffered badly from saltwater induced corrosion, sometimes to the point of being structurally unsound. In most cases it was removed, leaving the "stubby" look shown here. This was only the superstructure. The pressure hull, along with the rudders, propellers, and diving planes remained out of view below the water.

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S-37 (SS-142)

Photo provided by the late MMCM(SS) Rick Larson, USN (Ret.)
Photo provided by the late MMCM(SS) Rick Larson, USN (Ret.)
S-37 off Tsingtao, China, getting ready to moor to the submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9). Another unidentified S-boat is in the background. S-37's gun is pointed to port and skyward, and her torpedo loading derrick is assembled and in place, indicating that the boat is returning from a torpedo firing exercise. In the upper left you can see that there is a gap in the superstructure, with the rudder just visible in the boat's wake. The skeg has been cut away similar to the S-36 above.

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S-38 (SS-143)

Photo NH 97960 courtesy of NHHC.
Photo NH 97960 courtesy of NHHC.
S-38 shown under construction at the Bethlehem San Francisco yard, March 29, 1923. S-38 was one of the boats built on the west coast that had the engine rebuilds done there. Electric Boat sent a team of engineers to San Francisco along with a train car full of parts to do the rebuilds. This accounts for the rather late date of this photo. Note the long superstructure skeg at her stern, tapering gently down to the rudder. This is the original design, which proved to be lightly built and prone to severe corrosion. A portion of it was later removed on all of the EB design boats.

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S-39 (SS-144)*

USN photo # 80-G-466176, courtesy of NARA.
USN photo # 80-G-466176, courtesy of NARA.
S-39 making a surface run off Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China, June 13, 1930. The after end of the conning tower fairwater has been raised, and the superstructure skeg has been cut away. The rudder can just be seen right at the waterline on the far left. The pressure hull around the motor room is underwater in this view, between the end of the superstructure and the rudder. S-39 has yet to receive the safety upgrades mandated after the S-4 disaster of 1927.

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S-40 (SS-145)

Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
S-40 on a calm sea, perhaps preparing to moor to a tender. The location is unknown, but is likely during her service with the Asiatic Fleet. Photo date is approximately 1925. She is sporting yet another variation in how her name is displayed, this time with the "40" painted prominently on the aft superstructure skeg.

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S-41 (SS-146)

Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
Photo in the private collection of Ric Hedman.
S-41 is shown here in Asiatic waters, circa 1939-1940. By this time she had been painted in the standard flat black, a scheme that the Navy adopted for all submarines in 1935. She has only her hull number, 146, displayed. This was also part of a standardization effort, intended to do away with all of the topside naming variations that had persisted through the 1920's and 1930's.

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(*) Indicates a boat lost during World War II.

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