Friday, March 25, 2011

In Memoriam - USS F-4 (SS-23) - Lost 25 March 1915

USS F-4 (SS-23) was commissioned 3 May 1913. Originally named USS Skate, she was one of the first submarines to be built on the West Coast. F-4 participated in developmental operations with the First Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla on the West Coast until the summer of 1914, when she moved on to Hawaiian waters. On 25 March 1915, she sank during training maneuvers, just over a mile from the harbor at Honolulu. Rescue efforts failed, and her entire crew of 21 sailors was lost.

This was America's first major submarine accident.

F-4 was finally raised in August of 1915. Since the sunken submarine lay at a depth of over 300 feet, at the very limits of the diving equipment of that time, this was a major accomplishment for the Navy. After examining the wreckage, analysts decided that the most likely explanation for the sinking was corrosion of the lead lining in the battery tank. The corrosion would would have permitted sea water to seep into the battery compartment, causing the CO to lose control of his submerged vessel. F-4's remains were ultimately towed to a remote part of the Naval Base, where they could remain, undisturbed for all eternity.

Of the 21 sailors who went down with F-4 in March of 1915, only four could be positively identified. The remains of their shipmates were interred together at Arlington National Cemetery, where they rest today. The original headstone, shown here, has been replaced and is now on display at the USS Bowfin submarine museum in Honolulu, HI.


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