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United States O-class submarine
USS O-1 (SS-62) in dry dock at Portsmouth Nary Yard, Sept 1918.
USS O-1 (SS-62) lead ship of her class in dry dock at Portsmouth Nary Yard in September 1918
Class overview
Operators: United States of America
Preceded by: N-class submarine
Succeeded by: R-class submarine
Completed: 16
Lost: 3
Retired: 16
General characteristics
Type: Submarine
Displacement: Group 1 :
520.6 long tons (529 t) surfaced
625 long tons (635 t) submerged
Group 2 :
491 long tons (499 t) surfaced
565 long tons (574 t) submerged
Length: Group 1 : 173 ft 4 in (52.83 m)
Group 2 : 175 ft (53 m)
Beam: Group 1 : 18 ft (5.5 m)
Group 2 : 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m)
Propulsion: Group 1 :
2 × 440 hp (328 kW) NELSECO diesel engines
2 × New York Navy Yard (O1-O5) or Electro Dynamic Co. 370 hp (276 kW) electric motors
Group 2 :
2 × 500 hp (373 kW) Busch Sulzer diesel engines
2 × Diehl Manufacture Co. 400 hp (298 kW) electric motors
Speed: Group 1 :
14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) submerged
Group 2 :
14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) submerged
Range: 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) at 11 kn (20 km/h; 13 mph) surfaced
250 nmi (460 km) at 5 kn (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Complement: 29
Armament: • 4 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes, 4 reloads
• 1 × 3 in (76 mm) deck gun

The United States Navy's O class submarines were created out of the lessons learned from the United States L class submarine. The O class were more robust with greater power and endurance for ocean patrols. The O class were built much faster than previous classes and were commissioned in 1918. The group 2 boats entered service just before the end of World War I. Eight of the group 1 boats survived to serve in World War II as training boats when they were recommissioned in 1941.

The class originally operated in the anti-submarine role off the USA's East Coast. Two of the boats, USS O-4 and USS O-6, came under fire from a British merchantman in the Atlantic on 24 July 1918. The steamer scored six hits on O-4's conning tower and pressure hull before her identity was discovered. O-4 suffered minor damage caused by shell splinters. USS O-3 to USS O-10 boats formed part of the twenty-strong submarine force that left Newport, Rhode Island on 2 November 1918 for the Azores but the task force was recalled after the Armistice was signed nine days later.

Nine O type submarines from Submarine Division 8 at Boston, 1921

The second group of boats suffered from electrical problems. USS O-11 was immediately sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for a five-month overhaul. USS O-13 sank the patrol boat Mary Alice in a collision while she (O-13) was submerged.[1] USS O-15 also underwent a refit but was sent into reserve soon after before she went into service at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone. This also involved another overhaul. USS O-16 also underwent a refit soon after commissioning and later suffered a fire in her conning tower in December 1919. All of the group 2 boats were decommissioned in July 1924 and were scrapped in July 1930 under the terms of the London Naval Treaty. USS O-12 however was used in an Arctic expedition by Sir Hubert Wilkins and was renamed Nautilus. After being returned to the US Navy, she was sunk in a Norwegian fjord in November 1931.

The first group served well although USS O-5 was rammed by a cargo ship and sunk near the Panama Canal with the loss of three crew members. All of the group 1 boats were recommissioned in 1941 to serve as training boats based at New London, Connecticut. The remaining boats were taken out of service four months later except for USS O-9 which sank in deep submergence trials in June 1941. Thirty-three of her crew were lost.

O-3 underway, 1918

Boats in class

Group 1

Group 2

See also


  1. 1 Dictionary of American Fighting Ships
  • Submarines, War Beneath the Waves, from 1776 to the Present Day, By Robert Hutchinson.

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