SS-24 E-1 Skipjack
In 1912 the U.S. Navy replaced its submarine gasoline engines with safer and more efficient diesel engines. The oil-burning diesel engine required no complicated ignition, or sparking systems, and it produced fewer noxious fumes. The USS Skipjack (SS-24) and USS Sturgeon (SS-25) were the first U.S. submarines equipped with diesel propulsion.
The "E" class submarine was essentially a diesel powered "D" class submarine. This class incorporated changes ordered in 1908. Skipjack (No.24) and Sturgeon (No.25) were laid down by Fore River Shipbuilding on 22 December 1909 and commissioned on the same day, 14 February 1912. Their original names were replaced by the pennant numbers E-1 and E-2 in 1911. Lt. Chester W. Nimitz was placed in command of E-1; he would later become a key figure in naval history.
Test depth was 200-feet. E-2 was out of service between March 1916 and March 1918 after a battery explosion claimed four crew. She served during those years as a laboratory, for exhaustive tests of the Edison storage battery. Thereafter she served experimental work at New London then made six war patrols off the US coast hunting German U-boats for which work she was commended. E-1 pioneered the testing of the Sperry gyrocompassing in 1912, patrolled the Azores during World War I, and tested underwater listening gear (later known as Sonar). Both submarines were decommissioned in October 1921 and scrapped.
Early submarine classes such as E, H, K, L, M, N, O, and R, known as "pig boats" or "boats" because of their unusual hull shape and foul living conditions, ranged in displacement from 287 to 510 tons. The fastest "boats" achieved top surface speeds of 14 knots under diesel power. During World War I, US submarines were divided into two groups according to mission. Boats of the N and O classes, as well as some of the E type, patrolled American coasts and harbors in a defensive role. Some K, L, O, and E class boats conducted offensive, open-sea operations from the Azores and Bantry Bay in Ireland. They supported the Allied effort to maintain open sea lanes along the European coast and in the approaches to the British Isles.
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