On 3 March 1916 Congress purchases sixteen coastal submarines which would become the "O" class (O-1 thru 10) and modified "O" class (O-11 thru 16) at a cost of $550,000 each. The harbor defense requirements of the "N" class were withdrawn; requirements were for 14 knots surface speed, radius of 3,150nm at 11 knots. Electric Boat was contracted to build O-1 thru 10 and Lake to build O-11 thru 16. The first two, O-1 and O-2 were built at Portsmouth and Puget Sound Navy Yards. These were laid down 1916-17 and joined the service between May and November 1918.
These were the first US submairnes with reliable diesel engines and incorporated significantly enhanced habilitability improvements, for example, every man had his own berth and locker. Evaporators were first incorporated on the "O" boats as well though they were rarely used since they wasted battery power.
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.
O-5 (SS-66) was rammed by United Fruit steamer Abangarez in Limon Bay and sank in less than a minute, with the loss of 3 men. She was raised and sold for scrap in December 1924. The remainder of the Electric Boat built boats were decommissioned May to July 1931 and all but O-1 were recommissioned to train submarine crews during World War II. O-1 was scrapped in 1938. Refurbished and recommissioned in April 1941, O-9 was conducting deep submergence tests off Portsmouth NH when she failed to resurface. The remaining "O" boats were decommissioned in 1945 and scrapped.
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