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SS-166 V-4 Argonaut

Displacing 4,164 tons (submerged), USS V-4, later Argonaut (SS-1662), was both the largest submarine the Navy ever built before the advent of nuclear power and the only U.S. submarine specifically designed as a minelayer.

Her configuration, and that of the two V-class boats that followed - USS V-5 and USS V-6 - resulted from an evolving strategic concept that increasingly emphasized the possibility of a naval war with Japan in the far western Pacific. This factor - and the implications of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty - suggested the need for long-range submarine "cruisers," or "strategic scouts," as well as long-range minelayers, for which long endurance, not high speed, was most important.

Argonaut served as a predecessor to the submarine designs utilized during World War II. This submarine had twice the battery volume of earlier designs and included the first 240v electrical system, allowing for smaller onboard electric motors. V-4 was a descendent of the Barracuda (SS-163) class (also known as V-1), but 40 feet longer and with 50% greater displacement [over 3,000 tons, up from 2,000 tons]. V-4 was 381 feet long overall and carried four 21-inch torpedo tubes forward and two 40-inch mine-laying chutes and their associated mechanical handling equipment aft.

Considerable engine-room volume was sacrificed to achieve an internal payload of 60 specially-designed Mark XI moored mines, and consequently, the main propulsion diesels were limited to a total of 2,800 shaft horsepower, yielding only 15 knots on the surface. She was designed to fill the role of a long range minelayer in the Pacific. The forward torpedo tubes were full functional whereas the two aft tubes were designed for minelaying. It was the first US submarine to have a horizontal cylindrical conning tower which would become a design standard in later classes.

The long range, high endurance submarine was authorized for construction in 1925. The Argonaut (SS-166), originally intended for a minelaying mission, was authorized in the FY1925 program and laid down in May 1925 as V-4. Her designation at the time was SM-1; submarine minelayer.

V-4 was commissioned in April 1928. In February 1929 she broke the American submarine depth record off Provincetown MA -- 318 feet. She was renamed Argonaut (SS-166) in 1931.

Argonaut was the largest of the scout cruiser submarines built in the 1920s and early 1930s. An over-large, under-powered, and one-of-a-kind submarine, Argonaut was never particularly successful but stayed in commission all through the 1930s.

The diesel engines were underpowered and unreliable and were later replaced. Early in World War Two, she was re-engined at Mare Island with four GM 12-258S diesels and a 300kW GM 8-268A auxiliary diesel to increase her main propulsion horsepower to 3,600, and additionally received two external aft-firing torpedo tubes. Tt Pearl Harbor - having never laid a mine in anger - her mine-laying gear was stripped out to facilitate conversion to a troop-carrying submarine In 1942 she was converted to a troop transport submarine, and redesignated APS-1 on 22 September 1942. She took part in the landing of marine commandos on Makin in the Gilbert Islands.

Submarines played both humane and special operations roles in their campaign against Japan. In many of the hardest fought battles of the war submarine crews rescued unlucky carrier pilots who ended up in the sea, like future president George Bush. Fleet submarines also delivered troops tasked with special missions against Japanese Pacific strongholds. In August 1942, USS Nautilus [SS-169] and USS Argonaut [SS-166] delivered Marine Colonel Evans F. Carlson's "Raiders" to Makin Island. Upon completing their mission to reconnoiter the island and destroy its most important facilities, the two submarines picked up the Marines and returned to Pearl Harbor.

On 10 July 1943 she was lost with all 105 hands to enemy action while attacking a Japanese convoy.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:41:39 ZULU