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SS-28 H-1 Seawolf

The Seawolf or "H" class boats were based on Electric Boats design EB26. Three were authorized in FY1910; Seawolf (No.28), Nautilus (No.29), and Garfish (No.30). These were laid down in March-April 1911 at Union Iron Works (2) and Seattle Construction & Drydock Co. (1). They were renamed H-1, H-2, and H-3 in November 1911 and commissioned in the US Navy 1913-14. Their design was based on the need for a fast, long-range submarine that could attack enemy ports or lay in wait in channels at the beginning of a war. They were based on the F-boat design but there was a new requirement for the engines to be reversible.

World War I illustrated a need to shift the priorities in submarine construction and operation. In order to be effective combatants, submarines required improved stealth capabilities such as rapid submergence (i.e., crash dives) and long submerged endurance at low speeds following a torpedo attack. Existing submarines were all considered too small to incorporate these capabilities. However, such designs like the H-boat were the only ones that could be built quickly. As a result, these submarines were overloaded with the addition of key elements required for wartime sailing-chariot bridge, torpedo room ventilation, oscillator, and gyrocompass.

Britain secretly contracted with Electric Boat to build boats of this class in 1914. Twenty boats were ordered, ten of which were to be assembled by Vickers in Montreal to avoid US neutrality law and the remaining ten would be delivered after conclusion of World War One. The first ten boats were completed May to June 1915 and travelled to England, the remaining ten remained in the US until April 1917 when the US entered the war.

Russia ordered 18 boats (known as the AG class) in 1915. Twelve were delivered for assembly at Petrograd and Nikolayev; the last six (AG17-20, 27, and 28) were cancelled and purchased by the US Navy on 20 May 1918 becoming H-4 through 9. These were built by Electric Boat and stored at Vancouver, British Columbia prior to US purchase, then assembled at Puget Sound Navy Yard. Each of these submarines would find their home at the Submarine Base in San Pedro, California.

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.

H-3 ran hard aground on Samoa Beach at Eureka in heavy fog on the morning of 16 December 1916. She was eventually salvaged and relaunched on 20 April 1917 at Humboldt Bay. These three initial H-boats served patrol duties during World War One.

H-1 was intentionally grounded off Santa Margarita Island, CA after fire broke out 24 Mar 1920. She was sold for scrap in June 1920 but never salvaged. The remainder of the class were decommissioned October to November 1922. H-2, H-3, and H-4 were sold for scrap in September 1931; the remainder in November 1933.

Test depth was 200 feet.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:42:01 ZULU