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SS-9 C-1 Octopus

Five "C" class submarines were authorized in FY1904 and laid down at Fore River Shipbuilding, Quincy MA from 1905-08, and commissioned 1908-10. These were significantly larger than the "A" and "B" class boats with 275 tons submerged displacement and 105 feet in length. Surface speed was improved by several knots, as was submerged speed; test depth was 200 feet. These were designed by L.Y. Spear and were the first designed entirely by him. Originally known as the "Octopus" class, in 1911 the Navy referred to these boats as C-1 thru 5. In 1920, they would receive the designations SS-9, 13, 14, 15, and 16.

Although Holland and L.Y. Spear likely collaborated during the early phases of the B-class design, the ensuing C-class boats - and their successors - were entirely Spear's. Thus, in the evolution of the A-, B-, and C-class configurations, one can trace the waning of John Holland's influence and the increasing shift toward L.Y. Spear's own technical vision.

As a former officer of the Navy's pre-1900 Construction Corps, Spear retained a strong surface-ship orientation. One of Rice's key motivations in bringing him into Electric Boat was his recent Navy experience and his presumed familiarity with the service's operational needs and its likes and dislikes. Spear became president of Electric Boat in 1940 and then chairman of the board in 1947. He died in 1950, and the submarine tender USS Lawrence Y. Spear (AS-36, commissioned in 1970) was later named after him.

Spear was quick to retreat from Holland's ideal concept of the "true" submarine - shaped like a fish and more at home underwater than on the surface. This position prompted Holland's famous observation that "The Navy does not like submarines because there is no deck to strut on." Rather, he - and the Navy - saw the submarine primarily as a submersible surface ship, to be optimized for operating above water. Consequently, to improve sea-keeping and to provide greater visibility, a larger, free-flooding superstructure with a sail-like conning tower was grafted onto the pressure hull, and surface buoyancy was significantly enhanced to decrease wetness. To Holland's dismay, these changes inevitably diminished the boats' inherent underwater maneuverability and lengthened the time it took them to submerge.

They were the first US submarine to incorporate two shafts and first to be fitted with an underwater bell which was used to signal and communicate with other craft and ships. During World War One they patrolled the Panama Canal zone and Florida coast. The entire class was decommissioned in 1919 and sold for scrap on 13 April 1920.

Coastal and harbor defense was one of the earliest missions of the submarine force. Since early submarines could not transit over long distances they were transported by colliers. The U.S. Navy recognized the need to improve submarine design to allow for long range, high-speed operation while submerged. During the winter of 1909, the U.S. submarine C-1 conducted the first tests of the predecessor to today's snorkel masts. Called ventilator tubes, this technological innovation provided surface air to the diesel engines while the submarine was at periscope depth.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:42:24 ZULU