Happy Belated Birthday, United States Navy!

Posted by on October 14, 2009

Yesterday, it turns out, was the birthday of the United States Navy!  I had been doing some research over at the Navy History & Heritage Command website and found that out.

Help Your Country RG 045 01159_2006_001


Go Navy! (Even though I’m an Army guy, it’s still good to wish a happy birthday!)

In honor of this special day, I thought it would be a good thing to go back and talk for a while about the S-49 and S-50.  Part of the S-series class boats (submarines) developed during and just after the World War One era, they have a great but uneventful history of service with the Navy during these years.

S-49 and S-50 (also numbered SS-160 and SS-161) were both launched in 1921 and assumed duties with the fleet on various exercises and assignments.  With internal diesel engines and a sustained surface speed of 20+ knots these were an advantage to the older class of submarines used during the previous war.  Additional armament of 4” deck guns and a combat range of 2,000+ miles proved to be added benefits.



By the late 1920’s, after suffering battery explosions during service with the fleet, both boats had been retrofitted and overhauled to stay current.  The bell was tolling however for these designs as newer and more technologically capable boats began to be built.  By 1927 both of the S-class submarines had been removed from service and were stricken from the rolls by the early Thirties.

Even though not having the claim to fame that many other ships and submarines did, these two vessels nevertheless helped the navy achieve its goals in the post World War I era.  One of these goals was the firming up of just what role the submarine was to play in future conflict.  From the technology side, these construction of these submarines benefited well from the examination of the best boats from Germany and Britain left over from World War One.



From the historical perspective and the sources listed below, we can see the turmoil that the Navy was in during these years.  A depression, lack of funding and a unclear analysis of just what future wars with this technology would be like, can help us remember that the old days were not necessarily better than today.  Like us, they had no crystal ball.

What follows are some links to the individual boats as well as some great sites and information on submarines from this era.  It was a fascinating time from the perspective of military science as the lessons from the Great War began to be applied and the rise of air power and carriers could not be stopped.

Have a great day!


Naval History & Heritage Command

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (S-49)

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (S-50)

Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 48 Issues 7-12 (Discussion on ship designs, etc.)

U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History

S-Class Submarine Design (Wikipedia)

Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships, 1906-1921 (S-Class Sub)

Building American Submarines, 1914-1940

Through The Looking Glass, Photo Essay (S-Boats) (Nice Site!)

Navsource.org (Nice Site!)


(1) NARA

(2) Popular Mechanics, Sept. 1922

(3) S-49 courtesy navsource.org (link to site here)

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