Monday, April 7, 2014

Class Picture Day- Submarine Flotilla Division 4, 1916

Shown here are the early submarines USS K-5 (SS-36) and K-6 (SS-37) alongside their tender, the monitor USS Tallahassee (BM-9) (ex-Florida), in Hampton Roads, December 1916. The Navy homeported Submarine Flotilla Division 4 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Due to several surprise breaches of American neutrality by both Germans and their French and British opponents, the Navy moved the submarines and their tender to Hampton Roads. This move was designed to reinforce local maritime forces, if the Navy's heavy ships (battleships and cruisers) were off conducting exercises in the Caribbean. The five vessels also participated in drills with surface ships in the Chesapeake Bay.

Nominally, the flotilla had four "K" class boats assigned to it: K-1K-2K-5, and K-6. But it would seem that the Navy swapped out K-1 and K-2 with USS L-1 (SS-40) and L-3 (SS-42). The "L"-class were newer boats and the "K"-class had major defects with their engineering plant.

The Navy's use of monitors was a creative idea to give purpose to ships that never really should have been built in the first place. There were still a few holdouts who believed that steel-hulled monitors with battleship-type guns had a major battle role in the U.S. Navy. It soon became clear that the vessels were too slow and too unseaworthy to be of use out in the open ocean. However, their extremely low free board (a characteristic of all monitors) made them useful supply and ordnance tenders to submarines. As the Navy had yet to build dedicated submarine tenders, the monitors filled the role wherever submarines were to be found.

USS K-5 (SS-36) at anchor in Hampton Roads
USS L-3 (SS-42) at anchor in Hampton Roads.

USS K-6 (SS-37) at anchor in Hampton Roads
USS L-1 (SS-40) at anchor in Hampton Roads

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