History of USS F-4 SS-23 - History

History of USS F-4 SS-23 - History

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(SS-23: dp. 330, 1. 142'7", b. 16'6", dr. 12'2"
s. 14 k.; cpl. 22; a. 4 18" tt.; cl. F)

SS-28, originally named Skate, was renamed F-4 on 17 November 1911, and launched 6 January 1912 by the Moran Bros., Co., Seattle, Wash., sponsored by Mrs. M. F. Backus, and commissioned 3 May 1913 Lieutenant (junior grade) K. H. Donavin in command.

Joining the 1st Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, F-4 participated in the development operations of that group along the west coast, and from August 1914, in Hawaiian waters During submarine maneuvers off Honolulu on 26 March 1916 she sank in 51 fathoms, 1 1/2 miles from the harbor. Despite valorous efforts of naval authorities at Honolulu to locate the missing boat and save her crew, all 21 perished.

A diving and engineering precedent was established with the Navy's raising of the submarine on 29 August 1915. Courage and tenacity marked the efforts of divers who descended to attach cables to tow the boat into shallow water, while ingenuity and engineering skill characterized the direction of Naval Constructor J. A. Furer, Rear Admiral C. B. T. Moore, and Lieutenant C. Smith who accomplished the feat with the aid of specially devised and constructed pontoons.

The investigating board subsequently conjectured that corrosion of the lead lining of the battery tank had permitted seepage of sea water into the battery compartment and thereby caused the commanding officer to lose control on a submerged run.

F-4 was stricken from the Navy Register on 31 August 1915.

History of USS F-4 SS-23 - History

Cape Cod Disaster: S-4's Loss

The waters off Provencetown, at the tip of Cape Cod are shallow and have a relatively hard sandy bottom. They also are busy. On the afternoon of Saturday, 27 December 1927, the US Coast Guard Cutter Paulding was heading into the sheltered waters of Provencetown Harbor after finishing her assigned patrol in the Atlantic. She was a flush decked four stacker destroyer (ex DD-22) which had been transferred to the Coast Guard on 28 April 1924. Several such transfers were made to boost the power of the Coast Guard using existing ships. Commissioned in 1910, this ship had seen service in Queenstown during World War I.

The USS S-4 was in the area just to the northwest of the very hook of Cape Cod. Provencetown Harbor is situated along the south coast, or the bay side of the cape. It is protected from the Atlantic swells by the sandy structure of the cape’s tip and by sandy spits which curl around like a semi-closed right hand. Along the outer northwest knuckle are two lights between which are marker buoys which delineate a measured mile. The lights, Long Point Light and End Light show mariners where the spits are and a ship moving toward Provencetown from the sea would put Long Point Light and End Light on the port side while steering south east. Paulding doing just that.

S-4 was on an engineering test. At various intervals during a ship’s life, the overseeing organization tests the ship to determine if it is performing as expected. The testing organization might be the Bureau of Construction and Repair, or its present day counterpart, Naval Sea Systems Command it might be the type commander such as Commander Submarine Force Atlantic (ComSubLant) or another supervisory group. These groups plan contingencies and uses for the fleet in peacetime and must understand and be able to depend on the capababilities of the units of the fleet. This meant that the ships must be tested in gunnery, maneuvering ability and engineering. The ship must be tested and along with that, the crew is tested. The crew’s ability to operate the ship properly and excel is a direct reflection on the Commanding Officer’s ability in leadership.

An engineering trial or test demonstrates the submarine’s ability to operated both surfaced and submerged in a carefully controlled set of circumstances. The maximum speed the ship is capable of is measured by using a buoyed measured mile. The maximum sustainable speed is performed by a timed test, normally four to twenty four hours in length. On this December day, S-4 was running the measured mile between Long Point Light and End Light just to the southwest of Provencetown Harbor. During the submerged runs on the measured mile, the boat would take periscope bearings on the known landmarks, determine its position and steer a course that would take it close aboard the measured mile buoys on one end of the course and directly toward the buoys at the other end of the mile. After passing the buoys on the other end of the course, the ship would continue along that course for a bit then turn to seaward and line up for a return run.

Upon completion of several runs along the course in each direction, the speeds would be averaged for inclusion in the final test report.

Runs along the course would be made under various engine/battery combinations, both surfaced and submerged, to determine the exact capabilities of the ship.

S-4 was fairly new, having been launched in 1919. She was then the second production model of a new type submarine. Her design the result of the government taking over the task of designing and constructing submarines.

The submarine force wanted larger submarines than the N boats which were primarily for coastal defense. Their idea was to have an 800 ton boat of about 250 feet in length with the ability to transit the Atlantic and Pacific oceans unassisted.

The General Board which determined specifications to which the Bureau of Construction and Repair was to build, made a set of specifications that gave a great deal of latitude to three existing design houses. Electric Boat Company and Lake Torpedo Boat Company would each build one boat, the Bureau would design and build the third in a Naval Shipyard. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine would get the nod to build the boat as they were the only east coast government yard with experience building modern submarines.

The specs. show that the boat design was to be able to sail 3400 nmi at 11 kts and if ballast tanks were to be used for fuel at the start of a voyage, to steam 8400 nmi. Their displacement was to be nearly 800 tons and they were to be about 250 feet long. Both EB and Lake scaled up their versions of the O-Class and R-Class and started construction on their own versions of the new "S" Class.

S-1 was built by Electric Boat. It was a single hull type with ballast tanks inside the pressure hull. The NELSECO engines built by a wholly owned subsidiary of Electric Boat were to be installed in the EB boats. These had serious torsional vibration problems which were not well understood at the time. The shaft extended from the engine to the screw with a clutch and a dynamo as integral parts of the arrangement. Even though supported by bearings at the shaft penetration, motors and engine, the shaft tended to be somewhat flexible. At certain speeds called critical speeds the small vibrations of the shaft sections between the bearings tended to amplify and increased the forces felt by the bearings. This in turn caused the bearings to wipe at alarming rates. In addition, the main engine bearings, foundations, and supports were light and structurally insufficient to take the stresses brought on by the vibration at these critical speeds. The small distortions expected with the shaft weights and forces were good enough, but with the critical speed vibration the supports flexed, cracked and added to bearing difficulties.

The crankshafts were also prone to cracking. The boat was a good one though and was the basis for much testing and design analysis work including the only sub-borne aircraft design. (As an aside, none of these EB boats were built at the EB facility in Groton. They were built mainly at the Fore River Yard in Quincy MA, NELSECO was located on the present site of the Groton yard)

Simon Lake’s shipyard in Bridgeport, CT built the S-2. Some main differences between the EB boat and the Lake design were the placement of the batteries, Lake had his all forward of Control and EB had theirs split into a forward battery and after battery, the rudder arrangement, EB had it’s characteristic centerline fishtail rudder and Lakes was below the stern, and the ballast flood and venting arrangement. EB had patented the keel duct which provided water through the hollow keel to the kingston valves under control room, from where it was routed to the ballast tanks.

Lake’s design used a more complex internal piping arrangement. The upshot of this difference was that Lake boats were generally slower divers. The Busch-Sulzer engines Lake used were generally better, but his electrical arrangements were not as good as EB.

Lake and EB had different philosophies in submarine design and operation. EB's designs derived from the work of John Holland called for dynamic diving and used the ability of the boat to be angled up and down in the water to control depth. The boats were normally ballasted slightly light and would broach when stopped. Lake’s design called for the his boats to be in a neutral buoyant condition and would changed depths with a zero angle (horizontally level) using bow, stern and side mounted hydroplanes. Both groups took out extensive patents to protect elements of their designs, a tactic at which EB was most effective.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard built the S-3. In reality, they took the good parts from each of the designs of Lake and EB as seen in their R-Class and O-Class. The follow-on contracts called for more of this design. Lake’s contracts after S-2 required that he build to Government specs and designs rather than his own while EB was left alone to build their own S-design for reasons which are still not clear.

S-4 was the first of the so-called production model Government S-design (the S-3 being a production prototype). The boat was 231 feet long with a beam of 19’-8”. Its submerged displacement was a bit over 1000 tons and it carried a crew of four officers and thirty seven men. The two 700 horsepower engines could drive the boat at 15 knots and the two 600 horsepower motors gave it a one hour rated speed of 11 kts. Four 21 inch torpedo tubes with a capacity of 8 torpedo’s in the room and four in the tube and a 4"/50 cal deck gun comprised its armament suite.

During and after WWI, the boats were equipped C-Tube and Y-Tube sonars, chariot bridge structures and radios. Quite luxurious for her time, the S-4 had an evaporator to provide fresh water for the battery. It worked off the heat of the engine exhaust and was not terribly efficient. The ship also had a chill box for storing meats and other foodstuffs longer. There were also bunks for everyone.

Divided into six watertight spaces, the boat had a layout similar to a Skate Class nuc. Forward of course, was the torpedo room. Next aft was the battery compartment with berthing on the upper deck and battery below. The battery consisted of one hundred twenty closed ventilated cells divided into two groups of 60, the lead acid battery was not much different that the one used today. The battery was ventilated by four centrifugal fans in two groups of two which pulled a suction on lines that led to each cell. The exhaust of these fans was routed through a ventilation duct up, along the port side in the overhead and aft through control room then to the engine room. The exhaust gasses were then dumped near the engine intakes and were burned by the engines.

Berthing spaces, just above the battery well were rows of stacked canvas bottomed pipe bunks which could be triced up as necessary. The aft end of this space held the officers bunks and wardroom. Control room was next with the small conning tower above. One scope was used in the conning tower and the two others were used from the middle part of control room.

Aft on the port side of control was a row of levers similar to those seen in railroad switch houses. These, when unlatched and pulled inboard, opened the kingston valves below. If the latches were tripped, the spring and sea pressure slammed the valves shut. Just forward of the kingston valve levers were the planes control stations. In the area between the large handwheels were the switches that controlled the motors in the forward room and then just aft of the stern plane handwheel. These motors moved the planes through gearing. The handwheels were for hand operation only. There were no hydraulic controls. Forward on the starboard side was the main electrical switchboard for the submarine. Nothing like the semi-automated control switchboards of today’s Navy, this consisted of an insulated (normally melamine or marble), vertical board on which were mounted open knife switches. The main motor/generator controller was situated in the aft starboard side of control room. Somewhat more modern, this Woodward Controller actuated electromagnetic contactors in the motor room that routed electrical power to the main motors.

Just aft of control room was the engine room. Two engines only, Busch Sulzer (also called Bureau) design, the engines took up most of the space in the room. Then, through the water tight door with its eight peripheral dogs (like a surface ship door) was the motor room. In the lower level forward were the two main motors. In the upper level were the controls for auxiliary machinery, the ballast pump, the air compressors and the ship’s lathe. Then just aft of the motor room was another watertight space. It was not normally manned but could be accessed through a bolted manhole. This was the tiller room and extended to the very stern of the ship. The accesses to the ship from the outside world were through a hatch in the motor room, engine room, conning tower, battery compartment and the torpedo loading hatch.

The boat had finished a submerged run on the measured mile from southwest to northeast by about 3:15 in the afternoon of 27 December 1927. The seas were choppy and there was the threat of a cold front passing which, in this season might mean a moderate nor’easter was pending. The two observers, LCDR Callaway and Mr. Charles Ford, both from the Bureau of Construction and Repair were conferring and recording the engineering numbers necessary for their report. The boat was coming around to the left and preparing to surface. The last submerged run for the day was finished and it was time to go back to Provencetown Harbor for the night.

Paulding was making nearly eighteen knots when a lookout spotted the periscopes and shears of S-4 coming up close aboard on the port bow. The lookout reported and the OOD ordered the engines full reverse and the rudder hard to port, hopefully to pass to port over the still submerged stern of S-4. Paulding, however, struck S-4 at nearly the point of max beam half-way between the forward and aft battery compartment bulkheads about two feet above the battery well deck. The blow was somewhat glancing. The forefoot of the cutter telescoped and broke off in the hole torn in S-4¹s side. The hole in the sub was nearly four feet long and two feet high in the ballast tank and two and a half feet long by a foot high in the battery compartment pressure hull. About three feet of the crumpled forefoot girder was stuck in the hole, not enough to stem the blast of cold water hosing through.

S-4 heeled far to port and started down by the bow. Paulding got on her radio and announced she had just collided with a submerged object, probably a submarine and gave her position. She then stopped and waited for the sub to surface. It didn’t. The men inside the boat were thrown about by the impact. Some in the battery compartment started to jam whatever was handy into the stream of water to stem the flow. The inrush was, however, to great and it was readily obvious that the battery compartment would have to be abandoned. Six men were in the torpedo room and slammed the door shut, dogging it tight. The remainder of the crew that were in the battery compartment made their way up the steepening deck to the control room door and when all had made it through, the door was shut and dogged. The water continued to fill the battery compartment, compressing the air inside. The battery well held tight and did not leak too much. The pressure in the bubble of air in the upper aft end of the space rose to about 50 pounds per square inch.

The boat was not in bad shape at this point. The water was only 110
feet deep. The S-4 had gone down in 170 feet some seven years before and the entire crew survived. Certainly, this depth was not out of the reach of divers and they weren’t too far away. Besides, the Paulding had already alerted the world that there was a submarine down. There were thirty four men in control, engine room and motor room. They and the six in the torpedo room made up the whole crew. No one was badly hurt.

As the boat settled on the bottom, the ventilation line from the battery exhaust fans to the engine room collapsed over much of its length from the aft set of fans to the control room bulkhead. It was not designed to take the 50 psi pressure that was now in the battery space. Air and water streamed through the torn flange at the control room bulkhead, pressurizing the line through control room. The water also flooded back through the fans into the battery well flooding the battery space. As soon as the sea water came in contact with the electrolyte, the salt in the seawater decomposed and liberated vast quantities of Chlorine gas. This gas bubbled out of the well and added to the air bubble in the battery space.

The ventilation line in control room was not meant to take the pressure from the inside any more than the line in the battery space was built to withstand it from the outside. Within a few minutes of the boat coming to rest on the bottom, the line in control burst spraying high pressure air water and chlorine gas at the electrical switchboard in control room. The crew rushed to close the bulkhead flapper valve at the forward bulkhead of control to stem the flow of water through the now destroyed ventilation lines. It would not shut. One of the curtains that closed off the CO's stateroom in the battery compartment had streamed into the ventilation line and prevented the valve from being shut. The air and chlorine streamed into control room then when the air bubble had gone through the line, water followed, flooding control.

The initial stream of water spray and air had shorted sections of the switchboard throwing the entire boat into the dark. The commanding officer, ordered the space evacuated and when all the personnel in control had made their way back to the engine room, he slammed and dogged the door. Now the crew was in serious trouble. There were fourteen men in the engine room with an additional fourteen in the motor room. The air was foul with chlorine, it was dark and getting cold fast. When at last, the noise of rushing water had stopped and the boat got quiet, it was obvious that access to control room was out of the question. There was no way to lift the stern of the boat as S-4 had done. The only thing left was to wait for help.

USS Falcon got underway from New London two hours after receiving the word that Paulding had hit a sub and it didn’t surface. By eleven o’clock, the next morning she had moored over the site and had put a diver down. He rapped on the torpedo loading hatch. Slowly, six taps answered. Six men were alive in the torpedo room. The diver moved aft and rapped on the conning tower bulkhead. No answer. He moved aft further and rapped on the engine room hatch then the motor room hatch. No answer at either. The men in these two spaces had already succumbed to the cold, chlorine, lack of air or all three. It was Sunday afternoon, the boat had been down for 24 hours.

Then as plans were being readied to get air to the crew in the torpedo room, the nor’easter blew up and stopped all diving. It was Monday before the seas had calmed enough to allow a diver to go down again, then it was iffy at best. Still, the divers went down. They rapped again on the torpedo room hatch and received a plaintive reply. "Please hurry". By the next afternoon, they had readied a fitting that would fit onto the C-tube pipe which led to the interior of the torpedo room. The air compressors on Falcon started to force good air into the space. After a bit they were reversed and started to suck air out. This was the only way to renew the air in the room. Put some in, suck some out. It was hoped the process of renewing the air would be in time, the tapping from the space had stopped. The air being sucked out of the S-4 was sampled for carbon dioxide. The level was 7%, too high a level for humans. It was decided that the entire crew had died.

The drama of the attempted rescue hit the papers all over the country. The failure was devastating. Then the questions were asked. Just how is it that you rescue submariners who are stuck on the bottom? The answer coming from the Navy was unsatisfactory. We could not rescue our own. S-4 was to change all that. She was raised the next spring and on 18 March 1928 had been docked in one of the drydocks at the Boston Navy Yard. The bodies were removed and the inquiry board investigated what had happened. S-4 was then sealed, undocked and towed to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. There she was stripped and made ready for submarine salvage experimentation. With no engines or propulsion and only half a battery to supply lights and amenities, the boat was towed to a point off Block Island and over the next year used to examine the possibilities for submarine rescue and to practice salvage techniques. The next year, recommissioned under the command of Lt. Norman Ives and with a crew of 14, she was towed south to Key West. EB had removed the airplane hanger from S-1 and had used the cylindrical shell to make a diving bell. Called the Ives Bell or the McCann rescue chamber, this device was tested and perfected on S-4 in repeated trials in water from 60 to 300 feet deep off the Florida Keys. In addition, the self contained breathing lung devised by Lt Momsen, a buoy that could be released from inside the sunken sub and a special built lockout chamber were tested over the next several years. These were all back fitted to existing submarines and became standard equipment for future boats. After serving at Key West through the remainder of 1930, the boat returned to New London. Then after overhaul, S-4 transited south through the Panama Canal and out to Pearl Harbor to serve as a training ship for the West Coast rescue forces.

Finally after having served well, USS S-4 was scuttled in deep water off Pearl Harbor on 15 May 1936. The boat was a pivot point in the story of submarine design. The first production model of a standard government design, she had a tragic accident which lead to better cooperation in navigation by setting aside areas for submarine operations and requiring other ships not transit these places. The death of her crew and the painful inability of the Navy to be able to rescue them became the basis for an effort to make submarine escape and salvage a viable option. Forty men died but the legacy they left saved the life of at least forty six others because they used the devices invented and may have saved an untold number more because of the improved safety and navigation required after the accident. They died, that is indeed tragic. They did not die in vain.


  1. ^ staff. "WATER IN HULL OF F-4. Diver Also Reports That Superstructure of Submarine Has Caved In.". NY Times . http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F70D12FE385C13738DDDAF0994DC405B858DF1D3 . Retrieved 2011-08-24 .  
  2. ^ Honolulu Star-Bulletin (2000). "The United States Submarine F-4 March 25, 1915". Arlington National Cemetery . http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/sub-f4.htm . Retrieved 2009-04-15 .  
  3. ^ abSearle Jr, Willard F Curtis Jr, Thomas G (2006). "The loss and salvage of F-4, a historic milestone". Undersea Warfare (Navy) 7 (6) . http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_29/f4.html . Retrieved 2009-04-15 .  

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

The Loss of USS F-1 (SS-20)

On 18 December 1917, the U.S. Navy issued a brief statement revealing that “the American submarine [USS] F-1 [SS-20] has been rammed and sunk by the submarine [USS] F-3 [SS-22].” The incident had happened the day before in the waters off San Diego, CA. Given that the U.S. was at war, “how this accident occurred has not yet been announced,” the release concluded. No more information would be available for a number of years. In the December 1998 issue of The SubCommittee Report, Jim Christley pieced together what happened to the five-year-old submarine.

“The distance from San Pedro Bay to La Jolla in California is roughly 75 nautical miles. …In a smooth sea the F class submarine could make the trip in about eight hours at just less than ten knots. Naval Instructions require that ships perform an engineering test to determine both the stamina of a ship and her capabilities. Both must be known in order to plan strategy. The test for submarines was to run at a constant speed for 48 hours. The test would see how far the ship could go in the requisite time. Slowing or stopping for repairs would count against the ship’s performance and reflect poorly on both ship and crew. The best a ship could do, then, was to maintain a constant, fairly high speed for the entire time. To complete a 48-hour engineering test would require six trips for an F class submarine, three south from San Pedro toward San Diego and three back to the north.

“In December 1917, the USS F-1, USS F-3 and USS F-2 [SS-21] found themselves making just such a test….

“…Fog is a common factor off the California coast in winter. The plan for the engineering run included the contingency of turning to seaward in case of running into restricted visibility. The engineering run started on the morning of December 17, 1917. The first leg was a run to the south with a course reversal to be made when La Jolla light was abeam to port. The three ships that were participating in the engineering run formed a rough line abreast and started south. The boats were making about 10 knots with the direct drive engines running smoothly at about 292 rpm. There was a current running to the south of about two knots, so the speed ‘over the ground’ was nearer 12 knots. The run south was uneventful throughout the day and as the afternoon wore on, the line abreast had become slightly ragged. F-2 was to seaward standing to the south on course 142 degrees True and about ten nautical miles off La Jolla light. F-3 was two points forward of F-2’s port beam at a range of about 7000 yards. F-1 was about 2000 yards astern of F-3 on a bearing of 007 degrees True from F-3.

“Sunset occurred about 1630 on the evening of December 17, 1917, and it was fully dark by about 1715. The orders to the flotilla were to maintain speed as per the engineering run plan and to maintain a course of 142 degrees True until abeam of La Jolla light. They were to stand out to sea to avoid fog then…come around to such a course that would bring them to San Pedro by about 1000 the next morning. Even though the ships were together, they were operating independently and not running in formation. Each ship was to inform the others of course and speed changes. Each of the ships cruised through the calm sea with running lights on.

“The F class had been designed without a bridge as we see on later submarines. The crews had a pipe and rail rig made up to which a canvas screen was lashed. This provided some protection from the wind and occasional spray. The Captain and the Officer of the Deck were on the bridge in addition to the two lookouts. Another man was in the conning tower. Rudder and engine orders were shouted down the hatch to the conning tower. Air was being drawn into the ship for the engines through both the air induction and the conning tower hatch. All seemed routine, but the Captain was aware of the impending danger of maneuvering near land in the fog and at night.

“About 1830, the ships began to run into a fog that soon became very thick. F-1 changed course to 165 degrees True to stand away from La Jolla and Point Loma. Being the aft most ship, she would pass astern of F-3. A radio message was sent to indicate the course change, but it was evidently not received by either of F-1’s companions. The OOD of F-2 was mindful of the two ships on his port hand. At 1855, he turned F-2 to the west to not only clear the fog but also to clear the area into which F-1 and F-3 would maneuver. F-2 would stand out to sea until clear of the fog and then turn north for the return trip along course 322 degrees True. Just after 1900, F-3 put on 10 degree right rudder and began a turn to a reciprocal course of 322 degrees True. The intention was to reverse course, running to the north to get out of the fog and back toward San Pedro. The assumption made was that F-1 was still to port and astern. F-3’s radio operator started to try to raise F-1 and F-2 on the radio to inform them of the course change and intentions.

“F-3 was coming slowly about and was crossing 310 degrees True when, at about 1912, her lookouts and OOD sighted the masthead and port running light of another ship closing at a combined speed of nearly 20 knots. The OOD screamed for F-3’s helmsman to put her rudder hard over, to try to turn the ship faster to starboard, and for the engines to be reversed. The other ship was crossing F-3’s bow moving from starboard to port. The other ship was F-1 running to the south on 165 degrees True. Seeing the lights of F-3 looming out of the fog, F-1’s skipper tried to come to starboard. The combination of efforts was too slow to do anything but make the collision worse by placing the ships at more of a right angle. The resulting collision was deadly.

“F-3 struck F-1 on the port side some 15 feet aft of the periscope shears near the bulkhead between the control and engine rooms. The stiff stem of F-3 and the rounded torpedo tube bow cap punched a three-foot wide by ten-foot high hole in the upper hull of F-1, driving all the way into the superstructure. F-1 rolled to starboard throwing all four men who were on the small canvas and pipe bridge into the sea. F-3 pulled out of the hole with the screws reversed. Not being pushed anymore, F-1 rolled back to port and started to flood fast. The man in F-1’s conning tower, seeing the water coming in below him, climbed out and went over the side. No one else escaped. Someone in the engine room tried to open the hatch to get out, but the ship was sinking fast and water pressure on the outside kept it shut until it was too late. Those in the forward end of the boat had no chance. Nineteen men went down with the ship. The five in the water were picked up by F-3 and she made her way back to San Pedro.

“In October 1975, the USNS DE STEIGUER (T-AGOS-12) was using some new equipment to search for an F-J4 aircraft known to have crashed in the sea off Point Loma. Her side scan sonar spotted what appeared to be a submarine in 635 feet of water. The hull was photographed by CURV II and again on October 24, 1975 by DSRV-2. It was positively identified as the F-1. The boat is lying on its starboard side with the hole made by F-3 clearly visible. The hull is in amazingly good shape and serves as a deep grave site for the US Naval Submarine Force’s first wartime submarine loss.”

F-1 aground off Watsonville, California, 11 October 1912. (The boat had slipped her mooring and fetched up on the beach.) More photos are available on F-1’s NavSource page.


Early years Edit

Initially assigned to Submarine Division 11, Control Force, S-23 was based at New London, Connecticut through the 1920s. During that time, she operated off the New England coast from late spring until early winter then moved south for winter and spring exercises. From 1925 on, her annual deployments included participation in fleet problems and those maneuvers occasionally took her from the Caribbean Sea into the Pacific Ocean. With the new decade, however, the submarine was transferred to the Pacific and, on 5 January 1931, she departed New London for the Panama Canal, California, and Hawaii. En route, she participated in Fleet Problem XII and, on 25 April, she arrived at her new home port, Pearl Harbor, whence she operated, with Division 7, for the next ten years. In June 1941, Division 7 became Division 41, and, on 1 September, S-23 departed the Hawaiian Islands for California. An overhaul and operations off the West Coast took her into December when the United States entered World War II.

The crew of the World War I-design submarine then prepared for service in the Aleutian Islands. Radiant-type heaters were purchased in San Diego, California, to augment the heat provided by the galley range. Heavier and more waterproof clothing, including ski masks, were added to the regular issue provided to submarine crews. The boat itself was fitted out for wartime service and, in January 1942, S-23 moved north to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska.

First war patrol Edit

On the afternoon of 7 February 1942, she departed Dutch Harbor on her first war patrol. Within hours, she encountered the heavy seas and poor visibility which characterized the Aleutians. Waves broke over the bridge, battering those on duty there, and sent water cascading down the conning tower hatch. On 10 February, S-23 stopped to jettison torn sections of the superstructure, a procedure she was to repeat on her subsequent patrols and, on 13 February, the heavy seas caused broken bones to some men on the bridge. For another three days, the submarine patrolled the great circle route from Japan, then headed home, arriving at Dutch Harbor on 17 February. From there, she was ordered back to San Diego for overhaul and brief sound school duty.

On her arrival, requests were made for improved electrical, heating, and communications gear and installation of a fathometer, radar, and keel-mounted sonar. The latter requests were to be repeated after each of her next three patrols, but became available only after her fourth patrol.

Abortive patrol Edit

On 20 May, S-23 again sailed for the Aleutians. Proceeding via Port Angeles, Washington, she arrived in Alaskan waters on 29 May and was directed to patrol to the west of Unalaska to hinder an anticipated Japanese attack. On 2 June, however, 20-foot (6.1 m) waves broke over the bridge and seriously injured two men. The boat headed for Dutch Harbor to transfer the men for medical treatment. Arriving the same day, she was still in the harbor the following morning when Japanese carrier-based planes attacked the base.

Second war patrol Edit

After the first raid, S-23 cleared the harbor and within hours arrived in her assigned patrol area where she remained until 11 June. She was then ordered back to Dutch Harbor replenished and sent to patrol southeast of Attu, which the Japanese had occupied, along with Kiska, a few days earlier.

For the next 19 days, she hunted for Japanese logistic and warships en route to Attu and reconnoitered that island's bays and harbors. Several attempts were made to close targets, but fog, slow speed, and poor maneuverability precluded attacks in all but one case. On 17 June, she fired on a tanker, but did not score. On 2 July, she headed back to Unalaska and arrived at Dutch Harbor early on the morning of 4 July.

Third war patrol Edit

During her third war patrol, 15 July to 18 August, S-23 again patrolled primarily in the Attu area. On 6 August, however, she was diverted closer to Kiska to support the bombardment of the island and, on 9 August, she returned to her patrol area, where her previous experiences in closing enemy targets were repeated.

Fourth war patrol Edit

Eight days after her return to Dutch Harbor, S-23 again headed west, and, on 28 August, she arrived in her assigned area to serve as a protective scout during the occupation of Adak. During most of her time on station, the weather was overcast, but it proved to be the most favorable she had experienced in eight months of Alaskan operations. On 16 September, she was recalled from patrol to meet her 20 September scheduled date of departure for San Diego for upkeep and sound school duty.

Fifth war patrol Edit

On 7 December 1942, S-23 returned to Unalaska, and, on 17 December, she got underway on her fifth war patrol. By 22 December, she was off western Attu and, on 23 December, she received orders to take up station off Paramushiro. On 24 December, she headed for the Kuril Islands. Two days later, 200 miles (320 km) from her destination, her stern plane operating gear outside the hull broke. Since submerging and depth control became difficult, she turned back for Dutch Harbor. Moving east, her mechanical difficulties increased her stern planes damaged her propellers her fouled rudder resulted in a damaged gear train. Nature added severe snow and ice storms after 3 January 1943. But, on 6 January, S-23 made it into Dutch Harbor.

Using equipment and parts from sister ship USS S-35, S-23 was repaired at Dutch Harbor and at Kodiak and, on 28 January, she departed her Unalaska base for another patrol in the Attu area. She spent 21 days on station, two of which, 6 and 7 February, were spent repairing the port main motor control panel. She scored on no enemy ships and returned to Dutch Harbor on 26 February.

Sixth war patrol Edit

Refit, the submarine got underway for her last war patrol on 8 March. Moving west, she arrived off the Kamchatka Peninsula on 14 March and encountered floes with ice 2.5–3 feet (0.76–0.91 m) thick. Her progress down the coast in search of the Japanese fishing fleet slowed, and, initially limited to moving during daylight hours, she rounded Cape Kronotski on the afternoon of 16 March and Cape Lopatka on the morning of 19 March. She then set a course back to the Aleutians which would take her across Japanese Kuril-Aleutians supply lanes. On 26 March, she took up patrol duty in the Attu area and, on 31 March, she turned her bow toward Dutch Harbor.

Retirement Edit

In April 1943, S-23 returned to San Diego. During the summer, she underwent an extensive overhaul and, in the fall, she began providing training services to the sound school which she continued through the end of hostilities. On 11 September 1945, she sailed for San Francisco, California, where she was decommissioned on 2 November. Fourteen days later, her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. Her hulk was subsequently sold for scrapping and was delivered to the purchaser, Salco Iron and Metal Company, San Francisco, on 15 November 1946.

Service history [ edit ]

Joining the First Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, F-4 participated in the development operations of that group along the west coast, and from August 1914, in Hawaiian waters. During submarine maneuvers off Honolulu, Hawaii on 25 March 1915, she sank at a depth of 306 ft (93 m), 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from the harbor. Despite valorous efforts of naval authorities at Honolulu to locate the missing boat and save her crew, all 21 perished (C.O. LT(jg) Alfred Louis Ede and crew). F-4 was the first commissioned submarine of the U.S. Navy to be lost at sea.

A diving and engineering precedent was established with the Navy's raising of the submarine on 29 August 1915. Divers descended to attach cables to tow the boat into shallow water, Naval Constructor Julius A. Furer, Rear Admiral C.B.T. Moore, and Lieutenant C. Smith were able to do this with the use of specially devised and constructed pontoons. Navy diver George D Stillson found the superstructure caved in and the hull filled with water. Ώ] One of the divers involved in the salvage operation was John Henry Turpin, who was, probably, the first African-American to qualify as a U.S. Navy Master Diver. Only four of the dead could be identified the 17 others were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. ΐ]

The investigating board subsequently conjectured that corrosion of the lead lining of the battery tank had permitted seepage of sea water into the battery compartment and thereby caused the commanding officer to lose control on a submerged run. Others believe that the bypassing of an unreliable magnetic reducer closed a Kingston valve in the forward ballast tank resulting in a delay. Α] Based on other reported issues, there may also have been problems with the air lines supplying the ballast tank. Α]

F-4 was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 August 1915 and was taken from the dry dock in Honolulu Harbor in early September 1915 so the other three F-Class submarines could be dry docked as they had been rammed by the navy supply ship USS Supply  (1872) . The F-4 was moved, still hanging from the pontoons to Pearl Harbor and anchored in Magazine Loch until on or about 25 November 1915, when she was disconnected from the pontoons and settled into the mud at the bottom of the loch. She remained there until the expansion of the harbor in 1940, when the remains of F-4 were re-buried in a trench dug in the loch bottom off the Submarine Base Mooring S14, Pearl Harbor.

History of USS F-4 SS-23 - History

Early in the search the Navy was using every means to locate the lost submarine. All they had to go on was some air bubbles and oil. They began dragging grapples in hopes of snagging the lost vessel. These hopes were raise when a heavy object was hooked. It turned out to be the lost three and a half ton anchor from the battleship Oregon (BB-03). The Oregon lost her port anchor on May 30, 1901 due to a defective link that nearly killed Chief Bosun J.E. Murphy when the link parted. Murphy was a hero in the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War.

After about 30 hours of searching entailing the dragging of grappling hooks it was believed the F-4 had finally been located and attempts to drag her to shore were made. According to many varied stories rampant in the newspapers at the time, once a tow was attempted masses of oil came to the surface. The depth was estimated at that time to be 300 feet. far below any depth that had been dived at that time by a man in a diving suit.

Chief Gunnersmate John "Jack" Agraz (Torpedo) was also a diver and was crew on the USS F-1.

The USS Maryland moored in Honolulu Harbor after having off loaded her cargo of six pontoons specially built at Mare Island to lift the F-4 for the bottom. Curious onlookers stop to examine the huge warship.

USS F-2 standing by making high pressure air for the pontoons. In the background, just above the small skiff, can be seen the Quarantine Dock Building, located on Sand Island. Once raised the F-4 would be moored to that dock while waiting for the Dry Dock to be made available.

More pontoons coming to the surface. further raising the F-4. begin breaking the surface. Standing on top of a pontoon is Master Rigger Fred Busse who was in charge of the pontoons.

The USS F-4 Salvage Pontoons with the F-4 hanging from them move into Honolulu Harbor. The photo was taken about a minute before the one seen below. The positioning of the tug, "Helen", the sailboat and rowboat show the movement.

In the center background is the Navy Floating cantilever pontoon crane YD-25. The crane had a lifting rating of 150 tons. Too little to have lifted the flooded F-4.

Tug Printer, recently sold by the Grays Harbor [Washington] Tugboat Company sailed on March 10, 1915 from Aberdeen, Wa for the Hawaiian Islands. She was bought by Hilo businessman G. B. Marshall. He needed the tug to help to build the breakwater at Hilo Harbor for which he had won the contract to build. The trip took 11 days to reach Hilo. She sailed to San Francisco in 3 days and then on to Hilo. Apparently the new owners had also purchased several barges as well.

Needing some repairs after a collision with one of her rock scows, the new owners wired the dry dock and reserved space to have work done. As it was the F-4 was finally raised and rushed to the dry dock and there was room for the Printer to fit aft of her. It was expected the repair work would require 24 hours time night and day to get a rush job done but with the F-4 in the dock Printer had lots of time to get all of her work done. Note the scaffolding has been put in place around the tug.

Reports for San Francisco say she sailed March 15 with "several barges" for Hilo or Honolulu. The barges apparently carried several "scows" built in sections to be reassembled and used in the specialized work of building the Hilo Breakwater.

Photo taken from the top of one of the wing walls of the floating dry dock looking at the stern. Men are seen around the hole collapsed into the submarine forward. What is left of the port engine exhaust can be seen hanging below the hull aft.

F-4 in dry dock. Showing damage to rudders and stern planes and propellers. The stern planes and rudders have been torn away during the salvage effort. The rams for the planes and rudders can be seen under the right hand propeller. The skeg for holding the lower rudder is twisted almost 90 degrees to port.

A sailor, who appears to be a second class, stands along side the F-4. He has a pretty grim look on his face. Could be a sailor from one of the other F-Class submarines.

The USS F-4 resting in the dry dock. We don't know the exact date this photo was taken. It seems one of the interested civilians, or possibly a military person, the fact is unknown, arrived at the dry dock with a camera and snapped this photo. The guard tried to catch the person to get the camera but wasn't as good a runner.

The angle looks different than all the other published photos. One of the only differences noticed between this and the images we have already seen is that one of the diagonal braces from the positioning post has been removed where it is not in most of the others. There is one photo taken from the stern where this appears to have been completely disassembled and removed.

James Morton Hoggett Electricians Mate Third Class, was the only member of the F-4 crew to not die that fateful day.

On March 25, 1915 he was left ashore when the F-4 went out on her fateful morning dive. It was a habit for the early submarines to leave one man ashore as a watchman, perhaps to keep an eye on ships material left on the dock and to be a contact person for any information that needs to be reported to the vessel as soon as it returns to port. This was the days before ship radios became common. It happened to be his turn this day.

In most all of the the news reports after the sinking reported he was on 'shore leave' at the time instead of being the "watchman". There was one other man who escaped the sinking, Artheur Mellien, a Chief Machinist Mate, who transferred off the F-4 a mere few days prior to the sinking.

As a result of the sinking Hoggett seems to have developed symptoms of PTSD. Accounts of his doings and happenings after the sinking show he seems to have become fairly reckless in his activities and had a number of close to death encounters. Of course nothing was known about PTSD at that time.

He left the Navy in 1916 and when WW I came around he enlisted in the Army Tank Corp in 1918. He survived the war.

The F-Class submarines had an automatic blowing system set to send the submarine to the surface if the sub descended below 100 feet. It was determined by the commission that investigated the sinking that the casualty happened above 100 feet.

The drawing above was made of the F-4 Automatic Blow System after recovery. It shows the setup and condition of the system made by the crew at the time of the disaster. Short of actually being able to talk to the crew it shows the steps they had taken in the few moments available to them.

Newspaper article describing what the final end to the F-4 Saga is. She was released from the chains holding her to the six buoys that had raised her from the deep and had held her off the bottom of Magazine Loch at Pearl Harbor.

She had been towed by the tug Navajo there on the evening of September 14, 1915 while waiting for word to arrive from Washington DC as to what to do with her. She lay anchored in the loch until November 25 or there abouts until it was decided to just leave her there and the chains were cast loose and the F-4 was allowed to settle into the mud on the bottom.

A funeral cortege through the streets of Washington DC happened to take place at the same time as the 50 year reunion and convention of the ending of the Civial War. Both Union and Confederate Veterans, numbering over 60,000, were present in city and most turned out to honor the men of the USS F-4 as the procession made its way to Arlington.

The replacement headstone installed at the insistence of submarine veterans in the year 2000.

Son of Nephi Herzog and Louisa Maria Miller [Herzog]

Newspaper Article - The body of Frank N. Herzog, bluejacket, who went down with submarine F-4 in Honolulu Harbor in March, arrived in Salt Lake [City] on September 23, after a long journey which began at Honolulu seventeen days previous. Herzog's home was in Salt Lake [City].

Soda Springs Sun Soda Springs, Idaho.
September 30, 1915 Page Three.

Charles Harris Wells, "Gone but not forgotten" say his loved ones.


L’USS F-4 (SS-23) est nommé Skate lors de la pose de la quille par les chantiers Moran Brothers Company à Seattle. Il est rebaptisé F-4 le 17 novembre 1911 . Parrainé par M me MF Backus, il est lancé le 6 janvier 1912 . Son premier commandant lors de sa mise en service le 3 mai 1913 est le lieutenant K.H. Donavin.

Le sous-marin F-4 rejoint le premier groupe de sous-marins, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, Le F-4 participe aux opérations de développement de ce groupe le long de la côte ouest, et à partir d’ août 1914 , dans les eaux d’Hawaï.

Coulé en eau peu profonde, les efforts des plongeurs pour descendre attacher les câbles au sous-marin et l’ingéniosité du directeur de la construction navale J.A. Furer, du contre-amiral C.B.T. Moore et du lieutenant C. Smith permettent de renflouer le navire le 29 août 1915 . Lors de ces opérations, le plongeur de la marine George D. Stillson trouve la superstructure endommagée et la coque remplie d'eau [ 1 ] . Seulement, quatre corps peuvent être identifiés, les 17 autres sont enterrés dans le cimetière national d'Arlington [ 2 ] .

Le comité chargé d'étudier les causes de la catastrophe émet l'hypothèse que la corrosion du revêtement en plomb de la cuve de la batterie aurait entrainé l'infiltration d'eau de mer dans le compartiment batterie et causant ainsi la perte du bâtiment lors de son immersion. D'autres hypothèses reposent sur un problème avec une soupape de Kingston dans le ballast avant du navire [ 3 ] ou sur un problème avec les conduites d'air alimentant les ballasts [ 3 ] .

Le sous-marin F-4 est radié du registre des navires de l'US Navy le 31 août 1915 . En 1940, les restes de F-4 servent de remblai dans une tranchée de la base de sous-marins à Pearl Harbor.

History of USS F-4 SS-23 - History

F-4S Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - March 1985

F-4S Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - November 1981

F-4S Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - November 1981

F-4S Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - November 1981

F-4S Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - 1981

F-4J Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) intercepts a Soviet Iljushin Il-38 May reconnaissance aircraft - May 1979

F-4N Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CV 41) - circa 1975 (NNAM)

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CVA 41) and A-7C Corsair II (VA-85 / CVW-8) embarked on USS America (CVA 66)
during a Loran-guided strike mission over Vietnam, in March 1973

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CVA 41) - 1972 (NNAM)

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CVA 41) over San Diego, California - 1971

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-5) embarked on USS Midway (CVA 41) intercepts a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95MR Bear-E aircraft over the Sea of Japan - 1971

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-15) embarked on USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) - December 1969

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-15) embarked on USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) - 1967

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-16) over NAS Miramar, California - September 1964 (NNAM)

F-4B Phantom II (VF-161 / CVW-16) at NAS Miramar, California - September 1964 (NNAM)

Retirement of the last US Navy McDonnell F-3B Demon (BuNo 145295) in September 1964.
This aircraft had been assigned to fighter squadron VF-161 "Chargers", Attack Carrier Air Wing 16 (CVW-16), aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA 34)
on a deployment to the Western Pacific from 1 August 1963 to 10 March 1964. The last two Demons were "piped over the side" in a colourful ceremony
at Naval Air Station, Miramar, California, which at the same time, welcomed aboard the first F-4B Phantom II to be delivered to the squadron. CDR W.J. Welty, Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 161, and LCDR L.D. Baldridge, squadron Executive Officer, taxied the last two F3Hs past the assembled men of the squadron, who rendered honours to the Demons as they prepared for their last flight (NNAM)

F-3B Demon (VF-161 / CVW-16) embarked on USS Oriskany (CVA 34) - 1964 (NNAM)

Established as Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED SIXTY ONE (VF-161) on 1 September 1960.
Redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED SIXTY ONE (VFA-161) on 1 June 1986
Disestablished on 1 April 1988.
The first squadron to be assigned the VFA-161 designation

Squadron Insignia and Nickname:
The squadrons first insignia was approved by CNO on 14 June1962. Colors for the shield insignia were: a black shield with a white diagonal stripewhite trident and compass rose and red stylized symbols on the diagonal stripe. A modification to the insignia was adopted at a later date, placing the design inside a red circular background with white scrolls outlined in red and red lettering on the scrolls. A new squadron insignia was approvedby CNO on 19 January 1982. Colors for the torii gate insignia were: a white background with a black and red torii gate red lightning bolt outlined in white and black black scrolls with red and white lettering.

Nickname: Chargers,1960-1988.

Chronology of Significant Events:

Nov 1963:
Embarked on USS Oriskany (CVA 34), the squadron operated in the South China Sea during a crisis in South Vietnam and the coup that overthrew President Diem.

13 Jun 1966:
Following a strike by CVW-15 aircraft against a railroad and highway bridge in North Vietnam, four Phantoms from VF-161 engaged six North Vietnamese MiG-17s that were pursuing there tiring strike aircraft. Lieutenant William M. McGuiganand his RIO, Lieutenant (jg) Robert M. Fowler, shotdown one of the MiG-17s with a Sidewinder missile. The other MiGs were driven off and all CVW-15 aircraft returned from the mission.

Mar 1968:
USS Coral Sea (CVA 43), with VF-161 embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER 2) in January by North Korea.

May-Oct 1972:
The squadron participated in Linebacker I operations, heavy air strikes against targets in North Vietnam to interdict the flow of supplies and to reduce North Vietnam’s ability to continue the war effort in South Vietnam.

18 May 1972:
While flying MiG Combat Air Patrol near Kep Airfield in North Vietnam, two of the squadron’s F-4B Phantoms engaged two MiG-19s. Lieutenant Henry A. Bartholomay and his RIO, Lieutenant Oran R. Brown, shot down the first MiG with a Sidewinder. A few seconds later, their wingman, Lieutenant Patrick E. Arwood and his RIO, Lieutenant James M. Bell, shot down the other MiG with a Sidewinder.

23 May 1972:
Two of the squadron’s aircraft, while flying MiG Combat Air Patrol for a strike in the Haiphong area, were vectored toward Kep Airfield and sighted 4 MiG-17s and 2 MiG-19s. VF-161’s aircraft proceeded to engage the MiGs even though they were outnumbered 3 to 1. In the ensuing battle Lieutenant Commander Ronald E. McKeown and his RIO, Lieutenant John C. Ensch, shot down a MiG-17 and a MiG-19 with Sidewinders. The other 4 MiGs escaped and both of VF-161’s aircraft returned to USS Midway(CVA 41). Both men were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions.

12 Jan 1973:
Lieutenant Victor T. Kovaleski and his RIO, Lieutenant James A. Wise, shot down a MiG-17 over the Gulf of Tonkin. This was the last MiG aircraft to be shot down during the Vietnam Conflict.

Apr-May 1975:
Squadron aircraft participated in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American personnel from Saigon, South Vietnam, as the country fell to the communists.

Aug-Sep 1976:
Embarked in USS Midway (CV 41), the squadron conducted flight operations near the Korean Peninsula following the murder of U.S. military personnel in the Korean DMZ by North Koreans.

Apr-May 1979:
USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, deployed to the Gulf of Aden to relieve USS Constellation (CV 64) and maintain a U.S. carrier presence following the outbreak of fighting between North and South Yemen and the fall of the Shah of Iran.

Nov 1979-Feb 1980:
Following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of American hostages on 4 November, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained on station until relieved in early February1980.

May-Jun 1980:
USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, operated off the coast of Korea due to the civil unrest in South Korea and the massacre of several hundred people in the town of Kwangju.

Dec 1981:
Due to tensions in Korea the squadron operated from USS Midway off the coast of Korea until the tensions subsided.

May-Oct 1986:
The squadron relocated to NAS Lemoore for transition training in the F/A-18 Hornet and redesignation to a Strike Fighter Squadron. VF-161 was one of only two F-4 fighter squadrons to beassigned the VFA designation.

Oct 1986-Jun 1987:
Following the transfer of the squadron from CVW-5, and awaiting transfer to a newly established air wing, the squadron was in an inactive status at NAS Lemoore.

Home Port Assignments:
NAS Cecil Field, Florida - 01 Sep 1960
NAS Miramar, California - 19 Sep 1961
NS Yokosuka, Japan (NAF Atsugi & Misawa) - 05 Oct 1973
(VF-161, along with CVW-5 and USS Midway (CVA 41), were part of a program to permanently assign a carrier and air wing to an overseas home port. Midway’s new home port was NS Yokosuka, Japan and the squadron would normally operate out of NAF Atsugi or Misawa when the carrier was in NS Yokosuka. The assignment was effective 30 June 1973. However, the squadron and carrier did not arrive until 5 Oct 1973)
NAS Lemoore, California - Oct 1986
(When the decision was made to remove VFA-161 from CVW-5 and not send it back to Japan following its transition training in the F/A-18, it is believed the squadron’s home port was changed to NAS Lemoore at that time)

Commanding Officers - date assumed command
CDR W. C. Hartung - 01 Sep 1960
CDR Albert R. Groves - 28 Dec 1961
CDR Joseph F. Bolger - 28 Dec 1962
CDR Walter T. Broughton II - 12 Jul 1963
CDR Wayne J. Welty - 10 Jul 1964
CDR L. N. Hoover - 28 Sep 1965
CDR Richard J. Schulte -16 Dec 1966
CDR Roger E. Sheets - 04 Feb 1968
CDR Sherman W. Turner - 09 May 1969
CDR Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr. - 17 Apr 1970
CDR John A. Dickson - 26 Mar 1971
CDR Earl W. Connell - 10 Mar 1972
CDR C. C. Hoffner - 23 Mar 1973
CDR T. R. Swartz - 08 Mar 1974
CDR J. W. Lovell - 25 Jun 1975
CDR Thomas C. Koehler - 23 Sep 1976
CDR John M. Nash - 30 Dec 1977
CDR Andrew L. Burgess - 27 Mar 1979
CDR Joseph L. K. Corcoran - 05 Jun 1980
CDR Newell Tarrant - 22 Oct 1981
CDR R. C. Williamson - 22 Dec 1982
CDR John P. Patton - 22 Jun 1984
CDR John F. Williams - 03 Apr 1986
CDR A. R. Gorthy, Jr. - 1987

Aircraft assignment - date type first received
McDonnell F3H-2 / F-3B Demon - October 1960
McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II - August 1964
McDonnell Douglas F-4N Phantom II - 1973
McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II - 1977
McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II - February 1981
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet - July 1986

source: US Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC)

VFA-161, nicknamed the Chargers, was a Strike Fighter Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established at NAS Cecil Field as Fighter Squadron VF-161 on 1 September 1960. It moved to NAS Miramar on 19 September 1961, and to Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan. On 1 April 1986, the squadron was redesignated VFA-161. It was disestablished on 1 April 1988.

The squadron made 9 deployments during the Vietnam War.

From 1 August 1963 to 10 March 1964, VF-161 equipped with F-3Bs was embarked on USS Oriskany.

From 12 May to 3 December 1966, VF-161 equipped with F-4Bs was embarked on USS Constellation with Carrier Air Wing 15. On 13 July, four of the squadron's aircraft engaged six of the Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) MiG-17. Using a Sidewinder missile, LT William 'Squeaky' McGuigan and LT (jg) Robert Fowler shot down one of the MiG-17s.

On 22 October F-4B #151009 was hit by antiaircraft fire, the pilot LTCDR Earl McBride was killed in action body not recovered, the copilot ejected successfully and was rescued.

From 29 July 1967 to 6 April 1968, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea. On 28 December F-4B #150449 was hit by antiaircraft fire near Haiphong both crewmen ejected successfully and were rescued. In March USS Coral Sea left Yankee Station to operate off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo.

From 7 September 1968 to 18 April 1969, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea.

From 23 September 1969 to 1 July 1970, VF-161 was deployed on USS Coral Sea. On 25 February F-4B #152286 was lost due to fuel exhaustion, both crewmen ejected successfully and were rescued. On 17 May F-4B #152239 crashed on launch the pilot Lt Norman Westwood was killed in action, body not recovered while the radar intercept officer ejected successfully and was rescued.

From 16 April to 6 November 1971, VF-161 was deployed on USS Midway.

From 10 April 1972 to 3 March 1973, VF-161 was deployed on USS Midway. From May to October 1972, the squadron participated in air strikes against targets in North Vietnam to interdict the flow of supplies and to reduce North Vietnam's ability to continue the war effort in South Vietnam. On 18 May squadron aircraft shot down two VPAF MiG-17s, a further two MiG-17s were shot down on 23 May. On 12 January 1973, squadron aviators shot down another MiG-17, this was the last MiG to be shot down during the Vietnam War.

From 11 September to 31 December 1973, VF-161 equipped with F-4Ns was deployed on USS Midway. From this deployment USS Midway and Carrier Air Wing Five were permanently homeported in Yokosuka.

In April and May 1975, squadron aircraft provided air cover for Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American personnel from Saigon, South Vietnam, as the country fell to the communists.

In August 1976, embarked on USS Midway, the squadron conducted flight operations near the Korean peninsula following the Axe murder incident. In 1979, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, deployed to the Gulf of Aden to relieve USS Constellation and maintain a U.S. carrier presence following the outbreak of fighting between North and South Yemen and the fall of the Shah of Iran. Following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran and the taking of American hostages on 4 November 1979, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained on station until relieved in early February 1980.

From May-June 1980, USS Midway, with VF-161 embarked, operated off the coast of Korea due to the civil unrest in South Korea and the Kwangju massacre. In December 1981 due to tensions in Korea the squadron operated from USS Midway off the coast of Korea until the tensions subsided.

From May to October 1986, the squadron relocated to NAS Lemoore for transition training in the F/A-18 Hornet and redesignation as a Strike Fighter Squadron. VF-161 was one of only two F-4 fighter squadrons to be assigned the VFA designation.

From October 1986 to June 1987, following the transfer of the squadron from CVW-5 and awaiting transfer to a newly established air wing, the squadron was in an inactive status at NAS Lemoore. The squadron was then briefly assigned to the newly re-established Carrier Air Wing Ten (CVW-10, Tailcode NM). VFA-161 conducted work-ups on USS Enterprise and was scheduled to deploy on board USS Independence. Following budget cuts, CVW-10 was disestablished. VFA-161 was disestablished on 1 April 1988.

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