Navy ‘Stuff’…

Try, try, and try again…

Turtle, USS Alligator, Intelligent WhaleHolland VI

John Philip Holland, the man who developed the first true submarine accepted by U.S. Navy (spending 57 of his 74 years working with submersibles), was born in Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland, on 29 February 1840. As a youth, he considered the use of the submarine to further the cause of Irish Independence. Holland came to the United States in 1873. In 1875 his first submarine designs were submitted for consideration by the U.S. Navy, but turned down as unworkable.

Holland continued to improve his designs and worked on several experimental boats prior to his successful efforts with the privately built Holland launched in 1898. This was the first submarine having power to run submerged for any considerable distance. She was purchased by the Navy after rigorous tests, and six more of her type were ordered.

This picture is Holland emerging from Holland IV prior to Navy acceptance.

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo Holland-i-2 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

On 12 August 1914, John Philip Holland died in Newark, N.J.

And on 12 Oct 1900, the USS Holland (SS-1) was commissioned. She was the first US submarine actually ‘commissioned’ into Naval Service, Lt. Harry H. Caldwell in command.

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo UA 42.03.01 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Holland was armed with one 18″ bow tube for torpedoes (she carried three), and front and rear Dynamite Guns.

This picture, from Scientific American in 1898, shows the forward Dynamite Gun port open on Holland IV. Another point of interest, John Holland’s Holland Torpedo Boat Company, became the Electric Boat company in 1899, which still exists today and is still building submarines…

She served as a training submarine until 17 July 1905 when she was decommissioned.

I’m going to skip over the WWI and WWII boats, there are a ton of websites that go into detail on them HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. Otherwise this post would be pages and pages long…

Next I want to jump forward to July of 1951, Congress authorized construction of the world’s first nuclear powered submarine. Launched 21 January 1954 and commissioned 30 September 1954, USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571), Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson commanding, became the first nuclear powered ship in the United States Navy, hence the addition of the N  (Nuclear) after the SS designation.

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-18864 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

And these two speak for themselves… Operation ‘Sunshine’!

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo NH115432 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo NH115433 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

She was decommissioned in 1980, and is now on display at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT.

This is a quickie graphic from the late 1950s, of the US submarine development…

U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo NH 53472 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

You can go HERE and find a list of all the submarine classes, the class members, and any losses in that class.


U.S. Navy bureau of Ships – Official U.S. Navy photo 040730-N-1234E-002 from the U.S. Navy.

USS Virginia SSN-774 the first of the class, commissioned in 2015. Torpedoes, Tomahawks, and other toys…

This is the Commissioning Print, by Tom Liesegang.

They’ve come a LONG way in 117 years…


Navy ‘Stuff’… — 24 Comments

  1. Fascinating and great stuff. Glory, Honor and Thanks to those who wear the Dolphins!

  2. They’ve come a long way in our lifetimes as well (just short of 117 years).

  3. Aguila- Amen to that!

    LL- Oh so true!

    WSF- Heh, they ARE kinda large aren’t they! 🙂

  4. Hubby in 1995 bought at auction a box of cigarette lighters that contained some NAUTILUS commemorative Zippo lighters given to every man serving on the maiden voyage. Right after E-bay started we put one Zippo up for auction and received a reply from Commander Wilkinson that he had lost his lighter and fully intended to be the winner of that auction as he had been looking for years to find one. He did win the bid and we sent the lighter off to him but until his death we never put any of the 3 others we had up for sale.

  5. A sub surfaced about 150 yds off our port beam while we were at anchor. There were 100 enlisted standing in the chow line at the time, and it darned near scared us to death when that beast popped out of the water.

    That said, it still doesn’t make any sense (to me) to board a boat specifically designed to sink.

  6. I always thought torpedo rays were named after the torpedo weapon, but it was the other way around.
    I wonder what technology the newest torpedo use?

  7. …there was also once a fishing trawler that caught a US nuke sub in her net…found herself being towed backwards at 14 knots…

  8. Rev. Paul – all ships will sink, only the best of them can come back up 🙂

    I’m about 10 years away from qualifying for the Holland Society (50 years qualified). These are my people, and the old boats were really hard duty.

    “To the Last Salute” is available on Amazon, it is Korvettenkapitän Georg Ritter von Trapp’s memoir of submarine combat during WWI. Yes, he is ‘that’ Von Trapp and his memoir describes how difficult submarine service was and why the Germans wanted him back on active duty.

    To see how far we have come go to Chicago and tour the U-505, a type IXC WW-II sub, then go to Portland and tour USS Blueback SS-581, the one of the last diesel boats built by the US Navy.

    Nuclear power made submersible ships true submarines. Our time underwater is limited by the amount of food we carry, the reactor will run for a decade or more before refueling.

    Rick T MM1(ss)

  9. Our son is COB on a Virginia class after 20 years on Los Angeles boats.
    To be COB became a career goal of his after watching Hunt For Red October in High School.
    That boat was the Dallas. At one point be was scheduled to be COB on the Dallas, but things change.
    Years ago I was working with a friend and I mentioned my son being in Groton. He immediately asked which boat he was on.
    I told him, and he shared a few things about that boat.
    I asked how he knew. He had been Chief of the Pier.
    I mentioned him to my son, and he sounded in awe that I knew Chief Crippen.
    Of course the Nautilus is available to tour right outside Groton.
    After coffee at Norm’s.

  10. Rick T- Agreed! I got on Triple Nickel for some work and that was an ‘experience’, to put it mildly.

    Stretch- Yep, that’s a neat one!

    Ed- Yep, COB is the pinnacle of enlisted service! Congrats to him! Have had coffee at Norm’s and did tour her, then went and briefed on an LA class for work. 🙂

  11. One of my brothers served aboard the USS Dace, sister boat to the Thresher. He always said that the Navy only had two types of vessels; submarines and targets!

  12. My dad served on the USS Hake out of an Australian port in WWII.
    I recall my mom, many years later, saying that it took three days to get the “stink” off of him when he returned from the sea. His only comment had been that he’d never been so scared for so long in his life. (talking about being depth charged)

  13. When I was a wee lad we went to visit my brother’s ship (USS Vogelgesang (DD-862) when she was in port at Norfolk. Driving to his dock we saw 2 Skipjack class subs. I started to take a picture of them with my Kodak Instamatic, but he stopped me, said we could get in trouble. They were small, but they looked fast just sitting in the water.

    Roger, in theory US Submariners could take showers in saltwater. But I think the Chief Storekeeper crammed the showers full of parts and food.

    I second the comment on the U-boat in Chicago. The entire exhibit is awesome. But make sure you get a “ticket” to go through the U-505. Can’t remember if there was an additional fee, but I believe the main reason they starting having tickets was to control how many people went through “him” every day.

    • U-505 is a ticket only event.

      It wasn’t in 197…..(mumble mumble) when I went through when the boat was still outside and I got to look through the attack periscope. Because of the increased traffic, the attack periscope ended up getting broken in the 1980’s. That’s when they went to a ticket only event.

      The prices are $18 a head ($11 for kids 3-11). You can save $2 by ordering them online through the Museum of Science and Industry.

      Yes, I live near Chicago in the state of corruption and graft. Why do you ask?

  14. John- As far as ‘I’ was concerned, subs were targets…LOL (I flew P-3s)

    Roger- Yep, not bathing for days/weeks did leave an ‘odor’…

    Joseph- Both good ones, and U-505 used to be ‘free’ with an active duty ID card, guess that went the way of the dodo… sigh

    LCB- Yep, even today they are a ‘bit’ picky about pictures…

  15. The question is How many LA-class did you *find*, subhunter?” 🙂

    Our trip to the degaussing station in Pearl was a royal pain in the keister, but if it cut our MAD signature down it was worth it…