1922 – A Thoroughly Modern Submarine

1922 A holiday from building

With the signing of the Naval Arms Limitation Treaty, the American navy had a number of logistical problems to be met with in order to meet the terms of the treaty. Not the least of those issues was what to do with the ships that were now considered excess and needed to be destroyed.

The buildup that started with the naval appropriations bill of 1916 included a number of new construction projects including battleships. Since battleships were the main target of the treaty, the allowed tonnage meant that existing ships would also have to be destroyed.

The Five-Power treaty, signed by the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France and Italy was the cornerstone of the naval disarmament program. It called for each of the countries involved to maintain a set ratio of warship tonnage which allowed the United States and Britain 500,000 tons, Japan 300,000 tons and France and Italy each 175,000 tons. Though Japan preferred that tonnage be allotted at a 10:10:7 ratio, and the US Navy preferred a 10:10:5 ratio, the conference ultimately adopted the 5:5:3 limits.

The Washington Conference avoided an expensive buildup by each power worrying the other two might be getting too powerful. The agreements forced the US to scrap 15 old battleships and two new ones, along with 13 ships under construction. Britain had to scrap ships too—indeed, more warships were “lost at Washington” than at any battle in history.


Washington, Feb. 8 — (By the Associated Press.) —Administration officials are undecided as yet as to suggestions that a veteran battleship of the fleet be scrapped in accordance with the naval limitation treaty and is be sunk at sea with full military honors to symbolize ratification of the pact which will end competitive navy building among the five great naval powers. The idea is known to have appealed to some high officers of the government as a fitting tribute to the old battlecraft. It has impressed other officials as an undesirable and impracticable course. However there is to be no definite decision reached until the full program of disposing of scrapped battleships has been worked out in detail by technical experts. In any case, one of the ships destined to be destroyed probably will be sent to the bottom by gunfire. The pre-dreadnaught Iowa, now equipped for distant control by radio and successfully tried out in aircraft maneuvers incident to the sinking of former German craft last year, is to be sunk by the fire of the fleet sometime this spring.

At the same time, the submarine was becoming more and more of a focus for strategists.

The lessons learned from the Germans in the previous war were starting to tip the scales in the direction of the smaller and less expensive submarines.

Article: With Uncle Sam’s Undersea Arm of Defense

The United States Navy will now move in the direction of building up its attenuated submarine flotilla. American inventive genius is making huge strides in the development of the submarine, and it is but a question of time until the submersible will take its place as one of the strongest defensive arms of the navy.

The Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armament made it clear that the public opinion of the world looks upon the submarine as a legitimate weapon, particularly in view of its defensive uses, , and no limitation was placed upon the building of submarines. The contention that it was peculiarly the weapon of small nations was generally recognized and its comparative cheapness recommended it to the nations that were striving to lift the economic burden imposed upon the peoples of the world by the expenditures of billions for costly battleships. At the conference the United States took the view that its long coast line demanded the retention of the submarine as a means of preventing invasion. As a result of these conditions the conference contented itself with writing into international law a prohibition against attacks on merchant vessels by submarines.

The modern submarine is by no means the gas filled, thin-skinned shell that a decade ago endangered the lives of its crew almost as much as it menaced the enemy. Today the submersible provides almost complete comfort for the men who really go down to the sea in ships. To increase the size of the submarine, and the perfection of ventilating systems have wrought marvelous changes in the life of the sailor who elects to follow the sea beneath the surface. He has comfortable sleeping quarters, and is afforded some opportunity for recreation.

The modern submersible

Illustrated is a projected fleet or ocean going double hull type of submarine, of approximately 1,250 tons surface displacement, capable of a speed of 17 knots on the surface and 12 knots submerged.

In tanks below the bottom the submarine carries her supply of fuel oil, lubricating oil and fresh water. The space between the inner and outer hulls is divided by watertight bulkheads to form side or wing tanks which are used for water ballast when submerging the vessels. In the forward end of the submarine and surrounding the bow torpedo tubes is a “trim” tank which is used to keep the vessel in an even keel. At bow and stem are diving rudders which serve to aid in submerging the submarine and in bringing it to the surface, as well as to maintain the ship t any desired depth below the surface.

The first compartment forward is the torpedo room, with its nest of torpedo tubes and the torpedoes stowed in racks on either side of the vessel. Impulse air tanks connected with the tubes furnish the air blast which starts the deadly messengers on their way.

Comfortable Quarters.

Above the tubes in the forward end of the room is a vertical motor the operation of the deck capstan and the anchor winch gear. The anchor is shown hauled up at the bow.

Just aft of the forward torpedo compartment are the quarters of the crew. They are fitted with berths and lockers, lavatories and shower baths. They are also used by the crew as a mess-room. Immediately behind the crew’s quarters the officers’ quarters are located. They are provided with curtained berths, lockers and shower baths. Under the removable flooring of both men’s and officers’ quarters are electric storage batteries.

The next room, or central control room, is practically the “brain” of the ship, and it is from this place that the various mechanisms in all parts of the boat can be controlled. The main room also contains a small room fitted up for wireless telegraph instruments.

Below the control room flooring and reached by means of hatches, are the pump room, ammunition stowage and refrigerator. The pump room provides space for the large and most important suction pumps, but at the same time supplies the means for the control of various other small pumps, located elsewhere, by electric controls, while the performance of the pumps is indicated by means of gauges, and indicators.

Supplying Air.

The refrigerator is modern in every respect, having its own ice making machine, and having ample room for the storage of sufficient food for extended cruises.

The engine room is the largest compartment in the ship, having Diesel oil engines. Oil coolers, strainers, oil pumps, feed systems, gauges, indicators, muffler system, air induction and ventilation system are also installed in this room. The engines transmit their power to the propeller shaft by means of an efficient flexible clutch.

The motor room, directly aft, contains the main driving motors which are used chiefly for propelling the ship when under water, and for use as generators for re- charging the storage batteries when on the surface. In this room small pumps and two high pressure air compressors are installed. A work bench is provided, small oil containers, a motor driven lathe, an electric drill and a grinder used for emergency repairs. A switchboard is located directly over each motor, and the starting or stopping of the motors can be effected here as well as from, the control room.

The next compartment or aft torpedo room, is very similar to the one in the forward end of the ship, and permits the stowing of torpedoes, warheads, etc.

The aftermost space of the boat is the after trim tank, which, in conjunction with the forward trim tank, regulates the trim. These tanks can be pumped full of water or emptied to such a degree as to obtain an even keel. High pressure air flasks are provided for the starting of the main engines. The various compartments are accessible from the deck by means of quick-closing watertight hatches.

The conning tower located directly over the control room is thoroughly equipped with means for the operation of ship. Torpedoes can be fired from here as well as from the bridge. The bridge is equipped with a binnacle, mounts for machine guns, voice tubes and engine telegraph.

The fairwater in the rear of the bridge houses the air intake valves for ventilating the ship and supplying air to the Diesel engines, the periscope cylinders, and the telescopic mast with the radio antennae.

When the Submarine Dives.

When sailing on the surface, the submarine is controlled like any ordinary vessel and is propelled by her Diesel engines at quite a high need. When submerged the main electric motors supply a propelling power and the vessel runs somewhat slower.

When making ready to submerge, the various trim and auxiliary tanks are filled to a capacity which will keep the submarine on an even keel and with very little buoyancy left when the main ballast tanks have been filled, in fact, leaving only the upper part of the fairwater above the surface of the sea. If it is desired to submerge on the spot, a little more water may be added in the tanks and the submarine will sink slowly out of sight.

If it is desired to submerge while running on the surface and to continue running under water after submerging, the trim tanks and ballast tanks are flooded very quickly and the boat is forced under water by manipulating the diving rudders at the bow and at the stern simultaneously. This is called a “crash” dive and is used when it is necessary to escape from sight. These rudders may also be used for bringing the boat to the surface by going forward and upward at a slight angle.

The boat may also he kept running at a certain depth with the periscopes projecting above water, which enables the commander to see the enemy while the submarine itself is practically out of sight. Coming to the surface is attained simply by blowing the water out of one or more tanks, which will give the boat sufficient buoyancy to rise to the surface. By blowing the main ballast tanks she will obtain the surface trim suitable for navigating.

The Lakeland evening telegram. (Lakeland, Fla.), 10 Feb. 1922. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn95047222/1922-02-10/ed-1/seq-7/

The unintended consequence of the arms limitation treaty was that America continued to make improvements in its submarine programs. This would pay off the day after the December 7th Pearl Harbor attacks when the submarine force was unleashed on the Empire of Japan. Because one of the other unintended consequences of the treaty is that it provided a pathway for Japan to build the aircraft carriers that would bring the destruction to the battleships that had already lost their predominance in naval warfare… they just did not know it until that day.

Mister Mac


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