Navy Day in 1922 – The Thrill of a Lifetime

The weather on October 26, 1922 off the coast of New England was cold with fresh to strong northwest winds The Celebration of Navy Day was in full swing but two incidents were noted in the local paper. The first was a launch fire that endangered the lives of fifteen people who were shuttling out to the destroyer tender Bridgeport. The sailors were lauded for their damage control capabilities and no one was seriously injured.

The second was an unusual opportunity for some locals to dive in the submarine USS R-9.

Here is one of the reporters telling the story:

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer. October 27, 1922


Twenty Guests of the Chamber of Commerce Get “Thrill That Comes Once In a Life Time.”

“Through the courtesy of officers of the Submarine R-9, now stationed in Bridgeport in observance of Navy Day, a party of twenty guests of the Chamber of Commerce and five newspaper men took a trip on the boat out into the Sound and submerged to a depth of 47 feet off Penfield Reef and just south of Port Jefferson, L.I.

The submarine, in charge of Lieutenant Commander Vincent J. Moore and Lieutenant L.L. Hairy with the party and the newspaper men left the foot of Union street at 2:30 yesterday afternoon, with all below deck and passed the Bridgeport lighthouse out into the Sound. The two lieutenants were the only ones above deck, guiding the destinies of the sub from the bridge.

Most of the party stayed in the center compartment. There are five compartments lo the boat and three hatches. All the hatches were open and the fresh air that rushed down them felt good to the landlubbers who were not used to the odor of gasoline and oil from the Diesel engines which are used while the boat is sitting above water.

A Mechanical Maze

The forward compartment consists of the crew’s quarters and the torpedo tubes, of which there are four. The boat is entirely lighted by electricity. In the second compartment from the forward part of the boat is the operating room where the boat is controlled. A wireless room, the hatch to the bridge, and the main periscope, as well as the controlling lever are in compartment. The whole boat is a maze of intricate valves, wires, tubes and pipes.

The center compartment is where the valves sink the boat below water. In this compartment are the switch board and the galley. Another periscope is also in this compartment. The fourth compartment is taken up entirely with the engines while the fifth consists of the electric motors.

The boat sailed out of Penfield Reef here soundings were taken. The crew hustled about and orders were given to submerge. The land lubbers were calm and not one was attacked with sea sickness. The boat swayed back and forth as this or that tank was filled with water. All the hatches were battered down and the commander stood on the ladder to the bridge below the hatch and peered through the glass to see that all was well. A “gob” in the center compartment opened two wheels. “Now she’s going down” he said.

Some of the party peered through the periscope which was tilted toward the sky as the forward part of the boat was high while the lower end of the ship was sinking. Soon the waves could be seen, then they splashed on the glass of the periscope and finally nothing could be seen but the green water.

There was a sensation of humming in the ears as the boat sunk below, the engines ceased and everyone breathed artificial air. Pressure caused the sensation in the ears. The boat under the water swayed back and forward and all held tight. A bell rang, the motors were switched on, and the sub darted ahead and up to the surface. The indicator showed that the sub had submerged to a depth of 47 feet off Penfield Reef.

Reaching the top of the bridge hatch was opened and the cool refreshing air felt good to the landlubbers as it rushed in. All the other hatches were kept battered down until the indicators showed that all water was pumped out of the tanks. This is done as a precaution should anything happen.

Nearing Bridgeport light all the hatches were opened and most of the party went on the deck of the ship where a gale of fifty miles an hour made them hold tight to the lines on the top of the sub. The sound was quite choppy and every now and then huge waves splashed the deck of the R-9. The sub backed into the Union street dock at 4:30 and the guests of the officers thanked them for the unique adventure of going 47 feet under the waters of the sound. It was the thrill of a life time.

The party, headed by Mr. and Mrs. Seward Price, consisted of Attorney William Bent, Rev. Alexander Allison, Mr. and Mrs. Earle Garlick, L Davis, Charles W. Simpson, Mrs. H. L Cooper, Mrs. Andrew Smithton. Earl Schwig, Frank D. Bell, Mrs Mr. and Mrs. John Schwartz. Charles Gillaty and William B. Griff.

The R-9 would continue to serve her country through the coming decades and to the end of World War 2.

R-1 Class Submarine: Laid down, 6 March 1918, at Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, MA.; Launched, 24 May 1919; Commissioned, USS R-9, 30 July 1919; Redesignated USS R-9 (SS-86), 17 July 1920; Decommissioned, 2 May 1931, at Philadelphia, PA; Laid up in the Reserve Fleet; Recommissioned, 14 March 1941, at New London, CT.; Decommissioned, 25 September 1945, at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH; Struck from the Naval Register, 11 October 1945; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping in February 1946.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 569 t., Submerged: 680 t.; Length 186′ 2″ ; Beam 18′; Draft 14′ 6″; Speed, Surfaced 13.5 kts, Submerged 10.5 kts; Depth Limit, 200′; Complement 2 Officers, 27 Enlisted; Armament, four 21″ torpedo tubes forward, 8 torpedoes, one 3″/50 deck gun; Propulsion, diesel electric engines, New England Ship and Engine Co., diesel engines, 1200hp, Fuel Capacity, 18,880 gals., Electro Dynamic Co., electric motors, twin propellers.

Mister Mac

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