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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Patch courtesy of
Don McGrogan, BMCS, USN (ret.)

S-39 (SS-144)

Radio Call Sign: November - India - Papa - Kilo


Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons


Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Yangtze Service Medal - China Service Medal - American Defense Service Medal (with Sea Clasp)
Bottom Row - Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2) - World War II Victory Medal - Philippine Defense Medal


S-18 Class Submarine (Holland-type): Laid down, 14 January 1919, at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., San Francisco, CA.; Launched, 2 July 1919; Commissioned, USS S-39 (SS-144), 14 September 1923; Final Disposition, lost due to grounding, 13 August 1942, off Rossel Island, in the Coral Sea. S-39 earned two battle stars for her World War II service.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 854 t., Submerged: 1,062 t.; Length 219' 3" ; Beam 20' 8"; Draft 15' 11"(mean); Depth Limit 200'; Speed, Surfaced 14.5 kts, Submerged 11 kts; Complement, 4 Officers, 34 Enlisted; Armament, four 21" torpedo tubes, 12 torpedoes, one 4"/50 deck gun; Propulsion, diesel-electric, New London Ship & Engine diesel engines, HP 1200, Fuel Capacity, 41,192 gals.; General Electric Co., electric motors, Battery Cells, 120, twin propellers.
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S-39 139k A photo marking the launching of S-39 (SS-144) at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp, Ltd., Union Plant, Potrero Wks. on 2 July 1919. The ship's sponsor, Miss. Clara M. Huber, is shown on the left. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
SS 135 - 46 113k The S-boat was the culmination of E.B. single-hull design for the U.S. Navy. This is a typical unit of the S-30-41 (SS-135-46) group, as completed. Ballast trunks are indicated. Lines below the hull show the location of the fuel tanks forward & aft (the foremost two tanks of the after group are the lubricating oil tank & sump tank). Arrows indicate the two Fessenden oscillators under the boat's keel, fore & aft. Arrows in the bridge structure indicate the three periscopes (one in the conning tower, soon removed) the telescoping radio mast & the radio tube leading down into the radio room.
In the control room the wheels controlling the planes were on the port side: the three levers for the Kingston valves were on the opposite side, abaft the chart table. The radio room, (below the radio tube, into which the antenna leads ran) was set into the after port side of the control room.
Abaft the main motors were auxiliaries: the low pressure main ballast pump on the centerline, the high pressure main ballast pump on the starboard shaft, the motor for the Fessenden oscillator on the port shaft.
Drawing & Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press.
SS 144 423k After commissioning and fitting out, S-39 (SS-144) joined Submarine Force, Battle Fleet; and, from October through December 1923, conducted maneuvers off southern California. With the next year, 1924, she moved south to the Panama Canal, thence proceeded into the Caribbean for final trials, further exercises and training dives.
S-39 appears here in Galtin Locks, Canal Zone, 17 January 1924.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
USN photo # 80-CF-42143, from National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Photo added 05/03/16.
Canopus & Friends 85k Canopus (AS-9) in Apra Harbor, Guam, with Submarine Division 17 alongside, 29 October 1924. Submarine Division 17's members were:
S-36 (SS-141),
S-37(SS-142);
S-38 (SS-143);
S-39 (SS-144);
S-40 (SS-145) and
S-41 (SS-146).
USN photo # NH 55048, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
Canopus 76k Canopus (AS-9), in Apra Harbor, Guam, 29 October 1924, with all six members of Submarine Division 17 alongside.
The division consisted of:
S-36 (SS-141);
S-37 (SS-142),
S-38 (SS-143),
S-39 (SS-144),
S-40 (SS-145) and
S-41 (SS-146).
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 104940.
S-39 120k S-39 (SS-144) leaving Apra Harbor, Guam, with Submarine Division 17, 29 October 1924. Taken by a U.S. Marine Corps photographer. USN photo # NH 42149, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
S-39 19k S-39 (SS-144), possibly with the US Asiatic Fleet at Tsingtao, China, circa 1930. USN photo by Ken Lusk.
S-39 120k Surrounded by junks, S-39 (SS-144), possibly with the US Asiatic Fleet at Tsingtao, China, circa 1930. USN photo courtesy of USNI.
S-39 290k S-39 (SS-144) off Tsingato, China on 13 June 1930. USN photo # 80-G-466176, from National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Photo added 05/03/16.
S-39 18k S-39 (SS-144), probably in the Far East, circa 1920's - 30's. USN photo courtesy of Hyperwar US Navy in WWII.
S-39 47k High and dry in the dock sits S-39 (SS-144), possibly while in the Philippines. She had returned to Manila in 1925 and for the next 16 years maintained, with few interruptions, a similar schedule: summers based at Tsingtao, with patrols along the China coast; and winters in the Philippines, for overhauls, engineering trials, joint Army-Navy maneuvers, type training exercises, and short patrols. Photo courtesy of history.navy.mil.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
Canopus 64k Canopus (AS-9), with the Asiatic Fleet's Submarine Squadron Five alongside, during the 1930s. The submarines present include (from left to right): S-37 (SS-142); S-40 (SS-145); S-36 (SS-141);S-38 (SS-143); S-41 (SS-146); S-39 (SS-144). US National Archives photo # 80-G-1014615, a USN photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
SS 141 95k The boats of Submarine Division Seventeen (SubDiv 17), US Asiatic Fleet, moored alongside Canopus (AS-9) at Tsingtao, China, circa 1930. Identifiable submarines present include S-36 (SS-141), S-39 (SS-144), S-37 (SS-142) and S-41 (SS-146). Note sailors relaxing on deck, Chinese men on board the submarines, and 4"/50 deck guns. USN photo # NH 59968, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
SS 141 88k The boats of SubDiv 17, Asiatic Fleet, moored alongside Canopus (AS-9) at Tsingtao, China, circa 1930. Identifiable submarines present include S-39 (SS-144), S-37 (SS-142) and S-41 (SS-146). The boat closest to the camera is probably S-36 (SS-141). Note SubDiv 17 insignia painted on conning towers. USN photo # NH 51832, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
SS 141 196k S-36 (SS-141) at anchor, moored alongside Canopus (AS-9), probably at Tsingtao, China, circa 1930 with the rest of the boats of Submarine Division Seventeen (SubDiv 17). The other S-boats are probably S-37 (SS-142), S-38 (SS-143), S-39 (SS-144). Note all the washing hung out to dry on the signal lines. Courtesy of ussubvetsofworldwarii.org.
Canopus 723k S-39 (SS-144) in China, possibly Quingdao in Shandong Province, circa early 1930s. Source: U.S. Navy, Photo No. unknown, courtesy of Mike Green.
S-37 68k Boats of SubRon 5 at Olongapo, Philippine Islands, circa 1933-1934. Submarines present are S-37 (SS-142), S-38 (SS-143), S-39 (SS-144) and S-40 (SS-145). USN photo # NH 80142, Courtesy G.K. Bishop, USAF, 1974.
S-39 73k S-39 (SS-144) firing her 4"/50 deck gun during gunnery exercises in Philippine waters, circa 1933-1934. The motor launch in the foreground is from Canopus (AS-9). Photo courtesy of Captain G.K. Bishop, USAF, 1974. USN photo # NH 80141 from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
S-39 97k S-39 (SS-144) off Olongapo, Philippine Islands, 1935. Photographed by G.J. Freret, Jr. USN photo # NH 51828, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
S-39 95k S-39 (SS-144) surfacing during short range battle practice off Tsingtao, China, in the summer of 1931. USN photo # NH 50199, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
S-39 118k Sacramento (PG-19) off Tsingtao, China, during the 1920s or 1930s. Several U.S. Navy submarines are in the foreground, among them S-39 (SS-144), the outboard boat in the nest. USN photo # NH 101685, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
S-39 186k "Jungle warfare! Crew of the S-39 (SS-144), led by Skipper "Red" Coe, searches for Singapore refugees on a tropic island, circa 1942. Had the enemy intercepted the call for help? Were Japanese marksmen waiting in ambush? This was one of many dangerous special missions performed by submariners." Drawing by Lt. Cmdr. Fred Freemen, courtesy of Theodore Roscoe, from his book "U.S. Submarine Operations of WW II", published by USNI.
S-39 293k Commemorative photo remembering the S-39 (SS-144).Photo courtesy of Tom Kermen. Dante's Prayer courtesy of Loreena McKennitt via quinlanroad.com.
S-39 117k Google Earth satellite photo of Rossel Island where S-39 (SS-144) was lost. View courtesy of Google Earth.
S-39 100k The S-39 (SS-144) was lost at Rossel Island, which appears in this NASA photo. Photo # STS092-711-80 19,taken October 2000, 02:15 UTC, courtesy of Earth sciences and image analysis laboratory, NASA, Johnson Space Center / oceandots.com.
Fremantle 365k This plaque was unveiled 20 March 1995 by His Excellency Major General P.M. Jeffery OA MC, Govenor of Western Australia to commemeorate the sacrifices made by Allied submarined that operated out of Fremantle, Western Australia during WW II. Photo courtesy of Ron Reeves.

View the S-39 (SS-144)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
ComSubPac Report of loss of USS S-39 (SS 144) August 13-14, 1942 - No Men Lost
PigBoats.COM TM A Historic Look at Submarines

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