Please report any broken links or trouble you might come across to the Webmaster.
Please take a moment to let us know so that we can correct any problems and make your visit as enjoyable and as informative as possible.


NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

S-51 (SS-162)


Radio Call Sign: November - India - Quebec- Kilo

S-48 Class Submarine: Laid down, 22 December 1919, at Lake Torpedo Boat Co., Bridgeport, CT.; Launched, 20 August 1921; Commissioned, USS S-51 (SS-162), 24 June 1922; Lost due to collision, 25 September 1925, rammed and sunk off Block Island, NY, by SS City of Rome;Raised, 5 June 1926; Struck from the Naval Register, 27 January 1930; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 23 June 1930, to Borough Metal Company, Brooklyn, NY.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 903 t., Submerged: 1,230 t.; Length 240'; Beam 21' 10"; Draft 13' 6"; Depth Limit 200"; Speed, surfaced 14.5 kts, submerged 11 kts; Complement 4 Officers 34 Enlisted; Armament, five 21" torpedo tubes, 16 torpedoes, one 4"/50 deck gun; Propulsion, diesel electric engines, Busch Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Co., diesel engines, HP 1800; Fuel Capacity 44,350 gal.; Ridgeway Dynamo & Electric Co., electric motors, HP 1500, Battery cells 120, twin propellers.
Click On Image
For Full Size Image
Size Image Description Source
S-51 31k Launching day for the S-51 (SS-162) at Lake Torpedo Boat Co., Bridgeport, CT., 20 August 1921. Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
S-51 1.40k BROADSIDE view of the submarine S-51 (SS-162) before she was launched at Bridgeport, Conn.
PROHIBITION did not prevent the launching of our latest submarine S-51 being carried out in the good old-fashioned way at Bridgeport Conn. Mrs. Roy P. Mills used champagne which had been stored away especially by officers of the Lake Torpedo Boat Company. Five hundred carrier pigeons were released as the S-51 struck the water and carried the news West and South, telling the country that the last contract submarine of wartime origin had been successfully launched.
Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Photo from The Washington Times. (Washington [D.C.]) 1902-1939, 28 August 1921, SUNDAY MORNING, Image 40, via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
PDF added 06/06/14.
S-51 388k Last Privately Built Submarine
The United States submarine S-51 (SS-162) being launched at the yard of the Lake Torpedo company in Bridgeport Conn., and Mrs. Roy P. Mills who was sponsor for the vessel. This is the last of the submarines to be built by private contractors.
Image and text provided by State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO.
Photo from The Jasper News. (Jasper, Mo.) 1898-1924, 13 October 1921, Image 8, via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
R-24 134k PDF entitled "How the Diesel engine came to America." Photo courtesy of subvetpaul.com.
S-51 35k A day in the life of active service during S-51's (SS-162) 39 months in commission in 1924. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 44k S-51 (SS-162) underway. Circa 1924, location unknown. Courtesy of goatlocker.exis.net.
S-50 & 51 49k S-51 (SS-162) & S-50 (SS-161) alongside, circa 1922-25. USN photo courtesy of ussubvetsofwwii.org.
S-51 48k The SS City of Rome, which struck and sank the S-51 (SS-162) on 25 September 1925.
She is pictured here as the Suwannee, of the Merchants & Miners Line entering the port of Jacksonville. She was named for the city of Rome in the State of Georgia. She was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey in 1911 as the Suwannee of the Merchants & Miners Line and was sold to the Savannah Line in September 1917. She was sold back to Merchants & Miners in 1928 and renamed Somerset, and was broken up at Baltimore in 1938.
For Merchants & Miners she ran between Philadelphia, Baltimore, Savannah, and Jacksonville, Florida. For the Savannah Line she ran between Boston and Savannah. 3648 tons enrolled length 309 ft., breadth 46 ft. 170 passengers. She only carried cargo after July 1936.
Photo courtesy of floridamemory.com. [State Library and Archives of Florida.] Text & i.d. courtesy of Ron Jones.
SS 162 781k Unsuccessful attempt to raise the S-51 (SS-162). Pontoons were later used. Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.
SS 162 994k Bodies from S-51 (SS-162) being loaded onto a destroyer on 26 September 1925, the morning after the sinking.
Although there were just three survivors of the S-51, Apparently, a total of ten men made it off the boat, including the CO, LT Rodney Dobson, but later perished in the cold water. The body of one of those seven who didn't make it was later found alongside the hull of the S-51. The other six were never recovered. The three survivors were picked up by a small boat and eventually taken aboard the SS City of Rome, the ship that struck the S-51 . I am fortunate to have in my collection two first edition copies of Edward Ellsberg's fantastic book On The Bottom, in which he describes the sinking and salvage of the S-51 (SS-162). It sheds a lot of light on the various ships involved in the work on the S-51.
In the narrative, he describes two distinct phases in the work on the S-51. The first phase took place from 25 to 30 September 1925 and involved the initial efforts to raise the boat in order to rescue anyone who may be trapped inside. Phase two ran from 14 October 1925 to 05 July 1926 and involved the salvage and raising of the S-51.
Although there were just three survivors of the S-51, ten men actually made it off the boat before she sank, including the CO, LT Rodney Dobson. The three survivors were picked up by a small boat and eventually taken aboard the SS City of Rome, the ship that struck the S-51.
When Ellsberg arrived on the scene aboard the Falcon (AM-28) late the next day, Ellsberg described the ships on the scene as being the Camden (AS-6), the S-50 (SS-161), "several destroyers, another submarine, some smaller boats". Unfortunately he makes no mention of the names of the destroyers.
During phase two, the salvage squadron consisted of the Falcon, the repair ship Vestal (AR-4), and tugs Luka (AT-37), Sagamore (AT-20), and Penobscot (YT-42). No destroyers or other ships are ever mentioned as having been a part of the salvage efforts, except for a "large Navy derrick, the United States", and the S-3 (SS-107). During phase two, Ellsberg makes only one mention of bodies being removed from the boat prior to her drydocking. Two men made it into the gun access trunk just forward of the conning tower and died there were attempting to escape the sunken boat. The bodies were discovered by divers when they attempted to use the trunk as a means of entering the control room. These bodies were hoisted up to the Falcon's motorboat and taken to the Vestal.
So, for the pictures that show the recovery of bodies from the S-51, both the destroyer (08_06_00632) and the two Camden photos (08_06_00604 & 00605) had to have been taken during the phase one rescue operation and most likely were of the five men who made it off the boat but later perished in the cold water. Since neither destroyers nor the Camden were present during phase two these pictures must have been taken on 26 September 1925, the morning after the sinking. Curiously, Ellsberg's book has a picture of a flag draped body on the deck of a ship on page 69. The narrative would have you believe that this was one of the two men retrieved from the gun access trunk. However, details of the ship shown in the photo reveal her to be the Camden and not the Vestal. Therefore, a photo from phase one made its way into the part of the book that took place during phase two. One of the Camden photos (00605) shows a tug, the Triton, alongside. There is only one tugboat listed in the U.S. Navy with the name Triton (YT-10) and she does not match the boat in the photo. Besides, she had lost her name prior to the sinking and was just going by her hull number in 1925. Therefore the Triton in this photo was probably one of the "smaller boats" described by Ellsberg as having been on the scene. It was most likely a civilian owned craft.
A floating derrick is shown in two photos (08_06_006571 & 006633). In phase one, Ellsberg describes that the initial rescue efforts were contracted out to a civilian firm which brought two large derricks out to the scene on 30 September. These were named the Monarch and the Century. A picture of the two derricks attempting to raise the S-51 is shown on page 5. Neither of the two derricks shown exactly match the configuration of the derrick in pictures 006571 & 00633. Therefore it can be speculated that the derrick in the photos is actually the United States, and that the photo was probably taken during the first pontoon operation in late October 1925. The Sagamore towed the United States out to the wreck and took her back to Newport. But the other boat shown in the photo is not the Sagamore and I am at a loss to identify her. Curiously, I have yet to find any mention of the Navy derrick with the name United States. She will remain a mystery for now.
Apparently, a total of ten men made it off the boat, including the three who survived. The body of one of those seven who didn't make it was later found alongside the hull of the S-51. The other six were never recovered. So this brings into question the photos of body recovery on the Flickr page. If only one was recovered, how could a destroyer and the Camden both bring bodies on board? That means that the photo in Ellsberg's book that I mentioned before had to have been of the one body that was recovered. It also means that the destroyer recovery photo was most likely not a body recovery at all. The last page of the report states that a total of nine bodies had been recovered by divers, almost assuredly phase two recoveries, but Ellsberg makes no mention of this at all, other than the two in the gun access trunk.
The report also states that the tug Wandank (AT-26) and Bagaduce (AT-21) also briefly assisted the salvage effort, but these two tugs were not mentioned at all by Ellsberg. This is probably due to their brief work, and also because they were not officially assigned to the salvage force.
From another source, I discovered that the "other submarine" mentioned by Ellsberg as having been present on scene when the Falcon arrived on 26 September was actually the S-1 (SS-105) under the command of none other than Charles B. "Swede" Momsen, the inventor of the Momsen Lung and co-inventor of the McCann Rescue chamber. It was the S-1 that made the initial discovery of the S-51's wreck by spotting the oil slick left by leaks from damaged fuel tanks.
Photo i.d. courtesy of Chuck Haberlein.
Text i.d. courtesy of Dave Johnston, (USNR).
Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.
SS 162 913k Flag on Camden (AS-6) at half mast while bodies from S-51 (SS-162) are brought aboard.
The accompanying privately owned tug boat is the Triton.

Text i.d. courtesy of Dave Johnston, (USNR).
Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.
S-51 73k Derricks attempt to raise stern of S-51 (SS-162). Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 100k Divers on fall operations. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 52k Luka holding Falcon in position over wreck. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 90k Main induction valve bonnet. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 38k Divers aboard damaged sub. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
SS 162 273k Being raised off Point Judith. Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.
SS 162 670k Raising the sub S-51 (SS-162) off Point Judith.
This photo shows one of the commercial derricks, probably the Century, making an attempt to raise the S-51 during the phase one rescue efforts. Notice how far over the derrick is listing under the strain of trying to raise the sub. This is a dangerous situation for the derrick and she could have easily capsized and sunk. Ultimately the S-51 was completely flooded and far too heavy for the derricks to raise.
Text courtesy of Dave Johnston.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.
SS 162 605k Flag at half mast flying from the pontoons that raised the S-51 (SS-162). Photo courtesy of Tommy Trampp.
S-51 81k Salvage. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 30k Towing in. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 66k Towing in with Falcon assisting. USNHC photo # NH 69222 courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 55k A huge hole in her port side. Photo originally appeared in Edward Ellsberg's 1929 book, On the Bottom which told the story of the S-51 salvage.
US Navy photo courtesy of Scott Koen & ussnewyork.com.
S-51 87k S-51 (SS-162) in dry dock after being raised, 5 June 1926, showing hole and mattresses, bunk frames, etc. tossed out the hole during the clean up and body recovery.
Note the crowds lining the rim of the dry dock. Date of photo is unknown.
Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
S-51 575k S-51 (SS-162) in dry dock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard after being raised, 5 June 1926. The pontoons which raised the submarine lie on either side of the boat. US Navy photo courtesy of Angie Mattke.
S-51 93k General location of the site of the ramming & sinking of the S-51 (SS-162) by the SS City of Rome. View courtesy of Google Earth.
S-51 114k S-51 conning tower, starboard side. Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
S-51 116k View of S-51's (SS-162) stern showing damage to stern planes and rudder. Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
S-51 85k View of S-51 (SS-162) showing damage to bow and conning tower bent over to port during salvage operations. Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
R-9 156k R-9 (SS-86), S-51 (SS-162), and S-1 (SS-105) -- listed from inboard to outboard in port, circa 1922-1925.
Note the size difference between R-9's 3"/50 deck gun and S-51's 4"/50. Also the small cylindrical aircraft hangar behind S-1's fairwater.
U.S. Navy photo # NH 107301, courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.
S-51 38k The hulk of S-51 (SS-162) after initial salvaging, awaiting scrapping. Photo courtesy of Ric Hedman TN(SS) web master, PigBoats.COM TM.
S-51 38k A model of the S-51 (SS-162) submitted by the owner, Jeffrey Hughes. The model is a period piece, attributed to Simon Lake. It is approximately 2 3/4 ft. in length and 1 1/3 ft. in height and has many moving parts. It was constructed by an employee of Lake and was supposedly a showpiece in Simon Lake's office. Courtesy of Tara Guthrie.
S-51 7k Rodney H. Dobson, Lieutenant (Commanding Officer) of the S-51 (SS-162) at the time of her loss. Courtesy of Tara Guthrie.
S-51 31k Commemorative photo in honor of the memory of the crew of the S-51 (SS-162).Photo courtesy of Tom Kermen. Dante's Prayer courtesy of Loreena McKennitt via quinlanroad.com.
S-51 16k Commemorative postal cover issued on the occasion of the 10th year of the passing of the loss of the crew of the S-51 (SS-162), 25 September 1935.
Photo courtesy of Jack Treutle.
Memorial plaque91kMemorial plaque at Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia PA, July 2006 for the crews of United States submarines lost during peace time accidents:
F-1 (SS-20), F-4 (SS-23), G-2 (SS-27), H-1 (SS-28), O-5 (SS-66), O-9 (SS-70), S-4 (SS-109), S-51 (SS-162), Squalus (SS-192), Scorpion (SSN-589) & Thresher (SSN-593).
Photo courtesy of Wendell Royce McLaughlin Jr.
S-51 1.20k Close-up of above photo showing hole in starboard side of S-51 (SS-162).

In Memoriam:


In the Second Book of Shmuel (Samuel), 22nd chapter, 5th through the 19th verses, translated from the original in Hebrew and published by the Koren Publishers of Jerusalem, Israel, 1982, can perhaps aptly describe the fate of the crew and all other U.S. submariners who died defending their county:

"When the waves of death compassed me / the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; / the bonds of She'ol encircled me; / the snares of death took me by surprise; / in my distress I called upon the Lord, / and cried to my G-D: / and he heard my voice out of his temple, / and my cry entered into his ears. / Then the earth shook and trembled; /the foundations of heaven moved / and shook because of his anger /...the heavy mass of waters, and thick clouds of the skies /... And the channels of the sea appeared, / the foundations of the world were laid bare, / at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast at the breath of his nostrils. / He sent from above, he took me; / he drew me out of many waters; / he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. / They surprised me in the day of my calamity: / but the Lord was my stay..."
Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Sean Hert & flickr.com.

View the S-51 (SS-162)
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
The U.S. Submarine S-51
On Eternal Patrol
PigBoats.COM TM A Historic Look at Submarines

Back To The Main Photo Index Back To the Submarine Index
Problems and site related matters, E-mail Webmaster
This page is created by Gary Priolo and maintained by Michael Mohl
1996 - 2014, NavSource History All rights reserved.