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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive

S-20 (SS-125)

Radio Call Sign: November - India - November - Juliet

S-18 Class Submarine (Holland-type): Laid down, 15 August 1918, at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, MA.; Launched, 9 June 1920; Commissioned, USS S-20 (SS-125), 22 November 1922; In 1924, S-20 was modified with a raised bow and external blisters to carry more fuel oil but this was not successful; In 1931, S-20 became an engineering experimental ship, testing new motors and a prototype diesel-electric plant; During the war, S-20 operated as a training ship from New London,CT.; Decommissioned, 16 July 1945, at Philadelphia, PA.; Struck from the Naval Register, 25 July 1945; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 22 January 1946, to North American Smelting Co., Philadelphia, PA.
Partial data submitted by Yves Hubert.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 854 t., Submerged: 1062 t.; Length 219' 3" ; Beam 20' 8"; Draft 15' 11"(mean); Speed, Surfaced 14.5 kts, Submerged 11 kts; Depth Limit 200'; Complement 4 officers, 34 enlisted; Armament, four 21" torpedo tubes, 12 torpedoes, one 4"/50 deck gun; Propulsion, diesel electric. New London Ship and Engine Co, diesel engines, 1200 hp; Fuel Capacity, 41,921 gal.; Ridgeway Dynamo and Electric Co. electric motors, 1500 hp, Battery Cells 120, twin propellers.
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SS 135, 138 & 125 188k Inboard alongside pier are the S-30 (SS-135), S-33 (SS-138), and S-20 (SS-125), at the Groton CT, Navy Yard, 2 October 1923. USN photo # 19-N-8918, from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), courtesy of Daniel Dunham.
1.14k The Dock. Submarine Base, Groton, Conn.
From front to back & right to left: S-10 (SS-115), S-20 (SS-125), O-1 (SS-62), O-4 (SS-65), O-2 (SS-63) & O-3 (SS-64), circa 1923.
Photo courtesy of
Rusty Oldies388kElectric Boat company advert showing the S-20 (SS-125), early '20's off Provincetown, MA.Photo i.d. courtesy of Ric Hednan.
Photo courtesy of Authors Collection
SS 125 251k Ships in "Dress Ship" decoration for Washington's Birthday, 22 February 1924 in Target Bay, Culebra, Puerto Rico.
Identifiable ships are from left to right: (far left) La Vallette (DD-315), Hull (DD-330), Noa (DD-333), (between Hull) & Noa in the background) Mervine (DD-322), (behind Hull) Mullany (DD-325),(center) S-20 (SS-125). Directly behind the submarine is the flagship Procyon (AG-11). The other ships to the right in the photo are unknown.
Official USN photo courtesy of Robert M. Cieri.
US Fleet Problem Number VI 1.72k Control Force Employment Schedule, 4 January to 1 March 1926. US Fleet Problem Number VI. Photo courtesy of Steve Ireland.
Savannah 105k Savannah (AS-8) with five submarines alongside, during the 1920s. S-24 (SS-129) is the inboard submarine on Savannah's port side. Those moored to her starboard side are (from inboard to outboard): S-27 (SS-132), S-20 (SS-125) and S-28 (SS-133). USN photo # NH 72921 from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center, photo donated to the US Naval Historical Center by LT. Gustave Freret, USN (Retired), 1970.
Savannah 93k Savannah (AS-8) at anchor with two submarines moored to her port side, during the 1920s. The outboard submarine is S-25 (SS-130). USN photo # NH 67870 from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center, photo courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969 & Vance Adams for his father, Lt. Vance Adams USN Ret.
S-9 731k All the boats in the image are S-boats.
On the left is the S-9 (SS-114). The next is probably S-24 (SS-129). All of the rest are 20 series boats. The boat in the background IS NOT the S-2 (SS-106). It is a 20 series like the others. The last digit in the boat's name is obscured by the torpedo davit on the boat in the middle.
As for a location, the pier in the background looks like some images I have seen of San Pedro, California. Although the fact that this came from the New York Daily News Archive seems to indicate the Brooklyn Navy Yard or some location in the city.
I can't see the stern of any of the boats. This helps in dating the photo. It appears that the aft skeg of the S-24 is still in place and there are no post S-4 (SS-109) safety modifications so this would indicate that the photo was taken in the mid to late 1920's, but this is only a rough guess.
Photo & text i.d. courtesy of David Johnston
Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images, courtesy of
SS 125 157k S-20 (SS-125), photographed during the late 1920's probably in the Panama Canal Zone area. From the collection of LT. Oscar W. Levy USN(SC) Ret.
USN photo # NH 94167 from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center.
SS 125 31k U.S. Navy destroyers Simpson (DD-221), McCormick (DD-223) and S-20 (SS-125) at the Port of Stockton in 1932. The two destroyers were under overhaul at Mare Island from March to September 1932. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
2.08k The engine room of the S-20 (SS-125), shown in 1932 at Mare Island, reveals the existing M.A.N. engine and the space cleared for a new test engine to port. S-20 tested diesel-electric propulsion, perhaps the most important U.S. interwar submarine design innovation. The U.S. Navy was alone in adopting diesel-electric power plants, all other navies continued to use direct-drive, accepting that their submarines would be unable to operate at fixed critical speeds.
Caption "New type engine (port side) looking aft".
NHHC photo NH 70768 courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press.
1.67k S-20's engine replacement at Mare Island in 1932. Caption "Generator & engine looking forward". NHHC photo NH 70767 courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
776k Jack & Carl pose alongside S-20 (SS-125) in 1936. Location looks like New London to me. Photo courtesy of David Wright.
SS 125 216k S-20 (SS-125) moored at the New London submarine base in 1940 on the occasion of the visit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to view the defenses in New England. At this time, the President visited Boston Navy yard and the Submarine base in New London. Source: Life Magazine Archives. Thomas Macvoy photographer, shared by Peter DeForest via Mike Green.
SS 125 70k S-20 (SS-125), 2 February 1944 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Note the modified shape of her bow. Official USN photo from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Courtesy of Frank Jankowski, 1981.
SS 125 70k Lieutenant John Philip Cromwell commanded S-20 (SS-125), in 1936-37, and then served on the staff of Commander Submarine Division 4. Photographed circa 1932-39. Official USN photo # NH 51734, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Courtesy of Frank Jankowski, 1981.
SS 125 179k S-20 (SS-125) is shown as in February 1944, little has changed during wartime. She had completed her safety refit in February 1942 (note the new escape hatch right aft). Unlike other boats modified for greater safety, she did not have her skeg cut all the way down.
Modifications made at this time included:installation of salvage air connections in the superstructure; removal of the conning tower periscope, installation of a gyro repeater on the chariot bridge.
She had already been drastically modified, between March 1924 - February 1925, with a new raked bow (something like that of the V-1-class (SS-163-65) and shoulder blisters.
Drawing & Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press.
SS 177387kPickerel's (SS-177) crew on deck during her commissioning on 26 January 1937.
Note the S-20 (SS-125) tied up to the pier.
USN photo courtesy of William J. Webb.
Rusty Oldies526kFrom December 1941 into July 1945, S-20 (SS-125) continued to operate from New London. Her operations were off New England and often included training activities at Casco Bay, Maine.
The S-20 is shown here in the first of three photos experimenting with a snorkel dive on 24 March 1945.
Text courtesy of DANFS.
US National Archives photo # 80G 453430, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Rusty Oldies707kS-20 (SS-125) slippinginto the depths on 24 March 1945.US National Archives photo # 80G 453432, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Rusty Oldies590kS-20 (SS-125) comes up on 24 March 1945.
Note the wheels of the photographic plane on the right.
US National Archives photo # 80G 453433, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
Rusty Oldies544kS-20 (SS-125) and her snorkel are pictured here on 26 March 1945.US National Archives photo # 80G 453429, from NARA, College Park, Maryland, courtesy of Sean Hert.
SS 125 43k S-20 (SS-125) at the US Naval Academy in July of 1945 while on her way to Philadelphia to be decommissioned. The barracks ship in the background is the Cumberland (IX-8). USN photo courtesy of Ric Hedman.

View the S-20 (SS-125)
DANFS history entry located on the Haze Gray & Underway Web Site.
Crew Contact And Reunion Information
U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation
Fleet Reserve Association

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