Farewell Seawolf I

Posted by Rebekah
Mar 13 2010

While the Flier is still up on blocks in Mare Island and Redfin and Robalo patrol outside Fremantle waiting for the invasion that will never come, we’ll step back a little bit in time to acknowledge another lost submarine, the first US Submarine Seawolf, more commonly known as H-1.

The Seawolf was laid down in 1911 and renamed while still under construction to USS H-1.  H for the seventh class of submarines, and 1 because she was the first submarine in that class.  She was commissioned in 1913 and her eight sisters quickly followed.

They served for seven years, including guarding the East Coast during WWI.

In the winter of 1920, the H-1, H-2, and H-3 were sent from New London to California via the Panama Canal.  Once clear, they steamed north, but on March 12,  the H-1 grounded on a shoal near Santa Margarita Island off Baja California.

The crew had to abandon ship and swim to safety.  Some headed to shore, some were picked up by the H-2 and H-3, who tried to help as many as possible.  Of the crew of twenty-five,  four men, M.S. Delarmarine, H.M. Gillef, Joesph Kaufman, and H-1’s Commanding Officer James Reid never made it to safety.

The H-1 remained hard aground until the Repair Ship Vestal (later attacked and damaged in Pearl Harbor) pulled her free.  She must has sustained significant damage, because 45 minutes later, she rested on the bottom of the ocean in 50 feet of water.

Following WWI, the Navy was awarded the unsunk German U-Boats, and those re-wrote the American submarine blueprints, leading to what would become the Fleet Submarine of WWII.  These boats were being built and launched in 1920, so the loss of an old boat like the H-1, wasn’t considered important enough to salvage, despite the shallow depth.  She was abandoned.

Her wreck was discovered in 1992, though I have been unable to find any photos of her hulk.

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