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The L -Boats

USS L-1, USS L-3, USS L-4
USS L-1 SS 40, USS L-3 SS 42, USS L-4 SS 43

USS L-3, USS L-11, USS L-10, USS L-4, USS L-9, USS L-2

Left to right submarines tied up next to a tender in Queenstown, Ireland. USS L-3 SS 41, USS L-11 SS 51 with bow planes rigged out, USS L-10 SS 50, USS L-4 SS 43, USS L-9 SS 49, USS L-2 SS 41.


USS L-3, USS L-11, USS L-10, USS L-4, USS L-9

Left to right, submarines at Queenstown, Bantry Bay, Ireland. USS L-3 SS 42, USS L-11 SS 51, USS L-10 SS 50, USS L-4 SS 43, USS L-9 SS 49 which seems to be running her diesel. You can see the smoke from her exhaust around her stern.




The US "L" class boats had the "A" added to their identifiers so as not to be confused with the British "L" class submarines that were operating at the same time.

British L-6
British L-6, the reason why the American "L" boats had the "A" added to their name.

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L Class and H Class submarines at the piers in San Pedro, Calif. in April 1919. The only H-Boat that can be identified is the H-8 seen between the conning towers of the L-7 and L-8.

H-Boats stationed in San Pedro in 1919 were the H-3, which was the Flagship of SubDiv 7. Submarines H-4 thru H-9 were all stationed at San Pedro at this time.

Of the L-Boats seen here only the L-8 never saw service in the Azores and Bantry Bay. She was enroute and in Bermuda when the war ended and she returned to the United States.


Photo Contributed By Patricia Lynn

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USS L-1 riding at anchor while on sea trials, circa 1916, probably off Provencetown, Mass. Just at background sea level a low land mass with houses can be seen such as seen at Cape Cod. The L class were the first US submarine designed to carry a 3"/23 caliber deck gun but it wasn't until the L-9 that guns were installed during construction. The L-1 through L-8 were retrofitted later with the gun. As you can see the L-1 has no gun. The USS M-1 actually had the first deck mounted gun on a US submarine. The two dynamite guns carried by the USS Holland were not deck mounted but built into the pressure hull.


Photo from the Library of Congress Collection

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Bridge, Conning Tower close up of the USS L-1 while on seatrials. Four crew can be seen in this detail. Interesting, in this image, is the shading given to the the hull number painted on the fairwater. It appears to be shaded to make it stand out more. It is probably impossible to know what color was used for this effect but one possibility, besides a tone of gray, would be red.


Photo from the Library of Congress Collection

USS L-1
USS L-1 SS 40. I count 26 of the 28 crew up on deck in this picture.

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USS L-1 in dry dock, Norfolk, Va, circa 1920.
Crewmember standing on port stern plane.
Note ropes over the top of the skeg holding scaffolding in place.

From the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

USS L-2

USS L-2 SS 41 In July of 1918 while patrolling in the Irish Sea a large explosion rocked the L-2 about 25 feet on her beam. A periscope was sighted and the L-2 submerged and tried to ram the submarine but couldn't track the U-boat well under water, plus the U-boat had superior under water speed. Later it was suspected that a U-boat had fired on the L-2 but another U-boat, the U-65, was in the way and was badly damaged and sank. Some time later when the L-2 was dry docked her hull plating was noted to be heavily dented from the close by explosion. The U-65 never returned to her port.


US Navy Photo


L & K Boats
An unidentified "K" boat and the K-3 moored next to the L-11, L-2, L-3 & L-9 at Hampton Roads, VA circa 1930.
From the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

USS L-3
USS L-3 SS 42

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USS L-3 seen here on July 18, 1917 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard undergoing a pre-deployment up-keep. The US entered WW I on April 6, 1917 and submarines were to be deployed to the Azores and Ireland to patrol the waters and deny access and free reign to the German U-Boats. The L-3 was to leave New London in company with other L class submarines, first to the Azores and then on to Bantry Bay on the Irish west coast. The submarines made 8 to 10 day deployments which was an unheard of amount of time for US subs at that time. In the background can be seen the USS K-5 with the number 37 painted on her conning tower fairwater. There are at least four more submarines in the photo but can not be identified. A vintage motorcycle is parked on the pier.


US Navy Photo

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USS L-3 seen here on August 24, 1918 at Bantry Bay, Ireland after an 8 day war patrol. The inscription says;
"...I just came in from an eight day patrol. The Captain had sent me after the mail so I was out of luck for getting my dirty face in it. Cecile Chart Aug 24...
The L-3 departed the US for the Azores via Bermuda on November 27, 1917 and arrived at Ponta Delgada on January 13, 1918. She sailed one month later for Berehaven, Bantry Bay Ireland and remained in British waters until January 3, 1919 when she sailed for Philadelphia from Portland, England where she had been dry docked and had her bottom scraped and painted and other work done. She arrived in US waters on February 1, 1919.

The man on the far right has his foot up on a lifeline stanchion. Under the bend of his leg can be seen the barrel of the 3"/23 caliber deckgun. This gun retracted into the deck with the barrel pointing straight up.


Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

USS L-4 SS 43
USS L-4 SS 43
The L-4 spotted a German U-boat on the surface charging batteries and lying motionless. The Capt., LCdr Lewis Hancock, jr., fired a torpedo at the submarine. The Germans saw the torpedo and quickly sped forward and dove evading the torpedo. The L-4 later had almost the same situation and the same result the torpedo missed. The mark X torpedo was known to be touchy. If bumped hard the gyro would malfunction.

USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
On the fore deck looking aft to the conning tower and bridge helm station.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
On the fore deck looking aft to the conning tower and bridge helm station.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
Starboard Bow showing the bow planes and torpedo tube shutter doors.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
Starboard Bow showing the torpedo tube shutter doors for tubes #1 and #3.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
Starboard bow planes. Above is one of the round free flood scuppers.
These could be locked shut to add surface buoyancy.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
Starboard stern view.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5 on the ways
USS L-5 SS 44 on the building ways, Lake Torpedo Boat Co.
Close-up of the starboard screw and rudder.
April 30, 1916

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5
USS L-5 SS 44.
Battery cell being lowered into the newly constructed L-5.
The location is the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport CT.

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5
USS L-5 SS 44.
Battery cell being lowered into the newly constructed L-5.
The location is the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport CT.

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5
USS L-5 SS 44.
Conning Tower / bridge detail the newly constructed L-5.
The bridge steering station is shown as are the rectangular view ports in the bridge access.

Photo courtesy of The US Navy Submarine Force Museum
USS L-5
USS L-5 SS 44.
The USS L-5 apears to be tieing up to either a dock or tender.
The year is 1918 and from the looks on the clothing the men are wearing it could be summer time.


USS L-5
Close up of the USS L-5 SS crew.
The USS L-5 apears to be tieing up to either a dock or tender.
The year is 1918 and from the looks on the clothing the men are wearing it could be summer time.


USS L-5
Close up of the USS L-5 SS crew on bow.
The USS L-5 apears to be tieing up to either a dock or tender.
The man on the right is holding a "heevy" ready for tossing.
One half of the heevy is in each of his hands.


USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45. The USS L-5 was very much like the L-6

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45

USS L-6 making a dive
USS L-6 SS 45 making a dive circa; 1918
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6 making a dive
USS L-6 SS 45 at periscope depth making a good speed run as she goes down.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45 continuing to dive. Water can be seen spilling into the chariot bridge.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45 still diving. Periscope shears are just about submerged.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45 at periscope depth.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45 stopped and coming to the surface.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6
USS L-6 SS 45 back on the surface. Water can be seen draining from the super structure.
Photo courtesy of Mike Dilley son of Homer "Pat" Dilley, WW I sub vet.

USS L-6 and an unknown submarine
USS L-6 ( on left ) and an unknown submarine, possibly an H-class boat.

USS L-7
USS L-7 SS 46 with a crew of 36 officers and men

Launching of the USS L-8
Launching of the USS L-8

L-8
The USS L-8 in dry dock most likely circa 1917 in preparation to head to war in the Bantry Bay, Ireland, area of operations. Note the Lake design triple set of depth control planes on the side of the hull. They are curved to form to the side of the hull when not in use. Lake was a believer in the flat controlled dive principle versus Holland's angled dive. The Holland method was the one that eventually proved the more successful.
US Navy Photo

USS L-8 from the deck of the USS Whittemore
USS L-8 SS 48 from the deck of the USS Whittemore mother ship.
Photo contributed by Clifford Chapski, his grandfather, Alfred G. Benjamin, took this photo while serving aboard the Whittemore


The submarine L-8, designed by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, was part of a secret project in 1918 by the U.S. Navy in WW I to trap German submarines. Along with the 4 masted schooner USS Charles Whittemore as a mother ship and decoy the pair roamed the Atlantic trying to lure German submarines to attack. The object was to use the L-8 to sink the German submarines.
The Whittemore towed the L-8 submerged so the submarine wouldn't be seen by the enemy and that the two wouldn't become separated from each other. The Whittemore carried food and fuel and torpedoes to resupply the L-8 as needed.
As it turned out by the time the Whittemore and L-8 arrived on station, all sides were using armed merchant men as decoys so the Germans and other ships would avoid any contact with the duo.
The war ended while the Whittemore and L-8 were on patrol with out firing a shot.
The L-8 ended its' life as a target off Newport, RI in 1926. She was the only ship blown up using the new top secret magnetic exploder. The Navy wouldn't allow any more tests using it due to budget constraints. This proved fatal folly early in WW II.

USS L-8 from the deck of the USS Whittemore
USS L-8 from the deck of the USS Whittemore.
Photo contributed by Clifford Chapski, his grandfather, Alfred G. Benjamin, took this photo while serving aboard the Whittemore

USS Charles Whittemore
USS Charles Whittemore, mother ship and decoy for USS L-8 on WW I war patrols.
Photo contributed by Clifford Chapski, his grandfather, Alfred G. Benjamin,  served aboard the Whittemore

USS L-8 under construction
USS L-8 under construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard circa 1917.

Torpedo tubes USS L-8
Torpedo tubes USS L-8.
The 4 torpedo tube doors of the 18" torpedo tubes aboard the L-8.
The hand written inscription across the front of this picture says; "Interior view of Torpedo Tubes USS L-8"

USS L-8 Control Room
USS L-8 Control Room. The writing on the front of the picture say:
"Center Compartment USS L-8"

Close up of USS L-8 Diving station
Close up of USS L-8 Diving Station. Ladder to the bridge on left.

First torpedo shot passes under the USS L-8
"A MISS (26 May 1926) A torpedo equipped with a magnetic influence exploder passing under submarine hulk, L-8, in tests conducted off Newport R.I."

This was first of only two tests of the magnetic influence exploder for warheads used on the Mk 14 Torpedo used in WW II. The result was the faulty design wasn't cured until WW II was well underway.


Second torpedo shot sinks the USS L-8
"A HIT (26 May 1926) Submarine hulk, L-8, being sunk off Newport R.I. by a torpedo equipped with a live warhead and magnetic influence exploder.
This was the only destructive test ever conducted during nineteen years of pre-WW II exploder development."


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This is purported to be the USS L-9. The only information we have about the identification is this is definitely an "L" class submarine. There is a pencil note on the back of the photo identifying this as the L-9 but this is not a positive Identification.

The evidence of the towing bridle on the bow may mean that this photo was taken on January 17, 1918 when she left Norfolk Virginia en-tow by the Submarine Tender USS Bushnell AS-2, to Ireland. En-route the convoy of ships tugs and submarines ran into a hurricane and became scattered. most regrouped at Bermuda, some turned back and a few made it to Bantry Bay on their own. Some even ended up in the Azores. The lack of the large black block "AL" numbers on the sides of the fairwater may mean this was taken early in the war.

Since there is no definitive indication this is the L-9 a lot of speculation is going on into trying to prove this. Unfortunately the photo is not of high enough quality to pick out clear indicators but this may be a photo taken in the waters off the Azores waiting for the tow to Ireland. Once landing in the Azores and Ireland submarines began, at British insistence, the installation of the chariot style bridge surrounds. This allowed for greater crew safety and faster diving. By closer inspection of the bridge area, the officer, (or captain), seems to be leaning back on what my be this type structure. For a period of time the L-9 chariot bridge was smaller than those of its sisters. (See photo below) This was later enlarged.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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The USS L-3 and L-9 moored side by side and the smaller chariot bridge on the L-9 is quite obvious. Submarines spent much time on the surface and this smaller dridge enclosure provided little protection for the bridge crews and was later made larger.

US Navy Photo

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This is purported to be the USS L-9. The only information we have about the identification is this is definitely an "L" class submarine. There is a pencil note on the back of the photo identifying this as the L-9 but this is not a positive Identification.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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By closer inspection of the bridge area of this photo, the officer, (or captain), seems to be leaning back on what my be the smaller chariot bridge structure the L-9 had earlier in her war career.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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The USS AL-10 (L-10) seen here making a dive in Bantry Bay In Ireland. Bantry Bay was used by American and English submarines during WW I. American submarines would make 10 patrols looking for German submarines and shipping to attack that were trying to sink Allied merchant and naval shipping.

This photo spans the time from January 1918 when she joined Submarine Division 5 in the British Isles to after the Armistice on November 11, 1919. The L-10 remained in England until sailing for the United States January 3, 1919. So a date of mid 1918 is probably good to date this image.

The photo, which has come from some sort of publication that bares no remnant of its origin, shows the AL 10 diving in the bay. Most likely a test dive to check systems and get a trim before heading out to patrol. The object seen just in front of the conning tower fairwater is the barrel of the 3"/23 caliber deck gun carried by US submarines at that time. It mounted in a vertical position when not in use partly retracted into the deck.

Compared to today’s submarines that have a almost unlimited patrol time, these vessels were only capable of an average patrol of about 10 days. Food and fresh water storage and no refrigeration and no bathing facilities plus being in damp to wet clothing and living conditions pushed the endurance window.


Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

USS L-10 SS 50
USS L-10 SS 50 wearing her WW I "A".
The L-10 was heavily depth charged by the American destroyer USS Sterett in the Irish Sea after she had developed an oil leak. The Sterett thought he had found a German "U-Boat". L-10 managed to surface and identify herself before the destroyer managed to use her guns to try and sink her.

USS L-11 SS 51

USS L-11 SS 51 in her pre WW I configuration with the pipe and canvas bridge enclosures.



USS L-11 SS 51
USS L-11 SS 51

The USS L-11 sighted a U-boat on the surface. Not wanting to repeat the L-4 disaster of missing the shot, the Capt., Lt. A. C. Bennett, fired two torpedoes at the German, the second torpedo was launched five seconds after the first but faulty speed controls caused the second torpedo to run faster than the first and over took it and blew both torpedoes up. The U-boat dove and got away.


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The USS AL-11 seen here in Portland Harbor, England after WWI ended, probably late November, 1918. The view is looking from aft (right) to forward (left). Behind her is the USS AL-1 and the USS AL-3.

A caption on the back of the photo says," US Submarine AL-11 which we fired on by mistake on Nov 4th" which implies that the photo taker was on a surface craft of some sort. We don't see any mention of this on DANFS account of the L-11 service. No doubt it should be in her logbooks for November 4th, 1918.

Original Snapshot Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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The USS L-11 seen here post WW I circa 1920 moored to a civilian dock. The location is unknown . L-11 operated out of Portland, England, until January 3, 1919 when she sailed for the United States. Arriving in Philadelphia February 1, 1919 she began operations off the East Coast of the US for the next 4 years helping develop submarine warfare tactics. L-11 decommissioned at Hampton Roads, Va., 28 November 1923, and was scrapped 28 November 1933.

In this photo all marking from WW I have been removed but the steel chariot bridge that proved so successful in crew protection and allowing quick dives is retained and will become the standard for many subsequent classes of submarine. Her 3"/23 caliber deck gun is in its raised position. A crowd of civilians have gathered to look her over. Note the vintage car on the dock.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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A closer look at the USS L-11 seen circa 1920 moored to a civilian dock. The location is unknown . Her 3"/23 caliber deck gun is in its raised position. A crowd of civilians have gathered to look her over. Note the vintage car on the dock. I see no sign of ships crew any place.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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A closer look at the USS L-11. Her 3"/23 caliber deck gun is in its raised position. A crowd of civilians, mostly men and boys it seems, have gathered to look her over. I see no sign of ships crew any place.

Original Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

Racks of torpedoes
Racks of torpedoes for the war effort waiting to be loaded into boats. These are the Mark 7 torpedo, 17.7" in diameter and 17 feet long. This is typically the torpedo carried by all US subs into combat in WW I. The A, B and C class subs carried the Mark 7 Mod "D" that was 5 feet shorter to fit their tubes.

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