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The N-Boats

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The N-1, N-2 and N-3 all together at Seattle Construction and Dry Dock in Seattle, Washington on October 24, 1916. The caption indicates that the view of the N-3 is from the stern (L) to the bow (R). A large wooden ship has begun construction between the N-3 and her sisters, N-1 (L) and N-2 (R) in the back.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives


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The USS N-1, N-2 and N-3 sailing through ice bound waters of Long Island Sound following a track broken for them by the tender USS Savannah AS 8 as the subs aproach New London Sub Base after sailing from Seattle, Washington. The submarines departed Seattle on November 21, 1917 and arrived at New London on February 7, 1918.

US Navy Photo


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The USS N-1, N-2 and N-3 moored to the USS Savannah AS 8 at the Sub Base New London, (Groton) on February 7, 1918. A Black member of the crew of the Savannah looks at the photo taker. Between the Savannah and the subs and between the submarines can be seen chunks of floating ice on the waters of the Thames River.

US Navy Photo


USS N-1, N-3 & N-5
USS N-1, N-3 & N-5 and other subs, could be N-boats
as well since there were 7 of them and there are seven boats here.

US Navy Photo

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The USS N-1 traveling down the Thames River circa spring of 1918. She is yet to get her steel chariot bridge surround installed. The man forward of the periscope sheers, standing on the bridge access hatch, is the helmsman.

Behind, on the shore, can be seen the Fort Griswold Monument and Fort Griswold itself, to the left of the large smoke stack. Fort Griswold is a revolutionary war fort that was the scene of a bloody massacre by the British on American forces. Survivors were taken from the fort and placed on prison ships moored in the Thames River.

The building with the large smoke stack is yet to be identified. It is north, or up river from the present location of the Electric Boat Company where submarines are still built.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman


USS N-1 SS 53 under construction
USS N-1 SS 53 Controlroom under construction at the
Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Ship Yard.
January 22, 1917

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives

USS N-1 SS 53 under construction
USS N-1 SS 53 Controlroom under construction at the
Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Ship Yard.
Close-up shows the Bow Planes depth guage with only 100 feet on the dial. January 22, 1917

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives

USS N-1 SS 53 Engineroom under construction
USS N-1 SS 53 Engineroom under construction at the
Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Ship Yard.
View is looking forward. The NELSECO diesel engines were shipped fully assembled from the
factory and then had to be disassembled and reassembled in the enginerooms the these subs.
January 22, 1917

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives

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The N-1 on her launch day,December 30, 1916, from Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company. She is being assisted by two small yard tugs, one of which was named the "Harold C".

Seattle Post Intelligencer Newspaper


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The USS N-1 on what might be Elliot Bay with the Seattle "skyline" the background circa 1917. The N-1, in company with the N-2 and N-3 departed Seattle for the east coast and New London on November 21, 1917.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives


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The N-1 and N-3 moored to the docks on the north side of the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock yard. The N-1 is the closer submarine. Both subs are being "fitted out" after their launchings.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives


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Close-up of the above photo. N-1 and N-3 moored to the docks on the north side of the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock yard. The N-1 is the closer submarine. Both subs are being "fitted out" after their launchings.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock / National Archives


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The N-1 at sea and getting her decks wet. The location and time is uncertain.

Photo Courtesy of John Parker


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The torpedoroom of the USS N-1 taken shortly after commissioning showing the arrangement of valves and gauges.

Photo In The Private Collection of Ric Hedman


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The torpedoroom of the USS N-1 taken sometime after commissioning showing some crew in the torpedo room posing for the camera.

On the back of the photo these men are identified as, from left to right, Machinist's Mate Jack Richards, Ship's Cook Tannen Bloom, Signalman Head, and Gunner's Mate Lyons.

Photo Courtesy of John Parker
Identification of the men by Robert Porterfield


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The USS N-1 on Long Island Sound towing a small boat behind her with men aboard it. Based on the mast and boom it may be for retrieving practice torpedoes. The date is unknown.

US Navy Photo


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Caption written on the back of this photo taken by Harry E. Hoffman; "N-1's crew loads a torpedo at New London in 1918. Chief Gunners Mate Earle Reed (in torn shirt), the Chief of the Boat, directs the operation. Facing the camera is Quartermaster First Class Hand and, in the background, is Chief Engineman Miskoski. Providing the muscle power for operating the loading crane is Dalieden, Electricians Mate Third Class. In the distance the submarines E-2, N-7, G-2, and H-2 can be seen. Also in the background is the fishing schooner Helvetia which served as a decoy for German U-boats during the war."


Photo ID from Bob Porterfield who is in possession of this Harry E. Hoffman photo. The Library of Congress also has this Photo

USS N-2 SS 54
USS N-2 SS 54

USS-N-2 and USS N-1 tied to a barge off Provencetown, Mass. circa 1920
USS-N-2 and USS N-1 tied to a barge off Provencetown, Mass. circa 1920

USS-N-2 Crew posing for photo. circa 1920
USS-N-2 Crew posing for photo. circa 1920
Photo courtesy of Bill Lightfoot & Helene Caldwell.


Lt. Umstead, CO
Ltjg. Cuff, XO
Ens. Preston, Engineer
Clower, Chief Elect
Whalen, Chief GM
Walters, Chief MM
Huber, EL 2
Ward, EL 2
Rielly, GM
Millspaugh, MM 2 / Harrison, EL 2
Caldwell, EL 1
McArthur, GM 3
Moran, F 3
Cole, SC 1
Baldridge, MM 1
Keller, Sea 1
Knudson, EL 3
Fulton, MM 2
Webermeyer, GM 1
Stacey, MM 2
Kimbro, MM 1
Kedugh, MM 2
Fisher, GM 3
Feilder, EL 2


USS N-3 SS 55 under construction

USS N-3 SS 55 under construction at Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Aug 8, 1916. Note that the NELSECO engines are sitting on the ways next to the hull waiting to be installed.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


USS N-3 engines

USS N-3 engines waiting installation at Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Aug 8, 1916 The NELSECO engines were shipped from the factory completely assembled and tested. After the sub was built, the engines were disassembled and then reassembled inside the sub.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


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The USS N-3 torpedo room under construction at Seattle Construction & Dry Dock, the former Moran Brother Ship Yard. The photo is taken January 22, 1917. From the many iron shavings on the deck you can see that much of the fabrication was done on site. These aren't really the torpedo tubes themselves just the bracing to hold the tubes in place. A number of air hoses and electrical wires are hanging from the overhead. A few rudimentary systems are beginning to be installed such as valve bodies and a few electrical outlets. A broom rests at the right side of the photo to keep the area somewhat tidy when needed.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


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Control Room of the USS N-3 while under construction at Seattle Construction & Dry Dock. The room looks to be pretty close to being finished. At the top center is a deck access hatch that opens into the fairwater superstructure aft of the bridge access trunk, used mostly for supplying air for running the diesels. This is an early precursor to the later installed Main Induction with an internally operated head valve.

Seen at the far end is the bridge access trunk with the ladder leading up into it. Between the two is a periscope housing with a rag stuffed up into it. Left of the ladder is the high pressure air manifold with its various pressures gauges and reducers for the different air pressures use for the various systems. To the left of that are the bow and stern planes control wheels.

The large pipe on the left is part of the battery well ventilation system to exhaust hydrogen gases. Another pipe is seen on the right side of the compartment. To the right of the door leading forward into the crews quarters, seen at an angle, are ballast tank Kingston valve levers. Workmen's tool boxes and various hoses are seen on the deck.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


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The engine room of the N-3 under construction at the Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Yard. These engines were assembled and tested at the factory in New London and shipped by rail to Seattle where they were disassembled and lowered piece by piece into the hull through the square opening just behind the light, (with the wooden ladder in it), and the reassembled. Makes one wonder why these weren't loaded as received in to the hull before closing them up.

High on the sides of the hull, over the engines, are the port ans starboard exhaust valves waiting for the upper portions of the engines to be installed and the exhaust piping attached.

Clearly seen in the overhead are the drive rods for the rudders and stern planes. The rudder rod is to the left in the photo and the stern planes is on the right. Once the submarine is completed there are many installed items that make these harder to see. At the moment the compartment is pretty empty. The boards on top of the engines are to keep debris from falling into the cylinders and gives the workmen a place to stand with out damaging anything.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


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On February 21, 1917 the N-3 slides into the waters of Elliott Bay on the Seattle waterfront from the Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Ship yards. On the decks are a mixture of yard workers and Navy personnel. A large surface craft is in the ways behind the N-3.

Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Photo


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The N-3 just moments after her launch into Elliott Bay, Seattle with a small yard tug alongside to maneuver her to a dock.

In the background, on the right in the photo, is Magnolia Bluff, named by British Captain George Vancouver when he saw the huge Madrona trees atop the peninsula's southern bluffs but mistook them for Magnolias and noted this in the ship's log. The bluff had many Madrona Trees in bloom and looked like Magnolias to him since he had never seen Madrona trees before.

The land seen in the far background is Bainbridge Island. Named in 1841, by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes on his visit to the island while surveying the Northwest. Lt. Wilkes named the island after Commodore William Bainbridge, commander of the frigate U.S.S. Constitution in the War of 1812. A large private motor yacht is anchored in the bay behind the N-3.

Photo In The Private Collection Of Ric Hedman


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The USS N-3 seen here most likely July 24 or 25, 1918 after she was shelled by a British Transport steamer. The shell hole can be seen just above the raft. Here is an account of what happened excerpted from "Beneath The Surface, World War Submarines Built in Seattle and Vancouver" By Bill Lightfoot;

USS N-3 July 23, 1918 on patrol off Long Island.

Capt. of the N-3, Lt. Aquilla Gibbs Dibrell, Sr., of Tennessee, grandson of Confederate Gen. George Dibrell, kept the N-3 on this submerged, one engine, periscope patrol all that day except to make a midday altitude observations and wireless report. He came to the surface at 8:08 p.m. To have a seaman swim out to investigate what turned out to be two pilings floating upright. Midnight found the N-3 laying-to, 2500 ampere hours short of a full battery charge, having just started the port engine after failure that evening of both engines.

With the N-3 still laying-to on this night of full moon but hazy visibility, Dibrell suddenly detected, at 2:55 a.m., a steamer 800 yards to starboard. At nearly the same time Gunner's mate Day reported a transport about 200 yards on the port quarter ”headed right at us”. Action became intense and confused. Ships seemed to be everywhere. The transport answered a green Very Pistol flare and flashlight recognition signals from the submarine with one long and three short blasts of the whistle, and with the order from the bridge, distinctly heard on the submarine,

"Fire!"

The flash of a six-incher at fifty yards. A shell penetrates N-THREE at the waterline. Attempting to maneuver. Engaging clutches. Shouting ship-to-ship. "Don't shoot, this is the N-THREE."

"Load!"

A flashlight pitifully lights up the American flag held aloft by two submariners. Other ships are glimpsed scattering in all directions.

Report from below: "Water coming in the torpedo compartment pretty fast."
"Close watertight doors!
"Blow forward trim and adjusting tanks!"
"Pump fuel overboard!"

"A destroyer looms into view," reported Capt. Dibrell. "I start to signal to request aid, but he is intent on ramming! At about twenty yards off I heard the officer on the bridge give 'hard right' and just as he grazed our bow 'hard left'."

By this time the surprised convoy is scattered, the dastardly transport out of sight, and the "friendly" destroyer, USS PREBLE Lieutenant Mack in command, has reversed its purpose and is standing by to be helpful. The surprised submarine is assessing damage. "Seventeen rivets sheered at the water line, frame no 79 bent and twisted, hole in superstructure, anchor cable cut and anchor lost, forward diving rudder rod bent and knuckle joint sheered, torpedo expulsion tank dented, water standing to the combing in the torpedo compartment, wireless destroyed... We picked up a shell in our forward superstructure and found it to be British."

"At 4:30 a.m., having made temporary repairs, I proceeded on course 317 degrees for Block Island on port engine." In his report Dibrell went on to commend the action of his crew, "Every man on watch remained at his station,... there was no undue confusion or noise,. . . prompt action ... and good judgment shown by May (Chief Gunner's Mate R. D. May) undoubtedly prevented the forward battery compartment from being flooded...”

This photo seems to have been taken at Block Island since the background doesn't look like the New York Navy Yard.

The man shown in the inset is Machinist Mate/2 William Brown. He is also seen standing just aft of the bow hatch with his hands on his hips and looking at the camera. According to MM/2 Brown's account to his son, mattresses were packed around the damaged area until better repairs could be made. Note the stack of seabags on the pier at the pier mounted boom.

Photo from the Private collection of Ken Brown whose father William M. Brown was aboard for this incident.


The 6" British shell fired into the N-3 hull from 50 yards. It was reported to be picked up off the deck inside the submarine. Perhaps in haste the British crew failed to arm the warhead.

Photo from the Private collection of Ken Brown whose father William M. Brown was aboard for this incident.


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Machistmate William M. Brown served his country for 2 years in the US Navy and was honorably discharged Aug 21, 1920 as Chief Machinists Mate.

Photo from the Private collection of Ken Brown whose father William M. Brown


Lcdr. Aquilla Gibbs Dibrell was awqarded a Navy Cross for his actions during WW I.

After the war the United States Navy expressed interest in acquiring several surrendered German submarines for display purposes in conjunction with a Victory Bond drive and to enable American crews to learn their supposed secrets. The United States was allotted six U-boats for this purpose, with the understanding that they would be destroyed upon the conclusion of the bond campaign: U-111 (original allotment was for the unseaworthy U-164), U-117, U-140, UB-88, UB-148, and the UC-97. American officers and sailors went to Harwich, England and took possession of the submarines on March 23rd, 1919. The submarines were placed in special commissions for the voyage across the Atlantic. Those commissions were:
U-111 was commanded by Lt. Commander Freeland A. Daubin.
U-117 was commanded by Lt. Commander Aquilla G. Dibrell.
U-140 was commanded by Lt. Commander G. A. Hulings.
UB-88 was commanded by Lt. Commander Joseph L. Nielson.
UB-148 was commanded by Lt. Commander Harold T. Smith.
UC-97 was commanded by Lt. Commander Holbrook Gibson.

The Americans crews worked diligently to familiarize themselves with the German war machines and prepare these vessels for the trip to the United States. They were now members of the "Ex-German Submarine Expeditionary Force".

On April 3rd, 1919, four of the six submarines (U-117, UB-88, UB-148 and UC-97) departed Harwich, England escorted by the Bushnell (Submarine Tender No. 2). The U-111 was a late substitution for the U-164 and was not outfitted in time, departing England on April 7th. Accounts of the U-140's journey are conflicting, with the U-140 arriving in New York in May of 1919.

The Bushnell towed the UC-97 initially while her crew worked to repair faulty machinery. By late afternoon of the first day with her diesel engines operating again, the UC-97 tossed off her tow line and proceeded under her own power. The task unit steamed to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, then to Bermuda before arriving in New York on April 27th, 1919 after a rough 24-day voyage.

Not long after reaching New York, the submarines became the center stage attraction for a horde of tourists, reporters, and photographers, as well as for technicians from the Navy Department, submarine builders, and equipment suppliers. After a lengthy port call, orders arrived dispersing five of the six U-boats to different sections of the American coasts and waterways for Victory Bond visits to ports along the way. Their assigned regions were:
U-111 - East Coast, New England;
U-117 - East Coast, New York to Savannah, GA;
U-140 - New York City;
UB-88 - Gulf Coast states, Mississippi River to Memphis, Canal Zone, and the West Coast;
UB-148 - New York and Vicinity;
UC-97 - Great Lakes Region. The UC-97 was sunk in Lake Michigan.

MilitaryTimes.Com


USS N-3 SS 55
USS N-3 SS 55 seen heading up the Saint Lawrance River enroute to the Great Lakes.
US Navy Photo

Crew of N-3 posing for the camera
Crew of N-3 posing for the camera. N-1 & N-2 in background.

USS N-4 SS 56
USS N-4 SS 56

USS N-5 SS 57
USS N-5 SS 57

USS N-6 SS 58
USS N-6 SS 58

USS N-6 at New London Sub Base
USS N-6 at New London Sub Base
Another N boat is tied along side, possibly the N-3.
On the right is an unidentified "K" boat.

USS N-6 at New London Sub Base
USS N-6 & N-3(?) at New London Sub Base

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The USS N-7 aground at some location off the Atlantic shore. The N-7 had a brief history. A lot of Lake designs suffered from poor design and workmanship and performance. In all the N-7 spent 4 years in commission with and upkeep and an extensive overhaul of almost a year at Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Where the N-7 has run aground isn't told in her available records. Research at the National Archives should tell the story. A best guess places her some place on the New Jersey coast on a sandy beach inside the coastal islands.

The crew is sitting and standing on the deck and the bridge. The N-7 had Simon Lake's diving planes that were mounted on the sides of the hull for level dive. Lake believed submerging on an even keel was safer but it proved to be unpopular with the crews and the Navy. One plane can be seen just below the standing man and another further aft on the hull.The shutter doors for the torpedo tubes can be seen at the bow. Interesting that only the lower two tubes could be fired when the submarine was on the surface.


Original Snapshot In The Private Family Collection Of George Peterson Who served on the O-15 in the 1920.
Not A Public Domain Image

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The USS N-7 aground at some location off the Atlantic shore. The N-7 had a brief history. A lot of Lake designs suffered from poor design and workmanship and performance. In all the N-7 spent 4 years in commission with and upkeep and an extensive overhaul of almost a year at Philadelphia Navy Yard.

A best guess places her some place on the New Jersey coast on a sandy beach inside the coastal islands. Research at the National Archives should tell the story.

A man in a uniform is talking to the crew. It isn't clear which branch of service he is but most likely Navy. The crew is sitting and standing on the deck and the bridge. The N-7 diving planes that were mounted on the sides of the hull are visible on the center of the hull. .


Original Snapshot In The Private Family Collection Of George Peterson Who served on the O-15 in the 1920.
Not A Public Domain Image

USS N-7 SS 59
USS N-7 SS 59

USS N-7 SS 59
USS N-7 SS 59. The other boats are unknown possibly other "N" class submarines.

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