The roaring 20s on Sugar boats at Olongapo

“Submarines at Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines”

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51830

Description: Crewmen posing with a 4/50 deck gun on board a S-Type submarine, March 1929, with another 4/50 in the foreground. These submarines are probably USS S-30 (SS-135) and USS S-31 (SS-136). Behind them are (from front to rear): USS S-35 (SS-140); USS S-33 (SS-138); USS S-32 (SS-137); and USS S-34 (SS-139). Photographed from USS Beaver (AS-5). In the background is USS Pittsburgh (ACR/CA-4), in the Dewey drydock.

The S-class submarines, derided as “pig boats” or “sugar boats” were designed in World War I, but none were finished in time for the conflict.

Some 51 examples of these 1,200-ton diesel-electrics were built in a number of sub-variants by 1925 and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online. While four were lost in training accidents, six were scrapped and another six transferred to the British in World War II, a lot of these elderly craft saw service in the war and seven were lost during the conflict

Of the above, S-30 and S-31 made nine war patrols, S-33 made eight, while S-32, S-34 and S-35 made seven, mostly in the frozen Aleutians operating out of Dutch Harbor harassing Japanese shipping. All accounted for at least one “kill” with S-32 even chalking up 19,000 tons on her tally sheet.

Relegated to training tasks by 1944, they were retired soon after the war, with all but S-35 (sunk as a target) going to the breakers.

S-33 did go on to live fictionally in the film U-571, however.

As for the nearly 30-year old armored cruiser USS Pittsburgh (CA-4), shown in the back of the above photo, shortly after the image was taken she was decommissioned under the terms of the London Naval Treaty, and sold for scrap.

And Beaver? Well she is the subject of another post…


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