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dp. 3128 tons (surf.), 4164 tons (subm.); l. 381';
(surf.), 8k (subm.); td. 300 ft.; a. 1-6"/53 fwd., 1-6"/53 aft., 4-21" tt.
fwd.; cpl. 8 officers - 80 enlisted men; cl. ARGONAUT
Keel laid by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery,
Launched: 10NOV27; Sponsored by Mrs. Phillip Mason Sears, Jr.;
Commissioned: 2APR28 with LCdr William M. Quigley in command;
USS ARGONAUT [ex-V4] (SS-166) was the first of the second generation of V-boats
commissioned in the late 1920's..
These submarines were exempt by special agreement from the armament and tonnage
limitations of the Washington
Treaties. V-4 and her sister ships V-5 (SS167) and V-6 (SS168) were designed with larger
and more powerful diesel engines
than those which had propelled the earlier series of V-boats which had proven to be
failures. The specially-built engines
failed to produce their design power and some developed dangerous crankshaft explosions.
V-4 and her sister ships were
slow in diving and, when submerged, were unwieldy and slower than designed. They also
presented an excellent target to
surface ship sonar and had a large turning radius.
V-4 was designed
primarily as a minelayer. She was the first and only such experimental ship ever built.
She had four
torpedo tubes forward and two minelaying tubes aft. At the time of her construction, V-4
was the largest submarine ever
built in the United States. Following commissioning, V-4 served with Submarine Division 12
based at Newport, R.I. In
January and February 1929, V-4 underwent a series of trials off Provincetown, Mass. On a
trial dive during this period, she
submerged to a depth of 318 feet. This mark was the greatest depth which an American
submarine had reached up to that
time. On 26 February 1929, V-4 was assigned to Division 20, Submarine Divisions, Battle
Fleet, and arrived at San Diego,
Calif., her new home port, on 23 March. From there, she participated in battle exercises
and made cruises along the west
V-4 was renamed ARGONAUT on 19 February 1931 and was redesignated as a minelaying
submarine, SM-1 on 1 July of
that year. On 30 June 1932 she arrived at Pearl Harbor, where she was assigned to SubDiv7.
The vessel carried out
minelaying operations, patrol duty, and other routine work. In October 1934 and again in
May 1939, ARGONAUT took
part in joint Army-Navy exercises in the Hawaiian operating area.
ARGONAUT became the flagship of SubRon4 in
mid-1939. The submarine returned to the west
coast in April 1941 to participate in fleet tactical exercises.
On 28 November 1941, ARGONAUT left Pearl Harbor and was on patrol duty near Midway Island
when the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor. After sunset on 7 December, ARGONAUT surfaced and heard naval
gunfire around Midway. It was
assumed that the Japanese were landing a large invasion force. ARGONAUT then submerged to
make a sonar approach to
the "invasion force." While designed to be a minelayer and not an attack
submarine, ARGONAUT made the first wartime
approach on enemy naval forces.
The "invasion force" turned out to be two Japanese destroyers whose mission was
shore bombardment on Midway. The
ships may have detected ARGONAUT, and one passed close by the submarine. They completed
the bombardment then
retired before ARGONAUT could make a second approach.
One week later, ARGONAUT made contact with three or four Japanese destroyers. Her captain,
Stephen Barchet, wisely
decided not to attack. On 22 January 1942, she returned to Pearl Harbor and, after a brief
stop there, proceeded to the Mare
Island Navy Yard for conversion to a troop transport submarine.
ARGONAUT returned to action in the South Pacific in August. Admiral Chester Nimitz
assigned ARGONAUT and USS
NAUTILUS (SS-168) to transport and land marine commandos on Makin in the Gilbert Islands.
This move was designed to
relieve pressure on American forces that had just landed on Guadalcanal. On 8 August, the
two submarines embarked troops
of Companies A and B 2d Raider Battalion, and got underway for Makin. Conditions during
the transit were unpleasant, and
most of the marines became seasick. The convoy arrived off Makin on 16 August; and, at
0330 the next day, the marines
began landing. Their rubber rafts were swamped by the sea and most of the outboard motors
drowned. The Japanese - either
forewarned or extraordinarily alert because of the activity on Guadalcanal - gave the
Americans a warm reception. Snipers
were hidden in the trees and the landing beaches were in front of the Japanese forces
instead of behind them as planned. By
midnight of 10 August, all but 30 of the troops had been recovered.
ARGONAUT arrived back in Pearl Harbor on 26 August. Her designation was changed to APS-1
on 22 September, and her
base of operations was transferred to Brisbane, Australia, later in the year. In December,
the submarine departed Brisbane
to patrol in the hazardous area between New Britain and Bougainville, south of St.
George's Channel. On 10 January 1943
ARGONAUT spotted a convoy of five freighters and their destroyer escorts. An Army aircraft
was by chance flying
overhead and witnessed ARGONAUT's attack. ARGONAUT hit at least one of the destroyers with
her torpedoes, and they
promptly counterattacked. A crew member on board the plane saw ARGONAUT's bow suddenly
break the water at an
unusual angle. It was apparent that a depth charge had severely damaged the submarine. The
destroyers continued circling
ARGONAUT and pumping shells into her. She slipped below the waves and was never heard from
again. One hundred five
officers and men went down with the submarine.
ARGONAUT won two battle stars for her World War II service.