The keel of USS S-17 (SS-122) was laid down on 19 March 1918 by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company at Bridgeport, Connecticut. The submarine was christened by Mrs. Raymond G. Thomas and launched on 22 May 1920. The S-boat was commissioned on 1 March 1921 with Lieutenant Commander Charles S. Alden in command.
When commissioned, the S-3 Class coastal and harbor defense submarine was 231′ in length overall; had an extreme beam of 21’10”; had a normal surface displacement of 876 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 13’1″. Submerged displacement was 1,092 tons. The submarine was of riveted construction. The designed compliment was four officers and thirty-four enlisted men. The boat could operate safely to depths of 200 feet. The submarine was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes…installed in the bow. Twelve torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50 caliber deck gun was installed. The full load of diesel oil carried was 36,950 gallons, which fueled two 1,000 designed brake horsepower diesel engines manufactured by the Busch Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company at Saint Louis, Missouri …which could drive the boat, via a diesel direct drive propulsion system, at 15 knots on the surface in relatively calm seas. Power for submerged propulsion was provided by a main storage battery, divided into two sixty-cell batteries, manufactured by the Electric Storage Battery Company (EXIDE) at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…which powered two 600 designed brake horsepower main propulsion motors manufactured by the Westinghouse Electric Company at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…which turned propeller shafts…which turned propellers…which could drive the submarine at 11 knots for a short period of time when operating beneath the surface of the sea. Slower submerged speeds resulted in greater endurances before the batteries needed to be recharged by the engines and generators.
Departing from the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut, on 31 May 1921, USS S-17 (SS-122) transited…via the Panama Canal, California, the Territory of Hawaii, and Guam…to the Philippine Islands. The S-boat arrived at Cavite on the Island of Luzon on 1 December 1921.
During 1922, USS S-17 departed Manila Bay on 11 October, visited Hong Kong from the 14th to the 28th, and was back at Cavite on 1 November.
During 1923, USS S-17 departed Manila on 15 May and visited Shanghai, Chefoo, and Chinwangtao, before returning…via Woosung and Amoy…to the Philippine Islands. The submarine arrived at Cavite on 11 September.
In the summer of 1924, USS S-17 visited Shanghai, Tsingtao, Chefoo, and Chinwangtao, before returning…via Chefoo and Amoy…to the Philippines. The S-boat arrived at Olongapo, Luzon Island, on 23 September.
USS S-17 departed Cavite on 29 October 1924 and transited across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the United States. The S-boat arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, California, on the last day of the year.
USS S-17 remained at the Mare Island Navy Yard during 1925 and 1926. The submarine operated in the coastal waters of California in 1927…mainly from the Mare Island Navy Yard, San Diego, and San Pedro.
From February of 1928 into December of 1934, USS S-17 operated in the water approaches to the Panama Canal.
USS S-17 departed Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone on 10 December 1934 and transited to the Philadelphia Navy Yard at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon arrival, the S-boat commenced preparations to go out of active service. On 29 March 1935, the submarine was decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
With the threat of World War II looming ever closer to the United States, USS S-17 was recommissioned on 16 December 1940. Shakedown and patrol cruises to and from Bermuda were conducted following the return of the submarine to “active duty.”
The United States became an active participant in the Second World War following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii on 7 December 1941.
USS S-17 patrolled in the water approaches to the Panama Canal from December of 1941 into February of 1942…then, in the Caribbean Sea during March of 1942 from a base at Saint Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. From April into August of 1942 the S-boat, again, protected the Panama Canal by patrolling in the seaward approaches.
From September of 1942 into July of 1944, USS S-17 based at the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut.
From there, the submarine provided services to the submarine school, conducted patrols off the New England coast, and provided services to vessels working up in the Casco Bay, Maine, area.
USS S-17 (SS-122) was decommissioned for the last time on 4 October 1944. The submarine was struck from the Navy List on 13 November of that year and was intentionally sunk on 5 April 1945.