The keel of USS S-30 (SS-135) was laid down on 1 April 1918 by the Union Iron Works Division of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation…a subcontractor of the Electric Boat Company of New York City, New York…at San Francisco, California. The submarine was christened by Mrs. Edward S. Stalnaker and launched on 21 November 1918. The S-boat was commissioned on 29 October 1920 with Lieutenant Commander Stuart E. Bray in command.
When commissioned, the S-1 Class coastal and harbor defense submarine was 219’3″ in length overall; had an extreme beam of 20’8″; had a normal surface displacement of 854 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 15’11”. Submerged displacement was 1,062 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 41,921 gallons, which fueled two 600 designed brake horsepower Model 8-EB-15NR diesel engines manufactured by the New London Ship and Engine Company at Groton, Connecticut…which could drive the boat…via a diesel direct drive propulsion system…at 14.5 knots on the surface. 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 750 designed brake horsepower main propulsion motors manufactured by the Electro Dynamic Company at Bayonne, New Jersey…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.
Based at San Pedro in California, with the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo in California being designated as her home yard, USS S-30 (SS-135) conducted tests and exercises off the California coast into the summer of 1921. Then, on 15 August 1921, the submarine was placed “in ordinary.”
Recommissioned, “in full,” on 14 February 1922, USS S-30 was ordered to the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut…where she was placed “in ordinary,” again, on 21 June 1922, for engine alterations by the prime contractor…the Electric Boat Company.
Trials and exercises off the southern New England coast followed her recommissioning “in full” on 21 November 1922; and, during January of 1923, USS S-30 moved south to the Caribbean to participate in winter maneuvers and Fleet Problem I, conducted to test the defenses of the Panama Canal Zone. During April of 1923, the submarine returned to California and resumed operations off the west coast of the United States with her division…Submarine Division (SubDiv) 16.
During the winter of 1924, USS S-30 again participated in fleet exercises and fleet problems in the Panama Canal Zone and in the Caribbean; and, during the winter of 1925, the submarine prepared for transfer to the United States Asiatic Fleet.
USS S-30 departed the Mare Island Navy Yard, with her division, during mid-April of 1926. During May of 1926, the submarine conducted exercises and underwent upkeep in the Territory of Hawaii; and, on 16 June 1926, the S-boat continued on to the Philippine Islands. On 12 July 1926, she arrived at the Submarine Base at Cavite on the Island of Luzon…from where she operated until 1932. Her division rotated between exercises and patrols in the Philippines during the winter and conducted operations off the China coast during the summer.
During 1932, her division was ordered back to the eastern Pacific Ocean areas. On 2 May 1932, USS S-30 departed Manila for Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands…her home port until transferred back to the east coast of the United States in 1937.
Transiting from Pearl Harbor on 19 May 1937, USS S-30 arrived at the United States Naval Submarine Base at New London/Groton, Connecticut, on 8 August 1937. For the next year and a half, the submarine operated and trained along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.
During May of 1939, USS S-30 was placed “in commission, in reserve.” On 1 September 1940, the submarine was returned to “full commission.”
World War II was beginning its second year. German U-boats were then raiding shipping in the western Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. American S-boats–designed during World War I–were assigned to Submarines, Patrol Force (Submarines, United States Atlantic Fleet after February of 1941), and were carrying out multipurpose missions which involved training and development of tactical skills.
USS S-30 homeported at the New London/Groton submarine base and operated along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts of the United States into the spring of 1941. The submarine then served briefly in the Bermuda area; returned to New London/Groton; and, in early July, proceeded to the Philadelphia Navy Yard at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…for overhaul. In September, the S-boat emerged from the Navy yard; returned to New England; and resumed submarine and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training operations.
USS S-30 continued those duties–in Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Casco Bay, and Placentia Bay areas–until the United States officially entered World War II…following the Japanese attack on the Territory of Hawaii on 7 Decembr 1941. In 1942, however, defensive patrols were added to her duties, and her division, SubDiv 52, was reassigned to the Panama Canal Zone.
Departing the Connecticut submarine base on 31 January 1942, the S-boat hunted for German enemy submarines along her route, which took her, via Bermuda and the Mona Passage, into the Caribbean Sea. On 16 February 1942, the submarine arrived at the submarine base at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone, whence she conducted two defensive patrols in the western approaches to the Panama Canal, from 10 to 31 March, and from 14 April to 13 May, before she was ordered to California to prepare for service in the Aleutians. Into July, she underwent repairs at San Diego; and, at mid-month, she started for Alaska. While en route, engine trouble forced her into the Mare Island Navy Yard; and, on 1 August, she headed north again.
On 12 August 1942, USS S-30 departed the submarine base at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, on her first offensive war patrol. Moving through fog, she arrived off Attu on the 16th; sighted only the hazy outline of Cape Wrangell; and continued on to patrol across the anticipated Japanese shipping lanes between that island and the northern Kurils. On the afternoon of 7 September, she was attacked by three Japanese destroyers some ten miles north of the cape, and, in that two and a half hour encounter, gained her first close experience with Japanese depth charges. Three days later, she turned for home.
On 24 September 1942, USS S-30 got underway for her fifth war patrol…her second in the Aleutians. A cracked cylinder in her port engine forced her back to Dutch Harbor on the 27th; and, on the 30th, she again moved west. On 3 October 1942, she entered her patrol area and commenced hunting enemy ships along traffic lanes west of Kiska; but, by the 9th, additional engineering casualties, cracks, and leaks had developed and forced her to return to Unalaska. From there, the submarine was ordered to San Diego for an overhaul. During her yard period, USS S-30 received a fathometer, a new distilling unit, and more up-to-date radar equipment.
From mid-February of 1943 into March, USS S-30 provided training services to the West Coast Sound School. On 16 March, the submarine commenced a transit to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska.
Following the S-boat’s arrival in the Aleutians on 21 March 1943, air compressor failure and malfunctioning of her fathometer delayed her departure until 13 April. She then headed for Attu. On the 15th, she crossed the 180th Meridian, and, keeping Dutch Harbor dates, arrived at her destination on the 17th. For the next few days, she reconnoitered, and, when possible, photographed the island’s principal coves, bays, and harbors. On the 26th, she was ordered to the east of 176 Degrees East Longitude, and south of 52 Degrees 40 Minutes North Latitude, where she remained until after an Allied strike against Attu. The next afternoon, she returned to the island, but was unable to determine the extent of the damage inflicted.
On 2 May 1943, USS S-30 departed the area; returned to Dutch Harbor for refit; and, on the 24th, transited west, again, this time for the northern Kurils. On the 31st (Dutch Harbor date), the submarine entered her assigned area; and, on 5 June, off the Kamchatka coast, she attacked her first target, a large sampan. Her guns set the enemy vessel on fire; but, as it burned, a Japanese destroyer appeared on the horizon and began closing the surfaced submarine at high speed. Three minutes later, the destroyer opened fire on the diving S-boat.
USS S-30 commenced an approach on the destroyer; but, just as she reached the firing bearing, she lost depth control. A few seconds later, depth charging started. In the next 20 minutes, 33 “ashcans” were dropped by the destroyer. Others followed sporadically over the next five hours. USS S-30 was then able to clear the area. On the 6th, the ship’s force repaired all minor damage and commenced efforts to remove two torpedoes which had been crushed in the Number Three and Number Four Torpedo Tubes. The one in the latter torpedo tube was removed on the 7th; but the one in Number Three Torpedo Tube remained in that tube until the completion of the patrol.
On 8 June 1943, USS S-30 headed down the Paramushiro coast; approached Onekotan; then transited Onekotan Strait, and set a course for Araito. During the next two days, the submarine sighted four targets but was able to close only the last two, merchantmen in column, contacted on the 10th (11th local date). Fog closed in rapidly as the S-boat made her approach; then blanketed the area as she fired three torpedoes. Two explosions were heard, but nothing could be seen. Post World War II examination of Japanese records revealed that she had sunk “Jinbu Maru,” a 5,228-ton cargo ship.
During the ensuing depth charging, USS S-30 began to move out of the area. Within two and one-half hours, she had left the pinging of the searchers behind and had resumed her own hunting. On 12 June, she retransited Onekotan Strait. The following day, she fired on a convoy, but missed. On the 14th, she departed the area; and, on the 22nd, she returned to Dutch Harbor to begin extracting the damaged torpedo and commence refitting.
On 5 July 1943, USS S-30 got underway for her eighth war patrol, which took the submarine back to the Kurils, and into the Sea of Okhotsk. The S-boat patrolled on both sides of the island chain and across the traffic lanes leading to Soya Strait and to Yokosuka. She took periscope pictures of facilities on various islands. She sighted several targets, but was unable to close on most, and was unsuccessful on those she attacked. On the 20th, she attacked what appeared to be an inter-island steamer, but which turned straight down the torpedo track and dropped six depth charges in quick succession. USS S-30 went deep; reloaded; and prepared to reattack. The target, however, was lost in the fog.
USS S-30 continued her patrol. A week later, she sent three torpedoes against a Japanese merchantman estimated at 7,000 tons. Two hits, breaking-up noises, and distant depth charging were reported by the sound operator, but the damage was unverified. Four days later, she attacked another cargoman under similar circumstances. One torpedo was reported to have hit. Screw noises from the target stopped, breaking-up noises were heard, and periscope observation showed no ship at the site of the attack. But any damage which might have been inflicted was never verified.
USS S-30 left the Kurils behind and headed east on 7 August 1943. Two days later, the submarine arrived in Massacre Bay, Attu, from where she conducted her last war patrol. On that patrol, from 26 August to 23 September 1943, the S-boat again hunted in the shipping lanes along the eastern and western sides of the Kurils. Again, several targets were lost in fog; nevertheless, she took pictures of the islands. Then, in mid-September, she added a new dimension to her activities and attempted to shell the enemy garrison on Matsuwa. Fog had interfered with an earlier attempt to bombard that post, but cleared off early on the morning of the 15th (local date) as she neared the firing point with her crew at battle stations. But, when the order to fire was given, the gun failed to respond. A new firing pin was a fraction of an inch too short, and the effort had to be abandoned.
The following day, USS S-30 was ordered home. En route, on the 17th, she was sighted and bombed by a Japanese patrol plane. Failure of the port main motor at that moment caused anxiety; but the submarine escaped serious damage. On the 23rd, she arrived at Dutch Harbor. Within the week, she headed south to San Diego, where, with others of her class, she provided training services for the West Coast Sound School for the remainder of World War II…which ended with the signing of the instruments of surrender by the Japanese on board battleship USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. The battleship was anchored in Tokyo Bay, Japan, for that occasion.
In mid-September 1945, USS S-30 proceeded to the Mare Island Navy Yard, where she was decommissioned on 9 October 1945. Fifteen days later, her name was struck from the Navy List; and in December of 1946, she was sold and delivered to the Salco Iron and Metal Company of San Francisco, California, for scrapping.
USS S-30 (SS-135) was awarded two battle stars for her services during World War II.