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The S-42 Class coastal submarine torpedo boat was 225 feet 3 inches in length overall; had an extreme beam of 20 feet 8 inches; had a normal surface displacement of 906 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 16 feet. Submerged displacement was 1,126 tons. The hulls were riveted. The designed compliment was four officers and thirty-four enlisted men. The boat could operate safely to a depth 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 46,363 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.
Completing shakedown exercises off the southern New England coast of the United States, USS S-45 (SS-156) departed the United States Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Connecticut, on 9 June 1925. Nineteen days later, the S-boat joined Submarine Division 19 at the submarine base at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone and commenced type exercises and joint Army-Navy maneuvers in the waters adjacent to Panama. During the next two years, only Fleet Problems VI and VII took the submarine out of her normal operating areas. During May of 1927, the S-boat moved northwest to the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, California, for overhaul; then commenced operating out of San Diego, California.
The following spring, USS S-45 participated in Fleet Problem VIII …a convoy and antisubmarine search and contact problem conducted enroute between San Francisco, California, and Honolulu in the Territory of Hawaii. During the winter of 1929, the submarine returned to the Panama Canal Zone for Fleet Problem IX.
During December of 1930, USS S-45 was transferred a third time; and, on the 12th, she arrived at her new home port…Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands…whence she operated, with Submarine Division 11, on a schedule of exercises and fleet problems similar to those followed previously, for the next year and one-half. During September of 1932, the submarine joined Rotating Reserve Division 14, and, for the next several years, alternated active service with Submarine Division 11 and reserve status in Submarine Division 14.
During March of 1936, the S-boats of Submarine Division 11 were ordered back to Panama. They participated in Fleet Problem XVII enroute and arrived at Coco Solo, their new home port, on 22 May. For the next four years, they maintained a schedule similar to previous tours in the Panama Canal Zone.
With the new decade, 1940, and the expansion of World War II hostilities in Europe and Asia, the schedule was varied. Exercises and patrols in the vital Panama Canal area were stepped up, and plans were made to overhaul and modernize the old S-boats. On 15 May 1941, USS S-45 got underway for the Philadelphia Navy Yard at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, she received new equipment, exclusive of air-conditioning, and a complete overhaul. By August, she was off the New England coast for simulated war patrol exercises; and, in October, the submarine moved south to Bermuda for patrol and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training duties.
After the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese air and submarine units, which plunged the United States into World War II as an active participant, USS S-45 returned to Panama and assumed patrol duties in the approaches to the Panama Canal. By 1 February 1942, the S-boat had conducted two defensive patrols, during which her crew became even better acquainted with the defects in the torpedoes she carried and with the limiting wartime capabilities of boats of her class.
Then, as the Japanese thrust toward Australia continued, the Panama S-boats prepared to assist in defensive efforts in the southwestern Pacific Ocean area. In March, USS S-45 and her division, now Submarine Division 53, headed west. In mid-April, they arrived at Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Australia; and, on 12 May, USS S-45 departed Moreton Bay on her first offensive war patrol.
Assigned to the Bougainville-Buka-New Ireland area, the submarine remained on patrol into mid-June, unable to score against Japanese shipping and unable to contact an agent on Cape Sena. On the 19th, the submarine returned to Brisbane, where an overhaul brought the installation of temporary air-conditioning and corrected some of the defects in the main engines, the radio transmitter, and the bow planes …which had hampered her during her recent patrol. On 26 August, she headed back to the Solomons. By the end of the month, the submarine was on station in the Shortland Island area. Numerous targets were sighted; but, due to frequent squalls and her own limitations, she was unable to press home an attack.
On 5 September, the S-boat was ordered to the Trobriands to intercept enemy shipping bound for Milne Bay, but her luck was no better there.
On the 12th, USS S-45 sighted, closed, and attempted to fire torpedoes at a cruiser. As the outer doors of the torpedo tubes were opened, the submarine became heavy forward, and depth control was lost. Periscope depth was soon regained but could not be held. The sound operators lost the target in USS S-45’s own noises; and, by the time control was regained, the target had passed the firing bearing.
The submarine swung to a new track to pursue. Depth control was again lost. Another battle for control of the boat was won but too late for USS-45 to score.
USS S-45 returned to Moreton Bay on 23 September. By 27 October, the submarine was back in the Shortland Island area; and, on 2 November, her presence near Fauro Island was detected by the enemy. Explosions were heard, but none were close. The next morning, prior to daylight, the S-boat was sighted by a destroyer as she was preparing to fire torpedoes at the Japanese warship while on the surface.
The destroyer swung left to ram the submarine; USS S-45 swung right, submerged, and rigged for depth charge. Within minutes, the explosions, close aboard portside, were felt. Varying her depth and course, the S-boat reached 200 feet. Her evasive maneuvering was successful, and she retired from the area and moved south. The destroyer continued to circle on the surface near the initial contact point. By daylight, a second destroyer had joined the first; and, for the next three hours, the two surface ships were heard, alternately close, then fading out. After 0930, no further pinging was heard. Little damage had been done, but air pressure in the boat was high, a result of blowing and venting tanks (into the interior of the submarine). The high pressure, in turn, caused the depth gauge to register low.
By the 4th, poor weather had set in; and, on the 6th, the boat cleared the area, setting course for Suva and the Panama Canal. Arriving at the Panama Canal Zone on 6 January 1943, USS S-45 underwent voyage repairs; then received orders to proceed to Saint Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands, for training duty. On arrival, the S-boat was ordered back to Coco Solo, whence she continued on to San Diego, and a three-month tour with the West Coast Sound School. Overhaul followed; and, on 19 November, she got underway for the Aleutians.
USS S-45 arrived at Dutch Harbor on 2 December 1943. Training and minor repairs occupied the remainder of the month; and, on 31 December 1943, she departed the eastern Aleutians for Attu. There, she topped off her fuel tanks and continued on to the Kurils, encountering strong winds and heavy seas as she moved west. On 12 January 1944, she lost her radio antennae in a storm, and, on the 13th, she arrived in her patrol area, the Ominato-Paramushiro convoy routes.
Hunting was again poor; and, on the 28th, she returned to Attu. Two days later, while charging batteries, she suffered an explosion in the after battery compartment. By 10 February, the debris had been removed and temporary repairs had been made. The next day, the submarine moved east, arriving at Dutch Harbor on the 14th. From there, the S-boat returned to San Diego, completed repairs, then got underway, in June, to cross the Pacific Ocean. From mid-July to the end of 1944, the submarine conducted training exercises from Manus in the Admiralties; then moved to Brisbane for repairs preparatory to returning to California.
USS S-45 arrived back at San Diego during the early part of April in 1945 and resumed operations as submarine target for the units of the West Coast Sound School.
In September…following the signing of the instruments of surrender by representatives of the Empire of Japan on board battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), which was anchored in Tokyo Bay, Japan, for that occasion, which signing formally ended World War II…USS S-45 (SS-156) moved up to San Francisco, where the submarine was decommissioned on 30 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 13 November 1945; and, during December of 1946, her hulk was sold for scrapping to the Salco Iron and Metal Company of San Francisco, California.