The USS S-47 (SS-158) was launched on 5 January 1924. The S-boat was commissioned on 16 September 1925 with Lieutenant John Wilkes in command.
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.
Following commissioning and fitting out, USS S-47 (SS-158) conducted engineering and torpedo tests off the southern New England coast of the United States. However, with the new year, 1926, she departed the United States Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Connecticut, and transited south to join Submarine Division 19 in the Panama Canal Zone.
The submarine arrived at the submarine base at Coco Solo on 19 January 1926, and, for the next year and one-half, conducted local operations in the Pacific Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. During this period, the submarine’s routine was broken up by joint Army-Navy exercises testing the defenses of the Canal; by Fleet Problem VI (February 1926) and VII (March 1927); and by extended training cruises in the Caribbean Sea (June 1926 and April 1927). Transferred to San Diego, California, with her submarine division during June of 1927, she continued to participate in individual, division, fleet, and joint Army-Navy exercises into 1932. At that time, a period of inactivity in rotating reserve status was added to S-boat employment schedules.
In 1936, USS S-47, now in Submarine Division 11, was transferred back to Coco Solo, where she was based through the end of the decade. In the summer of 1941, the S-boat returned to the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, and commenced operations off the southern New England coast. During September, the submarine patrolled in the Bermuda area; and, in October, she returned to the Connecticut submarine base. The following month, the submarine moved north to Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, to participate in exercises to test S-boat capabilities in arctic and sub-arctic waters.
On 7 December 1941, Japanese air and submarine units attacked targets in the Territory of Hawaii, thereby plunging the United States into the Second World War as an active participant.
By mid-December 1941, USS S-47 was back at Groton, Connecticut; and, by January of 1942, the S-boat was back in the Panama Canal Zone.
Defensive operations in the approaches to the Panama Canal took USS S-47 into March. On the 5th of March 1942, the submarine moved west across the Pacific Ocean with Submarine Division 53 to join Task Force 42 at Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Australia. The S-boat arrived ‘down under’ in mid-April; and, on the 22nd, she got underway to conduct her first offensive war patrol in the New Britain-New Ireland area.
On the 27th, she commenced submerged operations during daylight hours. On the morning of the 29th, she passed Bougainville; and, on the night of 30 April, she arrived off New Britain. The next evening, she attempted to close an enemy submarine but lost contact with the target. That night, the S-boat transited Saint George Channel; and, on the morning of 2 May, she closed Blanche Bay. Despite numerous enemy patrol craft, both surface and air, off the Crater Peninsula, she moved toward Simpson Harbor in an attempt to score on an oiler accompanied by a destroyer. Her quarry, however, reached safety before USS S-47 could close the range to within torpedo run distance.
USS S-47 waited outside the harbor. Four hours later, two destroyers entered the harbor; and, a short while after that, a cruiser was sighted on the same course. USS S-47 increased her speed and maneuvered to attack. But, before she reached a firing position, a short in the electrical firing circuit fired the torpedo out of Number Four Torpedo Tube. The cruiser continued into the harbor. The electrical firing circuit in USS S-47 was disconnected.
Still in the area on the 3rd, USS S-47 became the target of a three-hour submarine hunt conducted by two destroyers and two minesweepers, who made frequent depth charge attacks. That night, the submarine cleared the area. By 5 May, she was off New Hanover; and, on the 8th, she fired on a Japanese merchant ship, which reversed course and headed for the submarine at high speed. USS S-47 went deep and readied two torpedo tubes for firing. The target, however, passed overhead; resumed its original course; and soon outdistanced the submarine.
USS S-47 remained on patrol in that area for another four days. On the 12th, she shifted to the Buka area and patrolled off Queen Carola Harbor until 15 May. She then set course for Brisbane.
In port for repairs from 20 May until early June, USS S-47 cleared Moreton Bay on 6 June to return to New Britain. Again, she hunted off the Crater Peninsula, and between there and the Duke of York Islands; then moved into the Shortland Island area before heading for Australia on the 22nd.
USS S-47 departed the Australian coast, again, on 28 July, but fuel tank leaks forced her to turn back on 1 August. From the 5th to the 24th, she underwent repairs in Brisbane. On the 25th, she was once more underway for Saint George Channel and the area to the northwest of Rabaul. On 2 September, her patrol was shifted to include the eastern and southeastern coasts of New Ireland, where, on the 12th, she damaged an enemy warship. On 22 September, the submarine returned to Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Australia.
Twenty-eight days later, USS S-47 departed Moreton Bay for her last war patrol as a unit of Task Force 42. Moving across the Coral Sea and into the Solomons, she sighted Shortland Island on the 28th, and, on the night of 30-31 October, commenced hunting on the Buin-Rabaul line. On 2 November, east of Bougainville, the submarine damaged a second Japanese warship. Two days later, she began moving southeast. On the 8th, she passed San Cristobal Island and departed the Solomons, en route to the Fiji Islands and the Panama Canal.
On 17 November, USS S-47 joined other units of Submarine Division 53 and submarine tender USS Griffin (AS-13) in Suva Harbor, whence the group proceeded to Coco Solo. There, during the first quarter of 1943, USS S-47 underwent overhaul and received a surface search radar. In March, the S-boat was ordered to Trinidad in the British West Indies to furnish training services for antisubmarine vessels stationed there. But she was soon recalled to the Panama Canal Zone; then ordered to San Francisco, California, for further work on her at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard. Arriving in May, the submarine remained in the shipyard through the summer; and, after training off the southern California coast in September, she headed north to the Aleutians.
In October, USS S-47 arrived at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, whence she conducted two war patrols to impede Japanese traffic in the Paramushiro area. On 3 January 1944, she completed the second of her two North Pacific Ocean war patrols; and, a month later, the S-boat departed the Aleutians to return to the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
Arriving at Milne Bay on 17 March, USS S-47 joined Task Force 72; and, for the next two months, conducted antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training operations for United States Seventh Fleet minesweepers. In June, however, she shifted to Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralties, whence she departed on another war patrol on 17 June. The patrol, conducted to support the Allied thrust along the New Guinea coast, was completed on 5 July. Availability at Brisbane followed; and, at the end of August, the S-boat returned to Seeadler Harbor to resume ASW training operations. In November, she shifted to Mios Woendi; and, during February of 1945, the submarine headed for Brisbane, whence, on 8 March, she commenced a transit to the west coast of the United States.
USS S-47 arrived at San Diego in mid-April and remained there until after the end of World War II hostilities…which officially occurred on 2 September 1945…when representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the instruments of surrender aboard battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), which was anchored in Tokyo Bay, Japan, for that occasion. In mid-September, the submarine moved up to San Francisco; and, on 25 October 1945, USS S-47 was decommissioned. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 13 November 1945. Submarine Hull Number 158 was sold to a shipbreaker for scrapping during May of 1946.
USS S-47 (SS-158) was awarded three battle stars for her services during the Second World War.