The lead boat in its class, the SS-78, U.S.S. R-1 was launched on 24 August 1918 at the Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, MA, and commissioned 16 December 1918 at Boston. Her first commanding officer was CDR Conant Taylor.
Following a shakedown cruise in New England waters, R-1 joined SubDiv 9, Atlantic Fleet, based at New London. In the winter of 1919 she took part in exercises in the Gulf of Mexico, returning to New London in May 1920, then conducting normal operations until going to Norfolk for refit in September.
In 1921, R-1 was transfered to San Pedro, CA, where she participated in exercises off Central America in 1923. In July 1923 she was transfered, with her division, to Pearl Harbor, where she remained for the next 8 years. At Pearl she participated in crew training, and the development of submarine tactics.
In 1931, R-1 was decommissioned at Philadelphia. She remained in mothballs until 1940, when she was reactivated at Groton, CN, overhauled, and sent to Coco Solo with SubRon 3. Initially assigned to SubDiv 42, she was at Coco Solo for a year. Transfered back to New London for refit in June 1941, she was then assigned to SubRon 7.
R-1 was in New London when World War II began. Patrolling to Bermuda, she joined others from her squadron to hunt German u-boats, which had been sent to the American coast at the outbreak of war and were having a field day against the unprepared American forces. Unlike the older O-class boats, which were armed with obsolete 18-inch torpedoes and were employed only for training, the R-boats, with their more useful 21-inch torpedoes, were sent on active patrols until more modern boats became available.
On her second war patrol, in February 1942, R-1 was patroling between Nantucket and Bermuda when she sighted a surfaced u-boat and attacked with torpedoes. She was credited with sinking the 700-ton u-boat, but after the war German records indicated no such loss and R-1‘s score was changed from “sunk” to “damaged.”
She continued to conduct coastal patrols through November 1944, alternating between bases in Bermuda and New London. In December 1944, she underwent modifications for ASW experimentation. In July 1945, she was assigned to the Fleet Sonar School at Key West, remaining there for the remainder of her active service.
R-1 was decommissioned at Key West on 20 September 1945, and stricken on 10 November. She sank at her berth in Key West on 21 February 1946 as she was awaiting disposal. Sunk in only 21 feet of water, R-1 was pumped out three days later and raised. She was sold for scrap on 13 March 1946.
Builder: Fore River
Sponsor: Mrs. G.W. Dashiell
First Captain: CDR Conant Taylor