R-3 was launched 18 January 1919 at Fore River Shipbuilding Company and commissioned 17 April 1919, with Lieutenant Commander Allen H. Guthrie serving as her first commanding officer. Her initial assignment was with SubDiv 9, at New London, with a winter deployment in the Gulf of Mexico.
Transferring to San Pedro, CA in 1920, she moved to Pearl Harbor in 1923, participating in fleet exercises and training.
In 1930, R-3 was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet, arriving in New London in February. She served as a training boat at the Submarine School for five months, after which she was sent to Washington for air purification tests at the Naval Research Laboratory. In 1932 she conducted sound and radio experiments for the Laboratory, and was involved in diver training at the Deep Sea Diving School.
Placed in reduced commission in April 1933, R-3 was moved to Annapolis, serving as a training boat. In 1934 she was decommissioned at Philadelphia.
Recommissioned at New London on 19 August 1940, R-3 joined SubDiv 42 and, after training, was transfered to Coco Solo, in the Panama Canal Zone. In mid 1941 she returned to New London, and on 4 November she was decommissioned and transfered to the Royal Navy as P-511. She served the British as a training submarine until 1944, when she was returned to the U.S. Navy. She was scrapped in 1948.
Builder: Fore River
Sponsor: Mrs. C.G. McCord
First Captain: LCDR Allen H. Guthrie