33 Men Lost

June 20, 1941

USS O-9 (SS 70)
Afloat immediately after launching, at the Fore River Shipbuilding Company shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, January 27, 1918.
Note the icy water.

  • O Class Submarine
  • Keel laid: February 15, 1917, at Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, MA
  • Launched: January 27, 1918
  • Commissioned: July 27, 1918
  • Displacement: 521 tons surfaced; 629 tons submerged
  • Length: 172′ 4″
  • Beam: 18′ 0″
  • Depth limit: 200′
  • Complement: 2 officers, 27 enlisted
  • Armament: four 18″, torpedo tubes, 8 torpedoes, one 3″/23 deck gun

On the morning of June 20, 1941, O-9 and two of her sisters, O-6 (SS 67) and O-10 (SS 71), left as a group from the submarine base in New London, Connecticut, for the submarine test depth diving area east of the Isle of Shoals. Upon reaching their designated training area, some 15 miles off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, O-6 made the first dive, followed by O-10. Finally, at 0837, O-9 began her dive. At 1032 O-9 had not surfaced.

Rescue ships swung into action immediately. Sister ships O-6 and O-10, submarine Triton (SS 201), submarine rescue vessel Falcon (ASR 2), and other ships searched for the sub. That evening, pieces of debris with markings from O-9 were recovered. In water 450 feet (140 m) deep, O-9 was thought to be crushed, since her hull was only designed to withstand depths of around 200 feet (60 m).

Divers went down from 1300 on June 21 until 1143 on June 22. Divers could stay only a short time at the 440-foot depth but nonetheless set endurance and depth records for salvage operations until those operations were cancelled as they were considered too risky. Rescue operations were discontinued on June 22, The boat and her thirty-three officers and men were declared lost as of June 20. On June 22, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox conducted memorial services for the 33 officers and men lost on the boat.

On September 20, 1997 O-9 was finally located. Salem, New Hampshire-based Klein Sonar Company provided a vessel and sonar equipment which were used to discover O-9’s final resting place. Her hull is crushed from just abaft the conning all the way to the stern, though the forward hull appears intact. There are no plans to salvage O-9. Her exact location is secret and the area has been designated an official Naval burial ground.

Naval Historical Center

Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

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2 Responses to “USS O-9 (SS 70)”

  1. Charles R. Hinman Says:

    The correct number of men lost on USS O-9 was 33. The 34th man was Burton Alfred Davis, RM3, 201 65 33 – transferred off O-9 on 29 May 1941, went on to serve on various other vessels, and survived World War II. He was serving on USS Higbee (DD-806) as a Radio Technician, First Class, on 1 October 1945. Source: muster rolls of USS O-9, USS Higbee, and other vessels. Please see the personal memorial pages for the men lost with O-9 at http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-o-9-70.htm .

    Thank you.

    Charles R. Hinman

  2. Dave Says:

    Thank you Charles.

    Your diligence in this matter “Perpetuates the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country. That their dedication, deeds and supreme sacrifice be a constant source of motivation toward greater accomplishments.” [United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. (USSVI) Statement of Purpose]

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