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History Revisited - The First Submarines Built in Groton
Posted by Interactive Desk on Mar 04 2009, 01:43 PM
By Jim Streeter,
Special to the Times /
While having a coffee at a local restaurant a few weeks ago, I overheard some young men discussing the history of what is now known as the Electric Boat Corporation, referred to by many as “EB.” As they continued their conversation my ears perked when they mentioned that the first submarine built in Groton was the USS Cuttlefish.
On my best behavior and, of course, in a most diplomatic fashion, I introduced myself to the gentlemen and explained that the Cuttlefish was indeed the first submarine built for the United States Navy in Groton, but it was not the first submarine built here. With their interest piqued, I relayed what I knew about the submarines that were built at EB prior to the Cuttlefish.
I explained that “EB” in Groton had its beginning in 1911 when the Electric Boat Company of New Jersey acquired the New London Ship and Engine Company (NELSECO) in Groton to build diesel engines, machinery, and parts for submarines. The NELSECO shipyard was located where the present Electric Boat Corporation is situated.
In 1922 Electric Boat expanded the facilities at the NELSECO yard to assist in overhauling 30 S-Class submarines. The overhauls entailed rebuilding the engines and installing torpedo tubes on the boats.
In November 1924, the Electric Boat Company signed a contract with the government of Peru to build two submarines as well as torpedoes for the South American republic. They also were to construct a naval submarine base in Callao, Peru. The submarines were to be completely constructed at the NELSECO Yard in Groton. The cost to build each of the subs was approximately $1,220,000 with an additional cost of about $260,000 for the torpedoes and associated accessory items, totaling more than $260,000. More than 500 employees were added to the payroll at the yard as a result of the contract.
The submarines were of the Holland type design. At 200 feet in length and displacing approximately 800 tons, they were somewhat larger than the U.S. Navy’s R-type submarine and smaller than the S-type. Each was powered by two NELSECO diesel engines which provided a top speed of 14.5 knots. The vessels had a cruising radius of about 8,000 miles. Both ships were armed with four torpedo tubes and a three-inch .50-caliber gun.
The keels for the submarines, named R-1 and R-2, were both laid on Feb. 25, 1925. Miss Isabel Leguia, the daughter of Peruvian President Augusto B. Leguia, christened the keel of the R1, and Mrs. Clark Woodward, wife of Admiral Woodward, the chief of the American Naval Mission in Peru, christened the R2. Approximately 1,000 guests, including officials from the United States and Peru and employees of the shipyard, attended the ceremony.
On April 29, 1926, the Peruvian Sub R-2 was launched. Mrs. Woodward was unable to attend and Mr. Enriqua Monge, the wife of the chief of the Peruvian Naval Commission, christened the submarine. No explanation could be found as to why the R-2 was launched prior to the R-1. Incidentally, a bottle of Peruvian wine was used to launch the vessel. More than 1,500 attended the ceremony, and the boat was delivered to the Peruvian government on July 31.
On July 12, 1926, the R-1 was launched. Nearly 2,000 spectators assembled for the ceremony. Mrs. Maria Meyer Ontaneda, wife of the commander of the R-2, christened this vessel. It was delivered on Oct. 4.
The Peruvian government was so pleased with the submarines constructed at the Groton yard that by early December of 1926 another contract was awarded to the Electric Boat Company to have two additional submarines built at NELSECO
The Cuttlefish was launched at the Groton shipyard on Nov. 21, 1933.