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Diesel names

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fortyrod View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fortyrod Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Diesel names
    Posted: 24 Mar 2019 at 6:39pm
Not all ss (diesel boats) were named after fish. How many SS boats can you name that were not.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oldsubs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Mar 2019 at 7:04pm
Of the 435 diesel boats, 292 were named for fish, the remainder were not. 

That is 143 named for things other than fish.  This includes: 125 with letter/number combinations, 9 for mammals, 8 for other animals/things and one for a person. 

This does not include the gasoline powered boats that were named for fish, letter/number combinations, reptiles, arachnids, mammals and people. 

Also not included are the 224+ nucs which were not part of the question.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fortyrod Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2019 at 5:41am
and the popular myth that dbf boats were named for fish is dispelled
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltiDawg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2019 at 9:52am
Always heard "Sea Denizens" not "fish.  Nautilus, Argonaut, etc....


Edited by SaltiDawg - 25 Mar 2019 at 9:57am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oldsubs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2019 at 10:27am
I have revised my numbers to include three in the fish family and out of the 'other animal' family.  The 'denizens of the deep' term is often used and if included would add the 'other animal' group to the fish list.  This would bring the fish number up to 300 even.  Cdr Alden wrote an article some years ago on the naming of submarines.  I'll dig it out and see how he defines the fish family and denizens of the deep. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oldsubs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2019 at 10:30am
If one includes mammals in the fish group because of the 'denizens of the deep' criteria then the number increases from 300 to 309. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Runner485 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2019 at 10:46am
I think Sirago would be considered a denizen of the not so deep...A seahorse, fresh water seahorse no less...I think?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oldsubs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Mar 2019 at 1:33pm
Some comments on the naming of submarines in the US Navy: Excerpts and summaries from “Nomenclature and Classification of Early United States Submarines” by Cdr John D. Alden USN (Ret.) and Christopher C. Wright. This article was published in “Warship International” [Volume 42 No. 3, 2005 pp 283-301] which is the quarterly publication of the International Naval Research Organization Inc. The late Cdr. Alden was a well known and respected historian and author of several books including “The Fleet Submarine in the United States Navy”. Mr. Wright is also a noted naval historian and is Editor in Chief of “Warship International”.

The main article was written to provide clarification to the sometimes baffling naming conventions used by the Navy for submarines from 1900 to about 1950. My comments and summaries are generally concerned with the issue of what we commonly refer to as submarines being named for fish.

Submarine Number 1 was named the Holland after its inventor. Submarines Number 2 through 34 were named for fish, marine creatures and stinging creatures as the boats were small, furtive but carried a powerful 'sting'. The name category were not formally defined but names were assigned most likely by the Bureau of Construction and Repair as the boats were built. In 1911 a class based letter number system was most likely in an original proposal by Rear Admiral William Potter. There were two plans under the base proposal. Plan A was to add the letter/number designation to the existing name and to continue naming and numbering boats with both schemes. Plan B would scrap the names and go simply with the letter/number system. After much discussion Plan B was decided upon. There was a Congressional statute on the naming of ships but it did not apply to 3rd and 4th rate ships such as submarines and torpedo boats. Thus the Navy was free to choose the naming system it thought best. On 17 November 1911 the change took place. Plunger was renamed A-1 and so on. For some reason, not found in the documentation, the J-class was changed to the K-class and the use of 'J' omitted.

This system continued with only a few minor difficulties up through the S Class. Seal (G-1) was somehow left off the number system and was given the number 19 ½ until 1917 when the sinking of F-1 made the number 20 available so it was used until the boat (Seal or 19 ½) was placed out of service. Submarine number 108 was never built so no name was ever assigned. Submarine Number 52 was named the “Schley”. It was presumed at the time that the new “fleet” submarines would operated as a substitute for destroyers thus carry the 'destroyer' names. This class (3 ships) was changed to AA-1 to AA-3 then named T-1 to T-3.


In 1920 the Navy issued General Order 541 which standardized the nomenclature of its vessels. This type designation (SS for example for first line submarines) caused some confusion. Portsmouth Navy Yard wanted to know if the S-class boats (S-1 to S-13) which they were building were to be renamed SS 107 to SS 118. The Bureau of Construction and Repair bumped the question up to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav) where it landed on the desk of Capt. George Williams of the OpNav Planning Division. He wrote a memo which proposed an entirely new scheme of naming wherein the boats would be named with the Type Designator (SS, SF and so on) plus the sequential submarine number (starting with Holland as No.1). This didn't meet with much agreement ---- so OK, you can see where this is going.

The Navy in 1920 was building a group of new submarines to operate with the fleet, to cruise independently as commerce raiders and so on. General Order 551 assigned the names V-1 to V-9 to these boats and changed the AA boats to T class. The V-boats were not alike so could not be considered a class by their construction or role but they were called the V-class anyway. Then in 1931 they were divided into individual classes A, B, C, D, and N. More confusion.

Admiral Frank Upham (Commander, Control Forces) under whose command were the submarines (predecessor to ComSubLant (Pac)) proposed assigning names to submarines. He felt that “In order to perpetuate the names of those for whom destroyers had been named while at the same time enhancing the dignity and pride of command in the submarine service, it is requested that submarines be named in acccordance with the enclosed list. With names instead of numbers there will be a much greater tendency to speak of submarines as ships instead of boats.” This proposal bounced upward from Control Force to Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to OpNav. OpNav (Op-23C) memo dtd 24 February 1930 said in effect and politely 'nah, I don't think so, very much'. That memo made the counter proposal that the names of fish would be more appropriate and is recommended. Cdr Alden's research found that the memo's author was unknown but may have come from the desk of Capt. William R. Furlong.

OpNav then started to define the list and there were many fingers in the pie. These included Rear Adm McC. Nulton, Commander in Chief, Battle Fleet, Capt. Chester W. Nimitz, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Hart, (Commander Submarine Divisions). These men and their staffs had varying opinions about what the names should be and what should be or should not be renamed. In the end it was decided that boats up to the end of the S-class should not be renamed and that the new naming scheme start with V-1 becoming the Barracuda with the identification number B-1. V-4 was to be the Turtle and V-7 to be Octopus. This proposed listing and a tentative list of other names was put forward for review. Throughout the 1930s the naming scheme was refined, assigned and changed. Names that didn't fit the picture of warlike submarines were dropped. {Sardine, Shrimp, Meagre and so on}. The class numbers became an issue when the new S-class boats such as Salmon and Sargo were being built as there was a large group of S-class boats still in service. Finally in 1938/39 the change was made which did away with the Class Number designator. Spearfish was launched with the number S 9 but the next boat launched had its hull number instead Swordfish (SS-193). We have used this naming convention ever since.

So finally by the early part of 1939 the changes and confusions were over. Submarines were to be named for fish and carried their hull number as part of the name. Oh wait --- The naming policy was now to select a fish name with the first letter the same as the 'class'. Thus the S-class were the Sargo, Salmon and so on. The next class was to be the T-class but this was changed to the G-class for fiscal year 1941. This class became the Gato class. But when the class design was 'frozen' for mass production a new name assignment scheme was needed. Generally speaking the names were assigned in blocks in alphabetical order. First group of G-class after the first 12 started with Albacore and went to Whale the next starting with Angler. As is normal there were exceptions and bumps in the road. Ichthyoligists were consulted about prospective names. Names were suggested, rejected, rejuvenated and reused.This brings us to today. No where in the article nor in any other reading I have done on the subject did the term 'denizens of the deep' appear although I would agree that it is appropriate. We (speaking as a submariner) are lucky. People had the forethought not to name us using ex-destroyer names nor to force us to use 'ships' instead of boats. Our boat names bear witness to a proud and ongoing tradition.


I served aboard seven boats, five were named for fish and two for people. Two diesel boats, three fast attacks and two boomers. It is my opinion and only my opinion that the tradition is carried forth by the crew who carry the name with them. They make the tradition, the boat is good, bad or whatever based on their actions and perceptions. As long as the name is not generally demeaning (like Shrimp or Crappie) pride in the name is what the crew make of it.

As far as today's traditions, The battleship in its day was the most powerful ship possessed by the Navy. Today the Virginia Class and the Ohio Class have taken its place. It is therefore fitting, I believe that they carry the names of States. I was aboard the Stoney J and US Grant. Both fine boats named for people.

“I don't care what you call me, just don't forget to call me for chow.”

I would urge those interested in this naming scheme for submarines business to get a copy of the article by Alden and Wright in Warship International (there is a lot more detail) and Capt. William F Calkins (USNR) article “Down to the Sea in Ships' -Names” in US Naval Institute Proceedings of July 1958 and follow up in March 1959. 

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