Beyond the surface: USS M-1’s general characteristics and service history

Commissioned in 1918, the USS M-1 (SS-47) was a revolutionary submarine that revolutionised submarine building with its double hull design and cutting-edge battery technology. Its experiences demonstrated a dedication to developing naval capabilities, as evidenced by the AA-1 class.

In the U.S. Navy, the USS M-1 (SS-47) was a singular and innovative submarine. Its unique design represented a major advancement in submarine technology and construction, acting as a dedicated test bed for state-of-the-art ideas. Interestingly, the M-1 was the first submarine in history to use a double hull, breaking with the single hull designs of pioneers such as Holland and Simon Lake.

The M-1’s inventiveness went beyond structural innovation to include developments in battery technology. To address and correct previous shortcomings in underwater power systems, a unique design for batteries was put into practice. This dedication to expanding naval technology was not just a one-off experiment; rather, it was a calculated move to improve the overall power and effectiveness of submersible ships.

Lessons learned from the M-1’s development and operational experiences ensured its legacy continued although it remained a unique example of its kind. Notably, the insights acquired from the M-1 project were not discarded; rather, it was used in further advancements, particularly impacting the design and building of the AA-1 class of submarines. 

General Characteristics:

The USS M-1 was a diesel-electric submarine of the M-class. It had a surface displacement of 488 long tonnes and a submerged displacement of 676 long tonnes. The submarine had a length of 196 feet, 3 inches, a beam of 19 feet, and an 11-foot draft. The USS M-1 was powered by two 680-horsepower Electro Dynamic electric motors and two 840-horsepower NELSECO diesel engines. Two 60-cell batteries provided the electricity, which was then distributed by two shafts.

The USS M-1 could travel at speeds of 10.5 knots underwater and 14 knots on the surface. When surfaced, it could go 2,750 nautical miles at 11 knots. With a test depth of 200 feet, the submarine could hold a crew of 26 enlisted people and 2 officers.

The USS M-1 was armed with four 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes that could hold eight torpedoes and a retractable deck gun with a calibre of 3 inches (76 mm)/23. The AA-1-class submarines were the notable successors to the submarine. The USS M-1 was a powerful ship built for both surface and underwater operations, with a fuel capacity of 28,422 US gallons.

Service History:

On July 2, 1914, the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts, laid down the keel of the USS M-1 submarine. Under the sponsorship of Ms. Sara Dean Roberts, the submarine was launched on September 14, 1915, with design assistance from the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. On February 16, 1918, it was finally put into service.

M-1, with its base at Newport, Rhode Island, was commissioned and subsequently assigned to Submarine Division 2 (SubDiv2). During World War I, M-1 was not deployed abroad like many other American submarines were. Following that, it conducted operations off the East Coast for the next three years, mostly hosting submarine training exercises. M-1 operated under the joint operational direction of SubDivs 5 and 3 during its final year of active service.

The USS M-1 was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on March 15, 1922, completing four years of service in testing and training roles. The submarine’s active service came to an end the following day when it was struck from the Naval Vessel Register and later sold for scrap to Joseph G. Hitner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 25.