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  USS Argonaut (V-4, SM-1, APS-1, SS-166)
V-4 Class

2,710 Tons (standard)
3,046 Tons (full load)
385' x 33' 9.5" x 16' 1/4"
8 x 21" torpedo tubs
20 torpedoes
2 x 6" deck gun

Ship History
Built by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine. Laid down as "V-4" on May 1, 1925. Launched on November 10, 1927 and commissioned on April 2, 1928, captain Lieutenant Commander W.M. Quigley.

Assigned to Submarine Division 12 based at Newport, Rhode Island. Underwent trials during January to February 1929 off Provincetown, Massachusetts. On a trial dive, she submerged to a depth of 318', the greatest depth an American submarine had ever reached at the time. On February 26, 1929, V-4 was assigned to Submarine Division 20 (SubDiv 20). Stationed at San Diego arriving March 23 and participated in exercises and cruises off the west coast.

On February 19, 1931 renamed USS Argonaut. and July 1 designated SM-1 (submarine, minelayer). On June 30, 1932 arrived at Pearl Harbor and assigned to SubDiv 7. She carried out mine laying operations, patrol duty, and training. During October 1934 and again in May 1939, Argonaut took part in joint Army-Navy exercises off Hawaii.

During 1939, Argonaut became the flagship of Submarine Squadron 4 (SubRon 4) commanded by Captain Freeland A. Daubin. Returned to the west coast during April 1941 to participate in fleet exercises.

Wartime History
On November 28, 1941 commanded by Stephen G. Barchet, departed Pearl Harbor to patrol Midway when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After sunset on December 7, Argonaut surfaced and heard naval gunfire off Midway. She submerged and made a sonar approach, the first wartime approach on enemy, but the two Japanese destroyers bombarding Midway withdrew before Argonaut could make an approach.

One week later, Argonaut made contact with another force of Japanese destroyers, but Captain Barchet decided not to attack. On January 22, 1942, returned to Pearl Harbor then to Mare Island for conversion to a troop transport submarine. The two aft mine laying tubes were removed and replaced with torpedo tubes.

USS Argonaut and USS Nautilus (SS-168) were selected to transport Marine Raiders for the "Makin Raid" to relieve pressure on American forces on Guadalcanal. On August 8, the submarines embarked Marines from Companies A and B, 2nd Raider Battalion, and departed for Makin arriving August 16. At 0330am on August 17, the Marines loaded aboard rubber rafts and landed. By midnight of 18 August, the Japanese garrison of about 85 men was wiped out and the force returned to the submarines then returned to Pearl Harbor on August 26.

On September 22, redesignated APS-1 (transport submarine). Departed for Brisbane. During December 1942, departed Brisbane commanded by Lieutenant Commander John R. Pierce to patrol the area between New Britain and Bougainville, south of St. George's Channel. On January 2, 1943 "Argonaut" sank a Japanese gunboat Ebon Maru in the Bismarck Sea.

Sinking History
On January 10, 1943, while operating between New Britain and Bougainville , Argonaut spotted a convoy of five cargo ships escorted by three destroyers Maikaze, Isokaze, and Hamakaze that had departed Lae bound for Rabaul.

Argonaut fired a torpedo that exploded. Spotted, the destroyers dropped depth charges. When the submarine's bow broke the surface, it was hit by gunfire and sank off the southern coast of New Britain. One hundred and five men went down with the submarine.

Overhead, a B-25 Mitchell returning from a bombing mission was flying in the vicinity and witnessed the attack on Argonaut. A crewman on board the plane saw one destroyer hit by a torpedo, and the destroyers promptly counterattack. Argonaut's bow suddenly broke the water at an unusual angle. It was apparent that a depth charge had severely damaged the submarine. The destroyers continued circling Argonaut and firing shells into her.

On the basis of the report by the B-25 crew that witnessed the attack, Argonaut was credited with damaging a Japanese destroyer.

Japanese records noted a depth charge attack followed by gun fire that "destroyed the top of the sub". None of the Japanese ships were damaged. Possibly, the torpedo explosion was a premature detonation.

Officially, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on February 26 1943. During World War II, Argonaut earned two battle stars. Officially, Argonaut was never formally designated SS-166 by the U. S. Navy (USN). In her honor, that hull number was never allocate to another boat, in honor of USS Argonaut.

Gordon Bowker (son of Bowker)
"My father died aboard the Argonaut on January 10th, 1943"

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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