The keel of USS S-40 (SS-145) was laid down on 5 March 1919 by the Union Iron Works Division of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation…a subcontractor of the Electric Boat Company of New York City, New York…at San Francisco, California. The submarine was christened by Mrs. John H. Rosseter and launched on 5 January 1921. The S-boat was commissioned on 20 November 1923 with Lieutenant Commander E. F. Morrissey in command.
When commissioned, the S-1 Class coastal and harbor defense submarine was 219’3″ in length overall; had an extreme beam of 20’8″; had a normal surface displacement of 854 tons, and, when in that condition, had a mean draft of 15’11”. Submerged displacement was 1,062 tons. The submarine was of riveted construction. The designed compliment was four officers and thirty-four enlisted men. The boat could operate safely to depths of 200 feet. The submarine was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes…installed in the bow. Twelve torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50 caliber deck gun was installed. The full load of diesel oil carried was 41,921 gallons, which fueled two 600 designed brake horsepower Model 8-EB-15NR diesel engines manufactured by the New London Ship and Engine Company at Groton, Connecticut…which could drive the boat…via a diesel direct drive propulsion system…at 14.5 knots on the surface. Power for submerged propulsion was provided by a main storage battery, divided into two sixty-cell batteries, manufactured by the Electric Storage Battery Company (EXIDE) at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…which powered two 750 designed brake horsepower main propulsion motors manufactured by the General Electric Company at Schenectady, New York…which turned propeller shafts…which turned propellers…which could drive the submarine at 11 knots for a short period of time when operating beneath the surface of the sea. Slower submerged speeds resulted in greater endurances before the batteries needed to be recharged by the engines and generators.
Assigned to Submarine Division 17 on commissioning, USS S-40 (SS-145) operated off southern California until January of 1924, when she proceeded to the Panama Canal Zone in Panama, thence continued into the Caribbean Sea, engaging in Fleet Problems II, III, and IV enroute to and during her stay in those tropical waters. The submarine transited back to southern California and arrived at San Diego in late March. In May, the S-boat completed her final trial runs at San Francisco, California; then prepared for transfer to the United States Asiatic Fleet.
USS S-40 departed San Francisco with her submarine division on 17 September and arrived at Manila on 5 November 1924.
During the winter of 1925, the submarine conducted exercises in sound and target approaches, crash dives, and torpedo firing in the waters off Luzon. In May, the S-boat moved north with her division to Tsingtao, China, and, through the summer, engaged in operations off the China Coast. In September, she returned to the Philippines; and, for the next fifteen years, maintained a schedule of overhaul, exercises, and patrols in the Philippines during the winter and operations off China during the summer.
During the summer of 1940,however, hostilities on the Asiatic mainland brought a change in her schedule and she conducted increasingly extended “familiarization” cruises among the Philippine Islands and in adjacent waters. With 1941, joint Army-Navy exercises were conducted at Corregidor, and patrols off likely invasion beaches were stepped up.
On 8 December 1941 (7 December 1941 east of the International Date Line), USS S-40 was moored alongside submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9), which was anchored off Sangley Point. With the receipt of the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii, which made the United States an active participant in the Second World War, the submarine was ordered out on her first war patrol. Underway on the 9th, the S-boat anchored off Boaya Point, Veradero Bay, on the 10th, and, with a lookout stationed on a nearby hill, watched the approaches to the Verde Island passage between Mindoro and Luzon. On the 12th, the submarine shifted to an area off Batangas, and, on the 14th, returned to Veradero Bay. On the 18th, the S-boat was back in Manila, only to depart again on the 19th to patrol between Botolan Point and Subic Bay. On the 21st, she headed north to intercept a Japanese force reportedly bound for the Lingayen area.
Early on the 23rd of December 1941, USS S-40 sighted the enemy; fired four torpedoes, unsuccessfully, at a transport; then, for much of the remainder of the day, remained submerged, avoiding depth charges dropped by the Japanese screening forces. After dark, the submarine anchored in Agno Bay; made temporary repairs to her hull, engines, pumping system, and port air compressor; then patrolled off Bolinao. On the 29th, she was ordered to head south. Manila and Cavite had become untenable.
On the 30th, three days before Manila and Cavite fell, USS S-40 departed Luzon and pointed her bow toward the Netherlands East Indies. By midnight on 8 January 1942, she was off Makassar, whence she was ordered to Balikpapan for repairs, fuel, and supplies. There, enemy air attacks increased, but repairs were accomplished, fuel was taken on, and limited supplies were received. On the 14th, the submarine took up war patrol duties on the North Watcher-Mangkalihat line. By the 19th, her food supplies were again low, but she cintinued her efforts to impede the Japanese envelopment of the East Indies. On the 20th, she took up patrol off Balikpapan. On the 25th, the S-boat was ordered back to Makassar. Thence, on the 28th, she headed for Soerabaja to join the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) command forces operating from that base…because it was one of the few bases in that area still in Allied hands.
USS S-40 arrived at Soerabaja on the north coast of Java on 2 February 1942, her crew frustrated by their attempts to intercept enemy shipping, but with information on tides, currents, navigational aids, and Japanese tactics. Nine days later, the submarine got underway to patrol the northern approaches to Makassar City and intercept Japanese reinforcements expected to move through Makassar Strait and the Flores Sea. Arriving on the 15th, the S-boat patrolled initially between De Bril Bank and the reefs to the south, then shifted to other areas. Her hunting remained unsuccessful.
By the 26th of February 1942, USS S-40 was again in need of repairs and was ordered to Exmouth Gulf on the Western Australia coast. There, she took on needed supplies and continued on to Fremantle. On 6 March, the submarine sighted a Japanese submarine, but was able neither to attack nor to transmit a message concerning its presence.
On 9 March, USS S-40 reached Fremantle. During the next month and a half, she underwent overhaul and shifted her base to Brisbane. On 4 May, the submarine departed the Queensland coast for her fourth war patrol. Ordered into the New Britain-Ireland area, she reconnoitered Deboyne en route and arrived on station on the 16th of May. On 3 June, she returned to Brisbane, again with information, but still scoreless.
At the end of June, USS S-40 was underway, again. Initially assigned to intercept enemy traffic into the Salamaua-Lae area of New Guinea, she was ordered to the Solomons on 2 July to relieve USS S-38 (SS-143), which had been forced to vacate her position off Tulagi. USS S-40 patrolled between Tulagi and Lunga Roads and off Savo Island; fired on a maru (Japanese merchant ship), but did not score; then shifted to the New Georgia-Santa Isabel area to intercept Rabaul shipping. Failing to directly impede Japanese traffic there, she returned to Australia on 29 July 1942.
On 28 August 1942, USS S-40 cleared Moreton Bay and moved north. By 4 September, the submarine was off the Gizo Island anchorage. Thence, she crossed the Solomon Sea to the D’Entrecasteaux group off Papua to impede the movement of enemy reinforcements into Milne Bay. Poor weather and mechanical problems inhibited her hunting; and, still scoreless, she returned to Brisbane on 25 September 1942.
Repairs to USS S-40’s deteriorating main motor cables and attempts to correct fuel leaks into the after battery occupied the next three weeks. On 19 October 1942, the submarine got underway for San Diego, California, to undergo an extensive overhaul. Patrolling in the Gilberts en route, she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 19 November; exchanged her 4-inch gun for a 3-inch gun from USS Whale (SS-239); and continued on to the west coast of the United States, arriving there on 7 December 1942.
Delays in the delivery of needed equipment slowed the yard work; but, on 4 June 1943, the submarine emerged with air conditioning and more up-to-date electronic equipment. on 7 June, USS S-40 moved north, toward the Aleutians, with 60 percent of her crew new to the Navy and to submarines. She trained en route to Dutch Harbor, from whence she departed on her 8th war patrol on the 24th of June 1943.
Further training exercises were carried out prior to reaching Attu, where she topped off and departed again on the 30th, heading for the Kurils. Despite dense fog and heavy seas, she reached the Kamchatka peninsula on 3 July 1943 and stood down the coast toward Paramushiro.
Japanese fishermen, with their innumerable nets and set lines, hindered her freedom of movement. Dense fog impeded her hunting. On the 12th of July, the submarine suffered a steering casualty which was temporarily repaired by the crew; and, on the 31st of July, the S-boat put back into Dutch Harbor.
USS S-40’s 9th war patrol, 12 August-10 September 1943, was again conducted in the fog and heavy swells of the northern Kuriles, but was cut short by repeated material failures which included the seemingly ever present problems of deterioration of the main power cables and fuel oil leaks into the after battery.
After voyage repairs, the S-boat was ordered to San Diego and training duty. Reporting to Commander Submarine Squadron 45 on arrival on 3 October 1943, she conducted training operations for the West Coast Sound School and for Fleet Air, West Coast, for the remainder of the Second World War…which formally ended on 2 September 1945 with the signing of the instruments of surrender by the Japanese on board battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), which was anchored in Tokyo Bay, Japan, for that occasion.
Then ordered inactivated, USS S-40 shifted to San Francisco, where she was stripped and decommissioned…on 29 October 1945.
The S-boat was struck from the Navy List on 13 November 1945.
The submarine was sold to the Salco Iron and Metal Company of San Francisco, California, in November of 1946, and was subsequently scrapped during July of 1947.
USS S-40 (SS-145) earned one battle star for her service during the Second World War.
Builder: Bethlehem Shipbuilding
Sponsor: Mrs. John Rosseter
First Captain: LCDR E.F. Morrissey
Stricken/Lost: Scrapped 1946