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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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USS S-4 Salvage operation History Column 196 Dave Petersen I am constantly reminded of the far reaching involvement residents of our little neck of the woods have in the world around us. In today's column we are going to take a look at the sinking, failed rescue operation, and the salvage of an S class submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. How does that involve local history you might ask? Henry Biederman was born and raised in Manistee and on December 17th 1927 when he was serving in the Navy aboard the Submarine Tender USS Bushnell when it was called out on a rescue mission to aid the USS S-4 (submarine) which had been accidentally rammed by the Coast Guard Destroyer Paulding. The Bushnell was launched in 1915 was 350 feet in length and manned by a crew of about 150 officers and servicemen. She served as a tender for submarines off the Queensland Ireland coast until the end of WWI. The USS-S4 was built in the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery Maine, at a cost of 1.3 million dollars, and 231 feet in length. She was launched in 1919 and served in the Gulf of Mexico, Philippines, and the Atlantic off from New England. On the fateful day the sub was conducting submerged trials and was rammed by the Paulding as she was surfacing. A lookout aboard the Paulding spotted the submarines periscope, but the call came too late to pass over the submarine and the Paulding traveling at nearly 18 knots struck the submarine. The collision caused a huge dent and a 2 and 1/2 foot hole in the forward starboard side of the sub and a 4 foot gash in the ballast tank. The impact was so severe that a portion of the Paulding's bow was torn off and lodged in the submarine. The submarine immediately sank 100 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic. The Paulding was a 742 ton Destroyer built in Bath Maine in 1910, she served during WWI providing anti submarine patrol near the British Islands, after the war she was decommissioned until the need for anti rum runner border patrol to stop the flow of alcohol into the country during prohibition, Water immediately flooded into the subs control room, causing the men to flee into other parts of the sub that could be closed off and where they could try to save themselves from the seas. The inrushing water flooded the control room, the lights went out, the ship became dark, and quiet. The men of the USS S-4 could do nothing now but wait for rescue. The USS Bushnell with its full complement and 3 deep sea divers arrived the following morning to join in the salvage operations. When they arrived there were 6 men still alive in the submarine, tappings could be heard from the torpedo room, "Is there hope? Please hurry, please. Heavy seas prevented the crew of the Bushnell from effecting a rescue, oxygen lines were torn loose by the heavy seas which raged, the last message sent by the trapped men was "we understand," all 38 men aboard perished. The sinking of the sub brought about many changes in procedures to improve safety and the devices invented to improve rescue and salvage of sunken submarines saved other lives notably the 33 men aboard the submarine Squalus in March of 1939. December 2007 was the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the USS S-4 submarine, a memorial service was held at the Church of Saint Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown Massachusetts as it has been every year since to honor the men of the ill fated submarine. Thanks to Donna Shafer for sharing her fathers Navy photograph album for this weeks column. If you have local stories and wish to share those with our reader please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431 The last surviving crew member of the USS-S4 USN Joe Dawson was a signalman aboard the submarine, he was transferred just prior to the collision and replaced by his best friend. In honor of his crewmembers he wrote he following poem. As I sit in my studio a dreaming, the Christmas wreath hangs on the door; My memory goes back to my buddies, who died on the U.S.S. S-4. Oh! I remember the terrible weather, the winds and the waves riding high. One moment you were on the ocean, and then you were high in the sky. Then from the sub came the dots and dashes, "Is there any hope?...Hurry, please." Six of the thirty-eight were living, the loved ones and the nation went down on its knees. Everyone prayed for deliverance, the divers worked without sleep. But the Master above thought different, he wanted those boys in his keep. But they shall never be forgotten, as long as the Sub Vets are there. A wreath will be placed on the water, a Chaplain will offer a prayer. Pic 1 portrait of Henry Biederman circa 1927 Pic 2 The USS Bushnell can be seen in back of the whaleboat which is towing a pontoon into position over the submarine. Pic 3 Chains used to secure the submarine to the pontoons Pic4 preparing the pontoon Pic5 Navy deep sea diver, note the head gear for the diving suit. Pic 6 The USS S-4 in drydock, note the gash where the white arrow is pointing.

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