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Seal file photo [4429]


CountryUnited States
Ship ClassSalmon-class Submarine
Hull NumberSS-183
BuilderElectric Boat Company
Laid Down25 May 1936
Launched25 Apr 1937
Commissioned30 Apr 1937
Decommissioned15 Nov 1945
Displacement1,450 tons standard; 2,198 tons submerged
Length308 feet
Beam26 feet
Draft14 feet
MachineryFour 1,375hp H.O.R. diesel engines, two 1,650hp Elliot Motor electric motors
Speed21 knots
Range11,800nm at 10 knots surfaced
Armament1x3in, 8x21in torpedo tubes
Submerged Speed9 knots
Activated by US Naval Reserve19 Jun 1947
Deactivated by US Naval Reserve1 May 1956


ww2dbaseWith Lieutenant Karl G. Hensel in command, Seal had an extended shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea. In late Nov 1937, she sailed from New England region of the United States and operated in the Panama and Caribbean Sea area from 3 Dec 1937 until Apr 1939. In Jun 1939, after time for overhaul in New London, Connecticut, United States, she set sail for Hawaii via the Panama Canal and San Diego, California, United States. She remained in Hawaii for two months to take soundings for the Hydrographic Office and participated in various local exercises before sailing for San Diego, her home port. While based in San Diego, she conducted exercises and provided services to surface ships and aircraft of the US military all long the west coast of the United States and in Hawaii. In the fall of 1941, Submarine Division 21, which Seal was a part of, was transferred to the Asiatic Fleet; the ships reached Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands on 10 Nov 1941.

ww2dbaseSeal's first war patrol commenced on 14 Dec 1941 when she was ordered to intercept Japanese shipping en route from the north to reinforce the invasion forces already on Luzon. On 23 Dec, she intercepted and sank Hayataka Maru by torpedoes. She shifted her patrol area to the waters east of the Celebes and then southward toward Java. Her first patrol ended at Soerabaja, Java, on 5 Feb 1942. Because of daily Japanese air raids, repair work on Seal's engine and high periscope was nearly impossible, thus on 11 Feb she set sail for Tjilatjap, Java, where submarine tender Holland awaited with a repair crew. On 19 Feb, Seal departed from Tjilatjap on her second war patrol in waters north of Java. On 24 Feb, she attacked two convoys, damaging on freighter. On 25 Feb and 1 Mar, she attacked warships on each of the days, but all torpedoes missed. After an uneventful latter portion of the patrol between Makassar City and De Bril Bank, she ended her second war patrol at Fremantle, Australia on 9 Apr. On 12 May, she departed on her third patrol. In the evening of 28 May, she sank the 1,946-ton Tatsufuku Maru in the South China Sea. On 7 Jun, off Camranh Bay, she attempted to attack a convoy, failed, and underwent a seven-hour depth charge attack by ships and aircraft. After discovering an air leak on 19 Jun, she headed back to Fremantle, ending her patrol on 4 Jul 1942. Her fourth patrol took place between 10 Aug and 2 Oct, patrolling the Indochina coast; mechanical troubles with the ship and torpedo malfunctions prevented her from causing significant damage despite 11 sightings. After damaging only one cargo ship on 3 Sep, she returned to Fremantle on 2 Oct.

ww2dbaseSeal left for her fifth war patrol on 24 Oct in the Palau Islands. On 16 Nov, she intercepted a convoy of five cargo ships in two columns with only one destroyer escort for protection. As she had just launched her torpedoes, she collided with or was rammed by a Japanese ship. Her periscope went black and vibrated severely, then the ship rose to 55 feet, hung there for nearly a minute, then started down. A depth charge attack began shortly. She surfaced four hours later and found her periscope and radar antenna broken off, and quantities of uncooked rice and beans unlike American-issue on her deck. Post-war documents revealed the sinking of 3,500-ton freighter Boston Maru on that date in that location, so it was possible that Seal either sank her with her torpedoes or she was the ship that collided with Seal and sank due to collision damage. She received the order to return to Pearl Harbor on the next day, and arrived on 30 Nov. After temporary repairs, she continued on to Mare Island Navy Yard, California for permanent repairs.

ww2dbaseOn 14 Apr 1943, 12 days after Seal returned to Hawaii after repairs, she embarked on her sixth war patrol. After topping off fuel at Midway on 18 Apr, she reached Palau Islands area by 1 May. On 2 May, her torpedoes meant for a freighter missed, and she was subjected to an aerial bombing attack. On 4 May, she attacked and sank tanker San Clemente Maru. She returned to Midway on 3 Jun. After refitting and training, she left on her seventh war patrol on 24 Jun. On 8 Jul, off northern Honshu, Japan, she underwent a 10-hour depth charge attack that caused air and oil leaks, forcing her to return to base, arriving on 24 Jul. Her eighth patrol began after repairs in mid-Aug. On 31 Aug, while in the southern Kuril Islands waters, her conning tower hatch failed, flooding the pump room and in turn damaging electrical circuits. Temporary repairs at sea gave her enough air pressure to launch torpedoes, which allowed her to make an unsuccessful attack on two freighters in the Sea of Okhotsk on 25 Sep. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 4 Oct 1943 to end her eighth war patrol.

ww2dbaseSeal's ninth war patrol took her to the Marshall Islands where she conducted lifeguard and reconnaissance missions at Kwajalein between 7 Nov and 19 Dec 1943. Her tenth war patrol was of similar duties at Ponape, Caroline Islands, between 17 Jan and 6 Mar 1944.

ww2dbaseAfter extensive time at Mare Island Navy Yard for re-engining and overhaul, Seal's eleventh patrol took her to northern Hokkaido, Japan and southern Kuril Islands, intercepting shipping routes to Muroran, Matsuwa, and Paramushiro, beginning on 8 Aug 1944. On 24 Aug, she attacked and sank Tosei Maru off Erimo Saki. On 5 Sep, she chased a freighter for six hours and then fired four torpedoes, but they all missed. On the night of 8 Sep, she came across a convoy of 6 ships in two columns with one escort on each side. She attacked the lead ship at 2045, turned eastward, and then returned to attack again at about midnight. The first attack sank one freighter and damaged another, and the second attack hit another but did not result in sinking. Just before 0300 on 9 Sep, she returned to attack the convoy again, with torpedoes hitting, but not sinking, three freighters. After the arrival of anti-submarine aircraft after daybreak, Seal dove deep until 1700. She remained in the area to investigate the damage done to Japanese shipping, and concluded that she had sunk one, Shonan Maru, and damaged three or four. She returned to Midway on 17 Sep to end the patrol.

ww2dbaseOn 10 Oct 1944, Seal departed on her twelfth and what would be her final war patrol, again in the Kuril Islands. On 25 Oct, she sank freighter Hakuyo Maru off Paramushiro. On 16 Nov, she damaged a freighter off Etorofu. After patrolling off Sakhalin without any sightings, she departed for Pearl Harbor on 17 Oct, arriving on 29 Nov.

ww2dbaseUpon completion of refitting, Seal assumed training duties in the Hawaii area. In Jun 1945, she was transferred to New London, Connecticut, again in a training role. In early Nov 1945, she sailed to Boston, Massachusetts, United States for inactivation and decommission. Between 19 Jun 1947 and 1 May 1956, she served in Boston, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire as a training ship for the Naval Reserve. She was scrapped at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 7 May 1956.

ww2dbaseSource: United States Navy Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

Last Major Revision: Jul 2007

Submarine Seal (SS-183) Interactive Map


Seal during her trials, off Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States, 5 Mar 1938, photo 1 of 2Seal during her trials, off Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States, 5 Mar 1938, photo 2 of 2
See all 6 photographs of Submarine Seal (SS-183)

Seal Operational Timeline

30 Apr 1937 Seal was commissioned into service.
21 Dec 1941 USS Seal sank Japanese cargo ship Hayataka Maru off Vigan, Luzon island, Philippine Islands.
5 Sep 1942 USS Seal damaged Japanese passenger-cargo ship Kanju Maru 20 miles off the coast of French Indochina in the South China Sea.
15 Nov 1945 Seal was decommissioned from service.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Brett Anderson says:
17 Aug 2016 09:06:31 AM

My dad James "buddy" Anderson was assigned to this sub.

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Submarine Seal (SS-183) Photo Gallery
Seal during her trials, off Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States, 5 Mar 1938, photo 1 of 2Seal during her trials, off Provincetown, Massachusetts, United States, 5 Mar 1938, photo 2 of 2
See all 6 photographs of Submarine Seal (SS-183)

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