The submarine is one of the technological marvels of human ingenuity. A ship that swims like a fish underwater for extended periods that is the apex predator of the ocean seas as well. Who would’ve imagined that we could one day operate underwater and even defend and attack enemy ships while there? Due to the never-ending development and research, using sails as a means of propulsion was definitely a thing of the past, even by 1918’s standards. At that time, however, the crew of USS R-14 had to resort to using sails made of bedsheets and blankets to make it back home.

USS R-14

R-14 was an R-class submarine used by the US Navy beginning 1918 until almost the end of World War II. The construction of the R-class started when the United States entered World War I a year prior. All in all, 27 of these ships were made, although none of them saw combat as most were completed after World War I.

By today’s standards, a submarine from 1918 is rather basic, but even for a submarine of the time, using sails as a means of propulsion was firmly in the past except for pleasure vessels and some training ships. At the time, the submarine represented the most advanced type of vessel in existence, using a hybrid diesel electric propulsion system while most other ships ran on steam boilers.

The R-class was a replacement for the previous O-class submarines. This was also the first US type with 533 mm torpedo tubes, a size that still applies by today’s standards. A 76 mm gun was used for anti-aircraft defense and a general-purpose weapon on the deck.