Sources of Information on the S-51

Main Sources of Information

I have found the following sources to be useful:

The New York Times. I found over 100 articles on the incident dating from September 26, 1925 to December 4, 1930. Complete coverage!

Ellsberg, Commander Edward. On the Bottom. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1929. Commander Ellsberg tells his story as one of the chief divers in the S-51 salvage operations. The accident is also described.

Other Sources

Ellsberg, Commander Edward. Men Under the Sea. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1939. Commander Ellsberg tells of more diving adventures in the salvaging of the S-51 and the S-4.

Ellsberg, Commander Edward. Report on Salvage Operations: Submarine S-51. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1927. Navy Department. Technical Bulletin No. 2-27.

S-51 - City of Rome. United States Navy. Bureau of Aeronautics, 1942, 1950. Videocassette. 6 minutes. Black & white. Series: Rules of the Nautical Road. U.S. Navy training film. Location: Marine Maritime Academy, Maine. Examines the sinking of the S-51 and the City of Rome. The accident was the result of both vessels not following the rules of the nautical road.

Badders, William. The Reminiscences of Chief Machinist's Mate William Badders, U.S. Navy (retired). Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute: 1986. Series: Oral History Program (Navy). Chief Badders gives his personal account of rescue and salvage efforts on the S-51 and other vessels.

Legal Sources of Information

The following legal resource list was contributed by Judge Hiller B. Zobel. Before becoming a Massachusetts judge, Judge Zobel taught Admiralty (among other subjects) at Boston College Law School. Prior to that, he practiced admiralty law in Boston.

The following cases are all available in a series of volumes titled American Maritime Cases, which are available in any law library or law school library. Each year’s volume bears the date; so if one refers to 1927 A.M.C. 1844, that means the opinion starts on page 1844 of the American Maritime Cases volume for 1927.


United States of America v. John H. Diehl, 1927 A.M.C. 1844. A prosecution in the United States District Court in Massachusetts against Captain Diehl for having caused loss of life at sea and for failing to render assistance. (He was acquitted.)

Lawrence B. Haselden, Executor v. United States of America, 1928 A.M.C. 221 (and two other cases). These concern unsuccessful attempts in the United States District Court in Brooklyn by three representatives of the deceased to recover damages from the U.S. government. Mr. Haselden was the father of Lieutenant (J.G.) Haselden, one of the two men who died in the gun escape trunk, as Ellsberg describes in On the Bottom.

Petition of Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah for Limitation of Liability and Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah v. United States of America, 1928 A.M.C. 520, both in the United States District Court in Manhattan. In the first case, the owners of the City of Rome were relying on a statute which permits a shipowner — if it can prove certain things — to limit its liability (here, to the representatives of the deceased) to the value of the ship and cargo after the collision. The other case involved the owners’ claim against the U.S. for damages resulting from the collision. In both cases, the owners prevailed.

Goldye M. Dobson, Administratrix v. United States of America, 1928 A.M.C. 1583. These were appeals in the three consolidated cases in which the plaintiffs asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse the Haselden decision. They lost.

Goldye M. Dobson, Administratrix v. United States of America, 1929 A.M.C. 447. This was a futile effort by the losing parties in the Dobson case to avoid paying the costs of the appeals.

In re Petition of Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah v. United States of America and Goldye M. Dobson, Administratrix, et al., 1930 A.M.C. 524. Appeals from the cases reported at 1928 A.M.C. 520. A brilliant opinion by the great judge, Learned Hand, affirming the decisions below.

Petition of Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah for Limitation of Liability, 1930 A.M.C. 1837. This is the report of Commissioner Veeder, a lawyer appointed by the District Judge to assess how much money each survivor’s family should receive. It lists by rate or rank all the deceased crew members, but not by name. It does, however, give each man’s age, his monthly pay, the amount of his monthly contribution to his family, the amount of the award, and the identity (but not the name) of his survivor or survivors (and their respective ages).

Petition of Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah for Limitation of Liability, 1930 A.M.C. 1992. The decision of the District Judge (in Manhattan) confirming Commissioner Veeder’s report.

The following articles may also be of interest.

Captain (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King, who was the officer in overall command of the salvage operation: “Salvaging U.S.S. S-51” in United States Naval Institute, Proceedings Volume 53, page 137 (1927).

Lieutenant Commander (later Rear Admiral) Edward Ellsberg, the salvage officer: “The Salvage of the ‘S-51’,” in Scientific American, Vol. 135, page 257 (1927).

In Admiral King’s memoirs, Fleet Admiral King, A Naval Record, written with Walter Muir Whitehill, New York, Norton, 1952. Chapter 16 is “Raising the Submarine S-51.”

Return/Go to:
Story of the Accident S-51 Men S-51 Resources
Submarine Links NEW! S-51 Photo Gallery S-51 Statistics

S-51 Home Page

Copyright 2001 by Tara Guthrie. Copying or downloading of any content on this page, including graphics, without permission from its creator is prohibited. To obtain permission for use, please email me at and explain your purposes. You may, however, make links to this page freely. Thank you.