S-51 Resources

Selected Bibliography for Further Research

Main Sources of Information

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.

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.

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

Websites & social media

Edward Ellsberg: The Official site of the Naval Salvage Expert RADM Edward Ellsberg. Complete information on Edward Ellsberg by his grandson, Ted Pollard.

Friends of the S-51 Submarine (Facebook Group). Connect with other relatives and researchers of the S-51.

NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive, S-51 (SS-162). More photos and information on the S-51.

On Eternal Patrol - USS S-51 (SS-162). Includes links to photos and information on each man lost on the S-51.

USS S-51 (SS-162). Article from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


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).

Zobel, Hiller B. "The Impossible Salvage," in Naval History Magazine, Vol. 28, no. 3 (June 2014).

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.

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.

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.”

Legal Sources

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.