On December 17, 1927 the USS S-4 (SS-109) Submarine was doing some test runs off the coast of Provincetown, MA. The US Coast Guard Destroyer Paulding was patrolling the coast looking for rum runners. They both did not know that were in the same area.
Frantic attempts were made to avoid the collision but it happened and the S-4 went to the bottom of the sea in 110 feet of water. By the time the navy could get divers down to the wreck they could only hear the six souls that were trapped in the torpedo room. They tried to figure out a way to get the men out by sending divers down. They tapped on the side of the sub in morse code to communicate. Four days later all forty men aboard the S-4 were dead.
One of the souls on board was Lowell native and Motor Machinist John J Fennell of 557 Chelmsford Street. He was born November 29, 1903 in Lowell and died on December 17, 1927. He was the son of William Fennell and Bridget Butler. Three months later they recovered the submarine and his body was sent to Lowell for a military funeral. He is buried in Saint Patrick's Cemetery.
The S-4 was salvaged by the US Navy and used in Navy rescue missions. By lessons learned in the S-4 diaster the Navy created a diving bell called the McCann rescue chamber. Numerous navy personel were saved from the same fate of the men on the S-4.