Some Submarine History
- John Philip Holland built several submarines before the USS Holland, which became the first undersea craft commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The Holland was accepted on April 11, 1900 for a price of $150,000. Today's nuclear powered submarines cost in excess of $30,000,000 exclusive of the power plant.
- The first boat known to have been navigated under water was built in 1620 by a Dutchman, Cornelius Van Drebbel. Van Drebbel is said to have developed a chemical which would purify the air and allow the crew to stay submerged for extended periods.
- Alexander the Great (356 to 323 B.C.) ruler of Macedonian and conqueror of the known world in his time, is the first person known to have descended into the sea in a vessel of any kind.
- Over three hundred years ago, Mother Shipton, famous English prophetess, predicted the coming of the submarine when writing, "under water men shall walk, shall ride, shall sleep, shall talk."
- Records of attempts to utilize submarine warfare go back to the earliest writings in history. Herodotus (460 B.C.), Aristotle (332 B.C.) and Pliny, the elder, (77 A.D.) mention determined attempts to build submersibles.
- Interests in submarines extends to royalty and presidents. The King of England and the King and Queen of Spain are among those who have made submerged cruises in submarines. As a result of a trip in an early United States submarine, President "Teddy" Roosevelt ordered extra compensation for personnel serving in the "Silent Service." President Harry Truman made a 440 foot dive in a captured German submarine. The first President to cruise aboard a nuclear submarine was President Eisenhower who rode the USS SEAWOLF out of Newport, Rhode Island on September 26, 1957.
- Dollar for dollar and man for man, the submarine is the country's most economical weapon. Comprising only 1.6 percent of the Navy's World War II personnel, the submarine service accounted for 55 percent of all enemy shipping destroyed.
- Leonardo da Vinci, the Florentine Renaissance inventor and artist, developed plans for an underwater warship but kept them secret. He was afraid that it would make war even more frightful than it already was.
- Many instances of submarines being 'caught' by fishing vessels are on record. The NAUTILUS, world's first nuclear powered vessel, was caught in a fish net and towed the fishing vessel several miles before the situation was cleared up. There is one instance of a submarine being captured by an abandoned balloon, and on another occasion a submarine rescued a blimp and towed it to safety.
- A church in Kyoto, Japan calls its congregation to worship with a bell from a submarine. The bell, from the submarine USS RAY was purchased for the church, and was transported to Yokosuka, Japan by another submarine, the USS RONQUIL.
- For entertainment on U.S. submarines movies, television, ice cream machines and stereo music players are available. The USS SEAWOLF also had an electronic organ. There have been instances of boxing matches held onboard, and the crew of one submarine had a kite flying contest from an anchored submarine.
- Modern submarines can travel faster submerged than they can on the surface. They can fully submerge in less than a minute.
- Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat, was an avid submarine enthusiast. He built several submersible warships, one of which was known as the Nautilus.
- The rig for dive in a modern submarine requires the crew conduct more than 225 individual and operational checks.
- The submarine was not generally recognized as a legitimate instrument of warfare until the Civil War.
- Only the cream of Navy manpower is considered acceptable for submarine service. Volunteer applicants are given exhaustive physical and psychological screening before being accepted for training. Those who make the grade are trained in the Submarine School at New London and aboard operating submarines. After graduation from the Submarine School and actual service in submarines, those who pass all tests may wear the Dolphins, insignia of the submarine service.
- Both nuclear and modern diesel powered submarine are now equipped with a breathing device known as a snorkel, which permits the vessel to draw fresh air from the surface while running submerged.
- On of the first women to submerge in a submarine is believed to have been Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.
- Submarines have been invented which have been propelled by cars, sails, treadles, hand operated screws, clockwork, springs, steam stored in tubes, chemical engines, compressed air, stored gases, electric motors, and nuclear power.
- In clear water, a submerged submarine can be spotted from the air at depths up to 100 feet.
- The self-propelled torpedo, which gets its name from the eel TORPEDO ELECTRICUS, was invented by Robert Whitehead in 1868, a number of years before a practical submarine was developed.
- Insignia of the Navy's submarine service is a submarine flanked by two dolphins. Dolphins, or porpoises, the traditional attendants to Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea and patron deity of sailors, are symbolic of a calm sea, and are sometimes called the 'sailors' friend. In addition to the Dolphins, those World War II submariners who participated in successful combat patrols may wear the coveted Submarine Combat Insignia.
- The first submarine which actually sank another enemy vessel under combat conditions was the CSS HUNLEY built during the Civil War. The Union frigate HOUSATONIC on blockade station off Charleston, S. C. was the victim. The incident occurred on February 17, 1864.
- Traditionally, United States submarines have been named after fish and other marine creatures. One exception was the Navy's first submarine HOLLAND which was named after its inventor, John Philip Holland. Today, ballistic missile submarines are named for famous American patriots, with the newest class, the OHIO class, named after states. The LOS ANGELES class of attack submarines are named for United States cities.
- Records for enemy shipping sunk by U.S. submarines during World War II are held by two boats built by Electric Boat. The USS FLASHER sank 100,231 tons of Japanese shipping, while the USS TAUTOG holds the record for the most ships - 26.
- Per cubic inch, there is more science packed into a submarine than into any other warship. Submariners say 'There is room for everything aboard a submarine except a mistake.'
- In 1921, a United States submarine, the R-14, having run out of fuel at sea, rigged sails from blankets, hammocks, curtain rods and the ramrod of a 3-inch gun, and sailed 100 miles to port at a speed of two knots.
- More decorations for valor have been awarded, per man, to the submarine service than any other Navy Branch.
- Habitability is heavily stressed in the construction of modern submarines. Specially designed color schemes, mechanical conveniences, air conditioning, and the best chow in the Navy are supplied to make the vessels more livable. A full time staff is maintained by Electric Boat Division to work out 'human engineering' problems.
- A typical modern submarine may require as many as 2,000 working drawings for the more than 7,000,000 items used in its construction. Blueprints from these drawings if placed end to end would make a strip 250 miles long.
- The first periscope used by the United States Navy was not built for a submarine. The ironclad monitor OSAGE utilized a periscope to discover a Confederate cavalry unit taking cover behind the high banks of the Red River in Arkansas.
- In World War II the Germans lost 782 submarines, the Japanese lost 130, and the United States lost only 52 submarines. Twenty-three of the Japanese subs lost were victims of the American Submarine Service.
- Submarine tenders, or 'mother ships' of the U.S. Navy usually bear the names of characters of mythology, the names of submarine inventors, or the names of persons who have made contributions to the Submarine Service.
- A submarine, the TURTLE, was employed by the American revolutionary army to attack the British. It was built by David Bushnell at Saybrook, Connecticut, just a few miles from the present site of Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, and the U.S. naval Submarine Base.
- George Washington Endorsed the use of the first American submarine, David Bushnell's TURTLE, during the Revolution. Following the vessel's attack on a British man-of-war, he discussed the potential use of submarines in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.
- USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, the world's first ballistic missile nuclear powered submarine, constructed in record time, set a record of its own by remaining submerged 67 days on its initial Polaris missile deterrent patrol in the Atlantic.
- Nautilus has long been a popular name for a submarine. Some of the more famous of these are Robert Fulton's NAUTILUS (1800), Jules Verne's fictional Nautilus, and the NAUTILUS of Sir Hubert Wilkins in which he attempted a voyage to the North Pole under the ice (1931). There have also been three U.S. submarines of that name, including the world's first nuclear powered submarine built by the Electric Boat Division.
- Long considered a versatile and deadly instrument of war, the submarine has broadened her capabilities with the adoption of nuclear power. Today the submarine serves as a ballistic missile platform, early warning station, killer of surface and underwater vessels, scout, coastal raider troop transport, supply ship, mine layer, and seaplane tender.
- The United States submarine USS TRITON was fitted with twin reactors and was considered the longest submarine ever built until the advent of the OHIO class. The TRITON was designed for a surface displacement of 5,900 tons. Large submarines of other countries have been the Japanese I-400 (5,220 tons), and the French SURCOUF (2,880 tons).
- The USS NAUTILUS was the first submarine with a satisfactory single plant that can be used for main propulsion both surfaced and submerged.
- During their wartime operations submarines have engaged in some unusual maritime actions. One undersea craft slugged it out with the infantry and field artillery while other submarines destroyed a zeppelin, a bus, and a railroad train.
- In their history, submarines were called by many names such as 'eel boats', 'plunging boats', 'devil divers', and 'pig boats'. Technically, and by size, the submarine is a ship, but it has been called a boat since its earliest days, and the term is steeped in tradition. Submariners almost invariably call their ships 'boats".
- Among the 'first' that Electric Boat Division has introduced into American submarines, have been the marine Diesel engine, the perfected use of the storage battery, the combination of battery and internal combustion engine, and the world's first adaptation of nuclear energy to propulsion in the USS NAUTILUS.
- The USS SEAWOLF join the Electric Boat built USS NAUTILUS and SKATE in writing new chapters in the achievements of man when the nuclear powered submarine came to the surface at 11:45 a.m. on October 6, 1958 after being continuously submerged for 60 days.
- Probably the most expensive ballast ever carried by a ship was two tons of gold and eighteen tons of silver coins carried by the U.S. submarine TROUT while on a trip from Corregidor to Pearl Harbor early in World War II. TROUT had removed her moveable ballast to allow for a larger cargo of ammunition to be transported for the defenders on the embattled island. Lcdr. Fenno, TROUT's CO, planned on replacing the ballast with sand bags, but found none were available. The gold and silver from the Bank of the Philippines was substituted as ballast, which also solved the problem of removing the treasure to a safe place prior to invasion by the enemy.
- The USS NAUTILUS steamed 60,000 miles on a lump of Uranium the size of a golf ball. A diesel powered submarine would have required 3,000,000 gallons or 300 railway tank cars of oil.
- Two wives of Presidents of the United States have sponsored submarines. Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower christened the USS NAUTILUS, and Mrs. John F. Kennedy christened the USS LAFAYETTE.
- A submarine often navigates by sound when submerged. Sound can travel 3,000 nautical miles or more through water.
- On August 17, 1958, the USS SKATE circumnavigated the globe in about fifty minutes. The SKATE was at a radius of about two miles from the North Pole at the time, and the distance traveled in the circumnavigation was about twelve miles.
- USS TRITON, the only American made twin reactor ship ever built, on May 10, 1960, completed the first totally submerged non-trivial circumnavigation of the world when she followed the route of Ferdinand Magellan for 36,000 miles during 84 days beneath the surface.
- When the nuclear powered submarine USS SEADRAGON surfaced at the North Pole while charting the Northwest passage in August 1960, the crew organized a baseball game. Because of Polar time differences, when a batter clouted a home run it would land in either the next day or in 'yesterday'.
- The USS SKIPJACK was the first submarine designed from the keel up for top underwater performance using nuclear power. An earlier SKIPJACK was the first submarine to cross the Atlantic ocean under her own power (Newport, Rhode Island to Ponta Delgada, Azores, in 1917).
- Coronation ceremonies of Emperor Alexander II of Russia in 1855 were enlivened by a submarine concert. Wilhelm Bauer, a Bavarian inventor, took three musicians under the waters of Kronstadt Harbor in a submarine he had built, where they played appropriate music during the coronation. The music was distinctly heard on the surface.
- United States Submarines destroyed a total of 1,314 Japanese ships during World War II, including one battleship, eight aircraft carriers, fifteen cruisers, forty-two destroyers, and twenty-three submarines. Against this score, fifty-two U.S. Submarines were lost.
- The USS SKATE (SSN 578) was the first vessel ever to surface at the North Pole, when on March 17, 1959 she surfaced there to conduct memorial services for the renowned Arctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins.
- USS SKATE and USS SEADRAGON, after affecting a historic rendezvous under the ice, surfaced together at the North Pole through an opening in the ice on August 1962.
- The first diesel engines built by Electric Boat for submarines were installed (1913) in the USS NAUTILUS and SEAWOLF, namesakes of the first nuclear powered submarines, also built by Electric Boat.
- The USS NAUTILUS made history by cruising submerged from the pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, passing under the North Pole at 11:15 p.m. EDST on August 3, 1958.
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Last revised 09 Apr 2009
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