Little Known Facts About the Submarine
The information contained in this fact
sheet was given to BM1(SS)/MT1(SS) Judd L. Spitzer by ETC(SS) Strickland, as
he was looking through his
Chiefs Initation paperwork... They couldn't find any sort of Copyright,
or author information, but it was their belief, since this information is a matter of
Naval FACT, and it promotes Submarines and the Navy, it should be made readily
available... You never know what chief selectee may find this info handy!
- 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
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- During their wartime operations submarines have
engaged in some unusual maritime actions. One underseas 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 pesos carried by
the U.S. submarine TROUT while on a trip from Corregidor to Pearl Harbor early
in World War II.
- 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
boat ever built, on May 10, 1960, completed the first totally submerged
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
- 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
1314 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
- 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
- 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.
- The Confederate submarine "H.L. Hunley" was never
commissioned by the Confederate Navy. It was a civilian effort and was manned
by both sailors and soldiers of the Confederate forces commanded by General
Beauregard. Therefore it never received the C.S.S. designation. As Chaplain of
the Charleston S.C. Base of USSVI, I am happy to relay that we are closely
involved in the effort to raise the Hunley. We expect that this pioneer of the
Silent Service will be raised in June, and the crew which is still on-board
will be interred with full military honors within a year. --- Dave Ward MT2/SS,
U.S.S. Stonewall Jackson SSBN 634 (Blue), Chaplain, Charleston Base USSVI
Any other facts or great info... send it along to: BM1(SS)/MT1(SS) Judd L. Spitzer. I'd
be happy to add it!