Little Known Facts About
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 underseas craft slugged it
out with the infantry and field artillery while other
submarines destroyed a zeppelin, a bus, and a railroad
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- A submarine often navigates by sound when submerged. Sound
can travel 3,000 nautical mile 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
circumnavigation of the world when she followed the route of
Ferdinand Magellan for 36,000 miles during 84 days beneath the
- 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 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.
The information contained in this fact sheet was given to
MT1(SS) Judd L. Spitzer by
ETC(SS) Strickland. I added it here to provide another reference