It was 230 years ago today, that a service very dear to my heart had a somewhat subdued beginning. On September 7, 1776, David Bushnell's homemade contraption known as the Turtle ventured into the Hudson River into New York harbor to make the first submerged vessel attack in the history of warfare. It's target, the British 64 gun flagship Eagle.
Developed and built by David Bushnell, a rather frail Connecticut farmer and mechanical tinkerer, and piloted by her one man crew, SGT Ezra Lee of the Continental Army, the Turtle attempted to attach a 100 pound explosive device (sometimes called a torpedo, although it had no self contained propulsion system similar to those we know today) to the hull of the Eagle. Her bottom being sheathed in copper, a rather new and unusual construction technique for that particular era, the mine could not be attached, and the attack was a failure.
But out of every failure, new things are learned, advances are made, and history progresses. The official birth of the United States Submarine Force is April 11, 1900. The first official US Navy submarine is USS Holland SS-1. It was only a few years ago that the Silent Service reached a centennial milestone (where yours truly had a small part in a very large party -- a story for another day).
There were many different attempts through the intervening years to build a better undersea craft, from Turtle to the newest submarine in the world today, USS TEXAS (SSN 775). Each was a labor of love, or more likely hated labor, for some poor souls. But their efforts and the efforts of the shipbuilders of America have resulted in the dramatic advance of technology, and the improvement of many lives through proof of those technologies. In fact the original space shuttle quality assurance programs had their birth based on the efforts of the United States Submarine Force to recover, refit, and renew safety as a primary concern of both the nuclear propulsion program and the submarine construction program following the loss of USS THRESHER (SSN-593) in April 1963. And the shuttle program's failures to protect our astronauts completely should cause us all to think again on the determination, awareness, vigilance, and the intense technological and engineering efforts required to keep the great grandsons of Ezra Lee safe from the Sea and the merciless forces seeking to kill them the first time they fail to treat Her with the respect and attention She demands.
And now you know a little more about the Silent Service. Pray for those still on eternal patrol.
To the Force: Press on, Gents. The American Revolution was not won without determination and dedication you all need and exhibit today. We are counting on you.
PS, Read a little more about submarines at Bubbleheads, the Sub Report, Ron Martini's, BoTheNook, Chapomatic, Subsim, and Molten Eagle. Hopefully I will have more on USS TEXAS after her commissioning this weekend. Photos to follow if the weather is better than the last submarine event I attended in Galveston. Subsunk out. Going Deep.