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World’s first submarine attack

World’s first submarine attack

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On September 7, 1776, during the Revolutionary War, the American submersible craft Turtle attempts to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship Eagle in New York Harbor. It was the first use of a submarine in warfare.

Submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century, but it was not until 150 years later that they were first used in naval combat. David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.

Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.

During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

Despite the failures of the Turtle, General George Washington gave Bushnell a commission as an Army engineer, and the drifting mines he constructed destroyed the British frigate Cereberus and wreaked havoc against other British ships. After the war, he became commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point.

READ MORE: 9 Groundbreaking Early Submarines

The Story Behind The First Submarine To Sink A Warship

When testing new military technology, there are always risks for the operators. Test pilots suffered appalling death rates in the early days of jet planes, and the MV-22 Osprey suffered a series of fatal mishaps during its development, including 19 dead Marines in a single accident in 2000.

But the series of misfortunes that befell the Confederacy during its attempts to build a practical submarine show just how far safety standards can go out the window during wartime.

On a bone-chilling cold night in 1864 just outside Charleston Harbor during the Civil War, one of the largest ships in the Union Navy was conducting the interminable patrolling involved in maintaining a blockade. The USS Housatonic, a 1,260-ton, 11-gun sloop, had been tasked with blocking Charleston’s harbor and occasionally bombarding shore targets for over a year.

What was usually the most monotonous of duties quickly took a historic turn when the watch officer spotted a strange low-floating object approaching the Housatonic from the shore. After initial confusion in the dark over what the object was, the look-out sounded the alarm and the sloop sprang into belated action.

The world’s first successful attack against a warship by a combat submarine, the CSS H.L. Hunley, was underway.

A South desperate to break the blockade

From the outbreak of the Civil War, all Southern ports were blockaded under Gen. Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan, which sought to both choke off Southern trade and eventually split the South in two through control of the Mississippi River.

The squeeze of the blockade on the Southern economy was acute, and led to the development of Confederate weapons designed to break through the Union fleet. The famous clash between the Confederate ironclad Merrimack with the Union Monitor at the Battle of Hampton Roads was part of the Confederate effort to break the Union stranglehold over Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay.

The clash was the first time fully armored warships faced each other in battle, and though the results were indecisive, they marked a major change in naval strategy across the Western world. But other innovations in naval technology were in the offing such as the submarine, an idea that dated back at least as far as Leonardo Da Vinci.

If at first you don’t succeed try, try again

The idea of using submersible craft to take out surface ships was not a new one. During the American Revolution, Yale undergraduate David Bushnell used a tiny barrel-like, one-man contraption with a small rudder and a handle-powered screw in several attempts to attack British ships with time bombs, but every attempt failed. Either the current foiled the assault, or the primitive bombs failed to detonate.

It wasn’t until the Civil War that relatively effective, human-powered designs came about. The USS Alligator, designed by the Frenchman Brutus de Villeroi, was purchased by the Union. Originally tasked to destroy the Merrimack, which became unnecessary with the ironclad’s destruction, it eventually sank in bad weather while being towed for an attack on Charleston.

The first submarine to ever successfully carry out an attack was left to the Confederate Hunley.

Horace L. Hunley, the namesake of the submarine, had a varied career as a lawyer, planter, Louisiana state legislator and New Orleans businessman up to the start of the war. In 1861, he joined forces with engineers James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson to build the Confederacy’s first three submarines: the Pioneer, American Diver, and the Hunley.

The first two designs were lost before being deployed, with the Pioneer being scuttled to avoid Union capture and the American Diver sinking in bad weather. The Hunley was the team&aposs third and final attempt.

Fabricated from a steam boiler, the Hunley was 40 feet long and powered by seven men turning a hand crank, with an officer as pilot. The boat was incredibly cramped, with a hull height of little more than four feet and hatches so narrow they made escape difficult. Ballast pumps were all hand operated, and the dive controls were primitive at best.

After a promising test using a towed torpedo to spectacularly destroy a target barge, the Hunley was swiftly shipped to Charleston, which was under tight blockade and regular bombardment. The submarine was seized by the Confederate garrison from its private owners and crewed by the military, though Hunley and his partners stayed on as advisors. The haste to deploy the submarine led to several tragedies.

During a trial run, the Hunley sank when the skipper accidentally hit the dive controls with the hatches still open, and five men lost their lives. Not to be deterred, the boat was raised and testing began again.

When the usual skipper, Lt. George Dixon, was absent on leave after completing several successful dives, Hunley himself took the sub for a practice run. The submarine submerged and did not resurface, possibly due to yet another open hatch.

Confederate Gen. P.G.T Beauregard wrote in the aftermath: “When the boat was discovered, raised and opened, the spectacle was indescribable and ghastly the unfortunate men were contorted into all kinds of horrible attitudes.” Hunley had been killed by his own creation.

Beauregard, horrified by the accident, was at first reluctant to continue the submarine program, but Dixon convinced him otherwise. “After this tragedy I refused to permit the boat to be used again but Lieutenant Dixon, a brave and determined man, having returned to Charleston, applied to me for authority to use it against the Federal steam sloop-of-war Housatonic.”

Death from below the surface

The armament was replaced with a spar torpedo mounting a 125-pound warhead. It was designed to attach itself to the side of a ship, then be detonated by a rope pulled as the submarine backed away. On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley launched its first and only attack against the Housatonic two and a half miles off shore of Charleston Harbor.

After the Hunley was spotted a 100 yards away by the watch officer, a frantic alarm was raised. The ship’s crew discovered they couldn’t target an object so low in the water and close to their ship with their cannon, and they slipped the anchor chain and backed the engine in an attempt to dodge the attack.

The Hunley managed to plant the torpedo against the Housatonic and began to back away for the detonation. Desperately, the deck crew started raking the retreating submarine with rifle and pistol fire, but it was too little and too late. A massive explosion rocked the Housatonic, and within five minutes the ship was completely submerged. Five of her crew died in the attack 150 others were rescued.

What happened to the Hunley is uncertain. While many believed at the time she was sunk by her own torpedo’s explosion, it is theorized that the submarine survived the initial attack and sank for unknown reasons. An agreed upon blue light from the submarine as a signal of returning to base was seen from the shore, but the Hunley never returned.

Finding the Hunley

Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley, suspended from a crane during her recovery from Charleston Harbor, 8 August 2000.

Many attempts to find the Hunley after its sinking were made. Renowned showman P.T. Barnum even offered a reward of $100,000 dollars to anyone who could find it. Its location was not decisively confirmed until 1995, after writer Clive Cussler, author of many nautical-themed thrillers, spent 15 years searching for it with his organization the National Underwater Marine Agency. The submarine had been covered in silt, and it took a magnetometer to finally locate it.

After an elaborate recovery operation, the vessel was finally raised in 2000. It was donated to the state of South Carolina, and currently resides at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the former Charleston Navy Yard, where it is still under study.

The Hunley was a pioneering vessel, marking the first time a submarine successfully attacked and sank an enemy ship. The price paid in lives in its development was severe, with Horace Hunley himself falling victim to balky and primitive technology.

But the sheer courage shown by men willing to submerge themselves again and again in little more than a floating iron coffin cannot be denied, and the determination shown in the face of tragedy in order to break a strangling blockade is one of the most innovative and intriguing episodes to emerge from the Civil War.

Building The Turtle

Via: Dive Master King, Wikimedia Commons -

Towards the beginning of the American Revolution, an inventor by the name of David Bushnell recognized that the various American militias were having extreme difficulties fending off British ships. The reason for these issues was that the British Navy was at its peak when the conflict broke out thus, making it quite difficult to win any naval battles.

As a result of this, Bushnell decided that the best way to remove Great Britain's ships would be to do so via stealthy operations. In order to accomplish this momentous task, Bushnell put together his expertise of underwater explosions and his limited knowledge of submarines.

The end result was an acorn-shaped submersible that (in practice) would be able to attach explosives to the hulls of England's finest vessels. To construct the experimental craft, Bushnell utilized two wooden shells that were painted with tar and braced them with steel brackets. To operate the underwater warship, propellers and a hand pump were fitted that allowed the sub to raise and lower while underwater.


The American inventor David Bushnell made the idea of a submersible vessel for use in lifting the British naval blockade during the American War of Independence. Bushnell may have begun studying underwater explosions while at Yale College. By early 1775, he had created a reliable method for detonating underwater explosives, a clockwork connected to a musket firing mechanism, probably a flintlock, adapted for the purpose. [1]

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Bushnell began work near Old Saybrook on a small, individually-manned submersible designed to attach an explosive charge to the hull of an enemy ship, which, he wrote Benjamin Franklin, would be, "Constructed with Great Simplicity and upon Principles of Natural Philosophy." [2]

Little is known about the origin, inspiration, and influences for Bushnell's invention. It seems clear Bushnell knew of the work of the Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel. [3]

According to Dr. Benjamin Gale, a doctor who taught at Yale, the many brass and mechanical (moving) parts of the submarine were built by the New Haven clock-maker, engraver, silversmith, brass manufacturer and inventor Isaac Doolittle, [4] whose shop was just a half block from Yale. [5] Though Bushnell is given the overall design credit for the Turtle by Gale and others, Doolittle was well known as an "ingenious mechanic" (i.e. an engineer), engraver, and metalworker. [4] He had both designed and manufactured complicated brass-wheel hall-clocks, a mahogany printing-press in 1769 (the first made in America, after Doolittle successfully duplicated the iron screw), [6] [7] brass compasses, and surveying instruments. He also founded and owned a brass foundry where he cast bells. At the start of the American Revolution,the wealthy and patriotic Doolittle built a gunpowder mill with two partners in New Haven to support the war, and was sent by the Connecticut government to prospect for lead. [8]

Though the design of the Turtle was necessarily shrouded in secrecy, [10] based on his mechanical engineering expertise and previous experience in design and manufacturing, it seems Doolittle designed and crafted (and probably funded) the brass and the moving parts of the Turtle, [11] including the propulsion system, [12] the navigation instruments, [13] the brass foot-operated water-ballast and forcing pumps, [14] the depth gauge and compass, [15] the brass crown hatch, [16] the clockwork detonator for the mine, [17] and the hand-operated propeller crank and foot-driven treadle with flywheel. [18] According to a letter from Dr. Benjamin Gale to Benjamin Franklin, Doolittle also designed the mine attachment mechanism, "those Parts which Conveys the Powder, and secures the same to the Bottom of the Ship". [19] The most historically important innovation in the Turtle was the propeller, as it was the first known use of one in a watercraft: it was described as an "oar for rowing forward or backward", with "no precedent" design [20] and in a letter by Dr. Benjamin Gale to Silas Dean as "a pair of oars fixed like the two opposite arms of a windmill" [21] and as "two oars or paddles" that were "like the arms of a windmill. twelve inches long, and about four wide." [22] As it was probably brass, it was thus likely designed and forged by Doolittle. [23] Doolittle also likely provided the scarce commodities of gunpowder and lead ballast as well. [24] The wealthy Doolittle, nearly 20 years older than the Yale student Bushnell, was a founder and long time Warden of Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green, [25] and was in charge of New Haven's port inspection and beacon-alarm systems [26] [27] – suggesting that Doolittle provided much of the political and financial leadership in building the Turtle as well as its brass and moving parts.

In making the hull, Bushnell enlisted the services of several skilled artisans, including his brother the farmer Ezra Bushnell and ship's carpenter Phineas Pratt, both, like David Bushnell, from Saybrook. [28] The hull was "constructed of oak, somewhat like a barrel and bound by heavy wrought-iron hoops." [29] The shape of the hull, Gale informed Silas Deane, "has the nearest resemblance to the two upper shells of a Tortoise joined together." [30]

Named for its shape, Turtle resembled a large clam as much as a turtle it was about 10 feet (3.0 m) long (according to the original specifications), 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, and about 3 feet (0.9 m) wide, and consisted of two wooden shells covered with tar and reinforced with steel bands. [31] It dived by allowing water into a bilge tank at the bottom of the vessel and ascended by pushing water out through a hand pump. It was propelled vertically and horizontally by hand-cranked propellers. It also had 200 pounds (91 kg) of lead aboard, which could be released in a moment to increase buoyancy. Manned and operated by one person, the vessel contained enough air for about thirty minutes and had a speed in calm water of about 3 mph (2.6 kn 4.8 km/h). [31]

Six small pieces of thick glass in the top of the submarine provided natural light. [31] The internal instruments had small pieces of bioluminescent foxfire affixed to the needles to indicate their position in the dark. During trials in November 1775, Bushnell discovered that this illumination failed when the temperature dropped too low. Although repeated requests were made to Benjamin Franklin for possible alternatives, none was forthcoming, and Turtle was sidelined for the winter. [32]

Bushnell's basic design included some elements present in earlier experimental submersibles. The method of raising and lowering the vessel was similar to that developed by Nathaniel Simons in 1729, and the gaskets used to make watertight connections around the connections between the internal and external controls also may have come from Simons, who constructed a submersible based on a 17th-century Italian design by Giovanni Alfonso Borelli. [33]

One of the central concerns for Bushnell as he planned and constructed the Turtle was funding.

Due to colonial efforts to keep the existence of this potential war asset secret from the British, the colonial records concerning the Turtle are often short and cryptic. Most of the records that do exist concern Bushnell's request for funds. [34] Bushnell met with Jonathan Trumbull, the governor of Connecticut, during 1771 seeking financial support. Trumbull also sent requests to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, who was an inventor himself, was intrigued by the possibilities while Washington remained skeptical of devoting funds from the Continental Army, whose funding was already being stretched. Ultimately, Washington was able to provide some funds possibly due to Trumbull's influence.

Several setbacks plagued the design process. The mine in particular was delayed several times from its expected completion from 1771 to 1776. Piloting the Turtle, moreover, required great physical stamina and coordination. The operator would have to adjust the bilge in order to keep from sinking while providing his own propulsion by use of a crank, which worked a propeller located on the front of the submarine, and direction by use of a lever that would operate and direct a rudder in the back. The cabin also reportedly held air for only thirty minutes of use. Thereafter, the operator would have to surface and replenish the air through a ventilator. Obviously, training would be needed in order to ensure the project's success due to the complex nature of the machine. "The boat was moved from Ezra's farm on the Westbrook Road to what is now Ayer's Point in Old Saybrook on the Connecticut River," writes historian Lincoln Diamant. [35] Bushnell had a Yale connection here that allowed him to run trials in secrecy. Bushnell did the initial testing of his submarine here, choosing his brother, Ezra, as the pilot. Despite Bushnell's insistence on secrecy surrounding his work, news of it quickly made its way to the British, abetted by a Loyalist spy working for New York Congressman James Duane.

In August 1776, Bushnell asked General Samuel Holden Parsons for volunteers to operate Turtle, because his brother Ezra, who had been its operator during earlier trials at Ayer's Point on the Connecticut river, was taken ill. [36] Three men were chosen, and the submersible was taken to Long Island Sound for training and further trials. [37] While these trials went on, the British gained control of western Long Island in the August 27 Battle of Long Island. Since the British now controlled the harbor, Turtle was transported overland from New Rochelle to the Hudson River. After two weeks of training, Turtle was towed to New York, and its new operator, Sgt. Ezra Lee, prepared to attack the flagship of the blockade squadron, HMS Eagle. [38]

Destroying this symbol of British naval power by means of a submarine would at least be a blow to British morale and, perhaps, threaten the British blockade and control of New York Harbor. The plan was to have Lee surface just behind Eagle ' s rudder and use a screw to attach an explosive to the ship's hull. Once attached, Lee would re-enter the water and make his getaway. [39]

At 11:00pm on September 6, 1776, Sgt. Lee piloted the submersible toward Admiral Richard Howe's flagship, Eagle, then moored off Governors Island.

On that night, Lee maneuvered the small craft out to the anchorage. It took two hours to reach his destination, as it was hard work manipulating the hand-operated controls and foot pedals to propel the submersible into position. Adding to his difficulties was a fairly strong current and the darkness creeping overhead, which made visibility difficult.

The plan failed. Lee began his mission with only twenty minutes of air, not to mention the complications of operating the craft. The darkness, the speed of the currents, and the added complexities all combined to thwart Lee's plan. Once surfaced, Lee lit the fuse on the explosive and tried multiple times to stab the device into the underside of the ship. Unfortunately, after several attempts Lee was not able to pierce Eagle ' s hull and abandoned the operation as the timer on the explosive was due to go off and he feared getting caught at dawn. A popular story held that he failed due to the copper lining covering the ship's hull. The Royal Navy had recently begun installing copper sheathing on the bottoms of their warships to protect from damage by woodworms and other marine life, however the lining was paper-thin and could not have stopped Lee from drilling through it. Bushnell believed Lee's failure was probably due to an iron plate connected to the ship's rudder hinge. [40] When Lee attempted another spot in the hull, he was unable to stay beneath the ship, and eventually abandoned the attempt. It seems more likely that he was suffering from fatigue and carbon dioxide inhalation, which made him confused and unable to properly carry out the process of drilling through the Eagle ' s hull. Lee reported British soldiers on Governors Island spotted the submersible and rowed out to investigate. He then released the charge (which he called a "torpedo", the prevailing term for underwater explosive devices prior to about 1890), "expecting that they would seize that likewise, and thus all would be blown to atoms." [40] Suspicious of the drifting charge, the British retreated back to the island. Lee reported that the charge drifted into the East River, where it exploded "with tremendous violence, throwing large columns of water and pieces of wood that composed it high into the air." [40] It was the first recorded use of a submarine to attack a ship [33] however, the only records documenting it are American. British records contain no accounts of an attack by a submarine or any reports of explosions on the night of the supposed attack on Eagle. [41]

According to British naval historian Richard Compton-Hall, the problems of achieving neutral buoyancy would have rendered the vertical propeller useless. The route Turtle would have had to take to attack Eagle was slightly across the tidal stream which would, in all probability, have resulted in Lee becoming exhausted. [41] In the face of these and other problems, Compton-Hall suggests the entire story was fabricated as disinformation and morale-boosting propaganda, and if Lee did carry out an attack it was in a covered rowing boat rather than Turtle. [41]

Despite Turtle ' s failure, Washington called Bushnell "a Man of great Mechanical Powers, fertile of invention and a master in execution." In retrospect, Washington observed in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, "[Bushnell] came to me in 1776 recommended by Governor Trumbull (now dead) and other respectable characters…Although I wanted faith myself, I furnished him with money, and other aids to carry it into execution. He laboured for some time ineffectually and, though the advocates for his scheme continued sanguine, he never did succeed. One accident or another was always intervening. I then thought, and still think, that it was an effort of genius but that a combination of too many things were requisite…" [42]

Turtle ' s attack on Eagle reflected both the ingenuity of American forces after the fall of New York and the tendency of the weaker belligerent to adopt and embrace new, sometimes radical, technologies. "What astonishment it will produce and what advantages may be made…if it succeeds, [are] more easy for you to conceive than for me to describe," physician Benjamin Gale wrote to Silas Deane less than a year before Turtle's mission.

The submarine's ultimate fate is not known, although it is believed that after the British took New York, the Turtle was destroyed to prevent her from falling into enemy hands.

On October 5, Sergeant Lee again went out in an attempt to attach the charge to a frigate anchored off Manhattan. He reported the ship's watch spotted him, so he abandoned the attempt. The submarine was sunk some days later by the British aboard its tender vessel near Fort Lee, New Jersey. Bushnell reported salvaging Turtle, but its final fate is unknown. [43] Washington called the attempt "an effort of genius", but "a combination of too many things was requisite" for such an attempt to succeed. [44]

Following Turtle's abortive attack in New York Harbor, Bushnell continued his work in underwater explosives. In 1777, he devised mines to be towed for an attack on HMS Cerberus near New London harbor [45] and to be floated down the Delaware River in an attempt to interrupt the British fleet off Philadelphia. [46] Both attempts failed, and the latter occupied a brief, if farcical, place in the literature of the war. Francis Hopkinson's poem "Battle of the Kegs," captured the surprising, if futile, venture: "The soldier flew, the sailor too, and, scared almost to death, sir, wore out their shoes to spread the news, and ran till out of breath, sir."

When the Connecticut government refused to fund further underwater project, Bushnell joined the Continental army as a captain-lieutenant of sappers and miners, and served with distinction for several years the Hudson River in New York. [47] After the war, Bushnell drifted into obscurity. He visited France for several years, then moved to Georgia in 1795 under the assumed name of David Bush, where he taught school and practiced medicine. He died largely unknown in Georgia in 1824. After the war, inventors such as Robert Fulton were influenced by Bushnell's designs in the development of underwater explosives.

Despite Turtle's shortcomings, Bushnell's invention marked an important milestone in submarine technology. The American inventor Robert Fulton conceived of his submarine Nautilus in the first years of the nineteenth century and took it to Europe when the United States proved largely uninterested in the design. During the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America, faced with a similar situation to that of the colonies during the War of Independence, developed an operational submarine CSS H.L. Hunley, whose destruction of the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor in February 1864 was the first successful submarine attack in history. By the early-twentieth century, the world's navies were beginning to adopt submarines in larger numbers. Like Bushnell's design, these boats mimicked the natural forms of marine animals in their hull designs. As one contemporary historian of submarines observed in 1901, the evolution of modern submarine evolved from the whale, which he deemed a "submarine made by nature out of a mammal."

While Bushnell's name is not generally well-known, he is often credited with revolutionizing naval warfare from below. Bushnell's Turtle created a military vantage point unseen prior to the Revolutionary War – a view from under the war-stricken waters. As historian Alex Roland argues, Bushnell's legacy as an inventor was also burnished by American writers and historians who in the early nineteenth-century lionized Bushnell and his submarine. To a new postwar generation of Americans, he seemed "the ingenious patriot who invented the submarine that terrified the British." Bushnell joined the ranks of American inventors of the era such as Eli Whitney and Robert Fulton. These men served as national heroes to Americans who advocated for technological advances and idolized the men making them. "Whether the motives were military pride or scientific nationalism," Roland contends, "it was important to Americans in the first half century after the Revolution to look upon Bushnell's submarine as an American original.

Yet, while the Turtle occupies a prominent place in the history of technology and military history, Roland's scholarship points to other technological precedence that almost certainly influenced Bushnell's design. Roland points to Denis Papin, a French physician, physicist, and member of the Royal Society and the Academíe des Sciences, whose two submarines may well have served as a model for Bushnell. "The submarine Bushnell designed and built. had features peculiar to both of Papin's versions." As historian of technology Carroll Purcell argues, such trans-Atlantic technology cross-fertilization was hardly exceptional in this era.

Since the Turtle's emergence over two centuries ago, the international playing field has leveled. The monopoly over submersible technology once held by the United States was lost over time as other navies around the world modernized and adopted submarine warfare. From the innovations of John Holland in the early twentieth century to the German U-boat campaigns of the World Wars, and the nuclear-powered ICBM submarines of the Cold War, modern navies embraced the submarine, first, for missions of reconnaissance and commerce-raiding, but, increasingly, in offensive, attack roles. In the postwar era, the submarine has become a central component of modern navies. Submarine usage has gone far beyond Bushnell's conception of lifting naval blockades designed to bleed a country dry of their imports to become an essential arm of offensive naval warfare and power projection.

The Turtle was the first submersible vessel used for combat and led to the development of what we know today as the modern submarine, forever changing underwater warfare and the face of naval warfare. As such, the Turtle has been replicated many times to show new audience the roots of submarine technology, how much it has changed, and the influence it has had on modern submarines. By the 1950s, historian of technology Brooke Hindle credited the Turtle as "the greatest of the wartime inventions." [48] The Turtle remains a source of national as well as regional pride, which led to the construction of several replicas, a number of which exist in Bushnell's home state of Connecticut. As Benjamin Gale noted in 1775, the vessel was "constructed with great simplicity," and it has thus inspired at least four replicas. [49] Many of these followed the designs set down by Bushnell, with "precise and comprehensive descriptions of his submarine," which aided the replication process. [50]

The vessel was a source of particular pride in Connecticut. In 1976, a replica of Turtle was designed by Joseph Leary and constructed by Fred Frese as a project marking the United States Bicentennial. It was christened by Connecticut's governor, Ella Grasso, and later tested in the Connecticut River. This replica is owned by the Connecticut River Museum.

In 2002, Rick and Laura Brown, two sculptors from Massachusetts, along with Massachusetts College of Art and Design students and faculty, constructed another replica. The Browns set out to gain a better understanding of human ingenuity while keeping Bushnell's design, materials, and technique authentic. "With it, Yankee ingenuity was born," observed Rick Brown, referring to the latest in a long line of commemoration that perceived the Turtle as something authentically American. Of the temptation to use synthetic and ahistorical materials, Rob Duarte, a MassArts student observed, "It was always a temptation to use silicone to seal the thing," says Rob Duarte, a MassArt student. "Then you realized that someone else had to figure this out with the same limited resources that we were using. That's just an interesting way to learn. You can't do it any other way than by actually doing it." The outer shell of the replica was hollowed, using controlled fire, from a twelve-foot Sitka Spruce. The log was seven feet in diameter and shipped from British Columbia. This replica took twelve days to build and was successfully submerged in water. In 2003, it was tested in an indoor test tank at the United States Naval Academy. Lew Nuckols, a professor of Ocean Engineering at USNA, made ten dives, noting "you feel very isolated from the outside world. If you had any sense of claustrophobia it would not be a very good experience." [51]

In 2003, Roy Manstan, Fred Frese, and the Naval Underwater Warfare Center partnered with students from Old Saybrook High School in Connecticut on a four-year project called The Turtle Project, to construct their own working replica, which they completed and launched in 2007. [52] [53]

On August 3, 2007 three men were stopped by police while escorting and piloting a replica based on the Turtle within 200 feet (61 m) of RMS Queen Mary 2, then docked at the cruise ship terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The replica was created by New York artist Philip "Duke" Riley and two residents of Rhode Island, one of whom claimed to be a descendant of David Bushnell. Riley claimed that he wanted to film himself next to the Queen Mary 2 for his upcoming gallery show. Riley's was not an exact replica, however, measuring eight feet tall and made of cheap plywood then coated with fiberglass. Its portholes and hatch were collected from a marine salvage company. He also installed pumps to allow him to add or remove water for ballast. Riley christened his vessel Acorn, to note the deviation from Bushnell's original design. The vessel, reported the New York Times, "resembled something out of Jules Verne by way of Huck Finn, manned by cast members from 'Jackass.' The Coast Guard issued Riley a citation for having an unsafe vessel, and for violating the security zone around Queen Mary 2. The NYPD also impounded the submarine. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, calling this an incident of "marine mischief" assured the public that this was simply an art project and did not, in fact, represent a terrorist threat to the passenger ship. [54]

In 2015, the replica built by Manstan and Frese in 2007 for The Turtle Project was acquired by Privateer Media and used in the television series TURN: Washington's Spies. [55] [56] The submarine was shipped to Richmond, VA where it underwent a full refit and was relaunched for film use in the water. Additional full-scale interior and exterior models were also made by AMC as part of the production.

Also in 2015, Privateer Media used The Turtle Project replica for the Travel Channel series Follow Your Past, hosted by Alison Stewart. Filming took place in August where the submarine was launched with a tether in the Connecticut River in the town of Essex, CT.

Turtle – World’s first submarine attack 1776

On this day in 1776, during the Revolutionary War, the American submersible craft Turtle attempts to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship Eagle in New York Harbor. It was the first use of a submarine in warfare.

Submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century, but it was not until 150 years later that they were first used in naval combat. David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.

Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.

During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

The First Submarine Attack – 150 Years Ago Today

During the Civil War the civilians suffered hardships, and many came from the blockade of their coast by the Union navy. They could not export their cotton to the world, and could not import many things they needed from the outside. There were several people in the Confederacy who tried to invent new weapons to break this blockade, and the work of several of these men produced the H. L. Hunley, the world’s first successful combat submarine.

James McClintock, one of the boat’s designers

The road to a successfully attack on a Union ship was long and costly. The Fish Boat, as the Hunley was originally was called, was the third submarine built by Horace Hunley, James McClintock and Baxter Watson. Their previous failures had helped refine the design. She had a crew of eight one steered and the other seven worked at a crank which turned a propeller. More problems were encountered in Charleston – the boat sunk twice and many of the crew were drowned, including Hunley.

The Hunley was recovered, and George Dixon, a member of the crew who happened to be absent when she sunk, was appointed her commander. After many days of waiting, they went out on the night of February 17, 1864. They had selected as their target the USS Housatonic, a 12 gun wooden steamer. It was five miles off the coast, and it took the crew of the Hunley much effort to get there. At around 8:45 pm they approached the Housatonic, and the officer on watch sighted what looked like a ripple in the water 100 yards out. But looking again he saw an object moving very fast toward the ship. The ship went into an uproar, and they tried to move forward, while the crew fired at the strange object with anything they could lay their hands on. The Hunley dove and attached its torpedo in an area that happened to be just near the magazine. Seconds later there was a huge explosion, throwing smoke, water, and debris high into the air. A huge hole was ripped in the side of the Housatonic. It sunk in less than five minutes, and the survivors were picked up by boats from other ships. Five men had been killed, and the rest survived. The Housatonic was the first ship in military history to be sunk by a submarine. But the Hunley never returned to port. Not long after the attack a light was seen by the men watching on shore, a prearranged signal for success, but she never returned.

The Hunley’s disappearance was one of the most puzzling mysteries of the Civil War. After many years of speculation, she was finally located in the late 20th century lying under 3 feet of mud, and in 2000 the wreck was brought to the surface, and investigated by archaeologists. Inside were found the bones of the crew and many artifacts they carried with them. The ongoing work on the Hunley has answered some questions regarding the boat’s fate. None of the men had left the ship. They were 1000 feet away from the wreck of the Housatonic. There was no structural damage from the explosion.

But many questions still remain. Why did they sink? Did they intentionally dive to wait for the incoming tide and for some reason not surface? Or did the Hunley sink immediately and the wreck gradually move the 1000 feet? Whatever the Hunley’s fate, it was unique. Safe and usable submarines were far in the future, and the next successful military use occurred in 1914, during World War I. With the Hunley’s sinking, the war was almost over for Charleston. New weapons had been developed and used successfully, but none were powerful enough to break the blockade and turn the war around.

The First Submarine Attack Happened During The Revolutionary War

At 11pm on September 6th, 1776, Sargent Ezra Lee began cranking away on a lever that propelled the tiny submersible that he sat inside of. His goal was to make his way to the British Flagship HMS Eagle and attach a crude explosive charge to it, then make haste (at 2mph) safely out of the area.

This is the story of the American Turtle, the world's first submersible used in combat. Built in Connecticut with the direct approval of General George Washington, the Turtle's inventor and underwater explosives guru turned patriot, David Bushnell, realized that stealth could be obtained just at and below the waterline.

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In many ways the Turtle was a super-weapon development program of its day. Before the Declaration of Independence was in the King's hands, America was looking for anything it could use to take on the crushing might of Britain's overwhelming military capabilities.

The Turtle was named so because of its shape, like two shells mated together, and for its maritime mission. It measured just three feet wide, 10 feet long and 6 feet tall. It could accommodate one man, which would provide navigation via a small rudder and propulsion via a hand-cranked propeller. It remained water-tight via covering the whole vehicle, mainly built out of oak, in hot tar and running tight steel bands around it.

The rudimentary sub dived by allowing water to pour into a bilge tank at the bottom of the vessel, and it could surface via pumping out that water via a hand-cranked screw pump. In case of an emergency, such as a crack occurring in the boat's hull, there was 200lbs of lead that could be released on command, which would allow the humble little sub to shoot back up to the surface . There was only enough air inside Turtle for one crewman to survive for 30 minutes.

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There was a series of glass port holes on the top of the Turtle where its hatch met its hull. These provided light during daytime operations and a very basic view for navigational purposes. Since she would mainly operate at night, and a flame would asphyxiate her single crewman, internal illumination was provided by a cork that was covered in bioluminescent fungus.

Although the idea was to keep Bushnell's attack sub secret, a spy working for New York Congressman James Duane outed its existence to the Royal Governor of the Province of New York. After completing trials in both Connecticut and off Long Island, Turtle was transported to the Hudson River for its debut attack on the British Fleet moored there.

On that late summer night in 1776, Sargent Lee slowly fought his way toward the HMS Eagle, which was moored south of Manhattan Island, after being towed out a ways from shore by row boats. The whole mission seemed in jeopardy as Lee's progress was almost non-existent until the current began carrying him toward his objective.

Once within clear view of HMS Eagle, he slowly submerged and crept underneath the big ship's stern, towards its rudder area. Here begun his attempt to drill into the Eagle so that the explosive package could be attached. Exhausted, Lee kept trying to break through what seemed like an impenetrable metal barrier (later it was thought that this was the iron plating around the ship's rudder hinge system). He then tried to submerge directly underneath the Eagle but the clumsy little sub had issues with staying in one place under the big ship's curved hull.

Lee eventually gave up on the attack, and made his way back out into the Hudson channel. He says that he was spotted by the British as he left, and that multiple teams of sailors rowed out to investigate the strange object in the water. Lee then released the explosive charge, which was an elaborate timed device that used a fragile flintlock ignition system, to distract the search teams. The teams gave up long before the charge went off, which Lee said resulted in a massive explosion sending water high into the air.

Another attempt was made on October 5th that would see Sergeant Lee trying to attach a similar charge, which he called Torpedo incidentally, to a British Frigate also anchored off of Manhattan. He claimed that he was spotted on his approach to the ship so he aborted the mission. A few days later the Turtle was sunk as it sat atop its tender vessel near New Jersey. The British saw it and engaged it without a fight, supposedly blowing it to smithereens, although Bushnell claimed he salvaged parts of it.

Although the American Turtle was deemed a failure, it was a successful one. Even George Washington described the Turtle as an "effort of genius." Obviously Mr. Bushnell was onto something as submarine warfare would become one of the most effective weapons of the 20th Century. Yet it would take almost a century for the technology to advance far enough for a submarine to execute a successful kill by on another ship. In 1864, during the Civil War, the Confederate Navy's submarine H.L. Hunley became the first militarized submarine to sink an enemy ship

Today there are a few replicas of the American Turtle at various maritime museums, yet a semi-accurate functional version of the Turtle actually made news in 2007 when Brooklyn artist Duke Riley took his unannounced replica of the famous sub into the Hudson River and made his way towards the iconic and giant oceanliner Queen Mary 2 that was moored near Red Hook, Brooklyn. Duke and his ominous looking Turtle were intercepted by Police and Coast Guard who were perplexed at what they saw. Eventually they realized that there was no terrorism objective to Mr. Riley's mission and they impounded his home-built replica and cited him and a couple of friends for operating an unsafe craft, along with some other smaller infractions.

Real story of submarine PNS Ghazi and the mystery behind its sinking

The sinking of Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi with 90 men aboard in the 1971 Indo-Pak war is regarded as one of the high points of India's first-ever emphatic military victory.

With famed Bollywood producer/director Karan Johar releasing the first-look poster of his studio's new movie The Ghazi Attack, it might be a good time to brush up some history.

Frustrated with the Naval Blockade, Pakistan decided to send the best submarine in its inventory - PNS Ghazi.

PNS Ghazi was assigned with a two-fold objective. The primary goal was to find and sink INS Vikrant and the second one was to lay mines on India's Eastern seaboard with or without accomplishing the primary objective.

Without PNS Ghazi, Pakistan navy could not interfere with Vikrant's operations in East Pakistan. It was extremely risky of sending an ageing submarine completely around the subcontinent to attack the enemy’s flagship in it's home waters. Besides, Ghazi was by then experiencing regular equipment failures and maintenance facilities at Chittagong were poor.

Overruling these objections, PNS Ghazi quietly sailed out of the Karachi Harbour on November 14, 1971.

Having sailed the fleet away to safety, Krishnan roped in INS Rajput, an ageing WWII destroyer that was actually sent to Vishakapatnam for decommissioning. INS Rajput was to pretend to be INS Vikrant, sail out of the Vizag port and generate heavy wireless traffic.

The Indian Navy intentionally breached security by making an unclassified signal in the form of a private Telegram allegedly from one of Vikrant's sailor's asking about the welfare of his mother who was "seriously ill".

Ghazi started looking for Vikrant on November 23 off Madras but was not aware that she was 10 days too late and the Vikrant was actually somewhere near the Andaman islands.

Vice Admiral Krishnan sent for Lt.Inder Singh, the Commanding officer of the Rajput for detailed briefing and told him that a Pakistani submarine had been sighted off Ceylon and was absolutely certain that the submarine would be somewhere around Madras/Vishakaptanm. He made it clear that once Rajput had completed refueling, she must leave the harbor with all navigational aids switched off.

INS Rajput sailed out on 2 December and returned to Vishakapatnam on 3 December and again sailed out with a pilot on board, just before the midnight of 3/4 December and on clearing the harbor, proceeded along the narrow entrance channel. When the ship was halfway in the channel, it suddenly occurred to the Captain that "What if the Pakistani submarine was waiting outside the harbor and torpedoes us as we disembark the pilot who was on board, at the Outer Channel Buoy?" He immediately ordered to stop engines and disembarked the pilot.

Meanwhile, Ghazi being unable to locate INS Vikrant around Vishakapatnam resumed laying mines on the night of 3rd December when Pakistan signalled the commencement of hostilities. Ghazi came up to periscope depth to establish her naviagtional position which was made very difficult due to the blackout and switching off of all navigational aids.

Rajput slowly increased speed to maximum by the time it reached the Outer channel buoy. At this point of time, Ghazi saw or heard a destroyer approaching her at high speed at an almost reciprocal course and went into a steep dive and at the same time put her rudder hard over in order to get away seaward.

The Captain of Destroyer Rajput noticed the disturbance of water caused by the hasty dive and launched two depth charges at that position. The charges struck the submarine that was already in a steep dive causing Ghazi to hit seabed hard when it bottomed.

The fire spread to where the Mines and torpedoes were stored and these blew the forward hull outward. It is also possible that the detonation of the charges triggered a mine that was being kept in a ready state near the torpedo tube. This was Indian Navy's version.

Many theories came forward since and it transpired that naval authorities also destroyed records of the sinking of Ghazi.

Whatever caused the Ghazi to explode, it was nevertheless, the Indian Navy's ingenuity and deceptive planning that caused the submarine to a follow a preset path which ended in a watery grave for its sailors on board.

“Turtle” of 1776 – The First ‘Submarine’ Ever Used In War

The first large-scale example of submarine warfare took place in the First World War, with German U-boats sinking a number of Allied ships, and by the time the Second World War started in 1939, submarine warfare had become commonplace.

While submarines were invented long before the First World War, and were used for warfare as early as the American Civil War, you may be surprised to know that the first known use of a submersible craft in war dates all the way back to 1776, during the American Revolutionary War.

The watercraft in question was a tiny, one-man submersible craft called Turtle, and it was used to attack the British ship HMS Eagle, which was one of a number of Royal Navy ships that were blockading the Hudson River.

A diagram showing the front and rear of Turtle

Turtle, as this strange submersible watercraft was christened, was the brainchild of an American inventor named David Bushnell. Bushnell, born in Saybrook, Connecticut, was originally a farmer, but after selling his shares in the family farm in his early 30s, he entered Yale College and studied mathematics.

He graduated from Yale in 1775 – after having proved, during his studies, that gunpowder could be detonated underwater – and when the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, Bushnell decided to use what he had learned over the course of his studies to develop a method of attacking British ships from below the waves.

Cutaway replica at the Oceanographic Museum, Photo: Monaco Zenit CC BY-SA 3.0

Thus, the idea for Turtle – the first ever submersible watercraft to be used in warfare – was born. This particular submersible, though, looked and worked nothing like the submarines of the 20th century.

Made of oak with iron wrappings and brass fittings, and similar in shape to an acorn, Turtle was so named because it looked like two turtle shells stuck together. It was only big enough for a single person to fit inside, and was propelled through the water by means of a treadle-driven propeller and hand-operated crank, which required considerable effort to use, meaning that whoever was piloting the craft had to be very physically fit.

Bushnell mines destroying a small British boat

While the idea for Turtle was Bushnell’s, he did have some assistance in its design, especially for the complex moving parts of the machinery used to propel the craft through the water, to dive and surface (done by brass pumps that pulled in or expelled seawater as ballast), and to steer the vessel.

These items were made, and possibly designed, by local clockmaker, brass manufacturer, silversmith and inventor Isaac Doolittle. Bushnell’s brother Ezra also assisted with some aspects of Turtle’s design, and volunteered to be its pilot.

Portrait of Ezra Lee, Turtle’s operator

Visibility came via porthole windows near the top of the craft, and in the hatch on top, via which the pilot would enter and exit the craft. This hatch was also the only way that air could get into Turtle.

Because of its limited air capacity, traveling underwater would only be done when absolutely necessary – for most of the craft’s journey, it was intended that it travel through the water with the hatch just protruding from the surface.

1976 functional replica that is now at the Connecticut River Museum.Photo: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD CC BY-SA 3.0

Bushnell intended Turtle to be used at night to maximize the aspect of stealth, which would be crucial in successfully pulling off the attack against the British ship. This, obviously, presented a serious obstacle in terms of navigation.

To overcome the problem of being able to navigate through dark waters at night, bioluminescent foxfire was attached the needles of Turtle’s compass and other instruments, so that they could be read in the dark.

A cutaway full-sized replica of the Turtle on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, UK.Photo: Geni CC BY-SA 4.0

In terms of weaponry, Turtle was pretty limited in that department. The idea behind Turtle was not that it would directly attack an enemy vessel, but rather that it could be used to get close enough to an enemy ship, undetected, in order to attach to the hull an explosive mine, containing around 150 pounds of black powder, which would then be detonated with a timer fuse. Hopefully, the mine would blow a large enough hole in the hull to sink the enemy ship.

Bushnell tested Turtle in the Connecticut River with his brother Ezra as the pilot. Things seemed to go well, so the craft was transported to Long Island Sound in preparation for active use. Ezra, however, fell ill, and thus a new pilot would have to be found and trained, which set the project back. Three suitable men were found, and, after having moved Turtle to the Hudson River for training, the craft was then towed to New York Harbor to attack the British fleet.

This 19th-century diagram shows the side views of Turtle. It incorrectly depicts the propeller as a screw blade as seen in the replica photographed above and reported by Sergeant Lee, it was a paddle propeller blade.

Turtle’s first mission got underway at 11:00 PM on September 6, 1776. Piloted by Sergeant Ezra Lee, Turtle was targeting HMS Eagle, the Royal Navy’s flagship in New York Harbor, which was moored off Governor’s Island. Unfortunately for Lee, the currents were a lot stronger than he had anticipated and the darkness made it difficult to navigate.

By the time he reached HMS Eagle, he had been in the water for a number of hours and was likely suffering from both extreme fatigue and carbon dioxide inhalation. He made a few attempts to affix the mine to Eagle’s hull, but failed to do so. Seeing as dawn was approaching and he was exhausted, he chose to abort the mission.

A cutaway depiction of David Bushnell’s Turtle

He nonetheless released the mine – with its timer fuse lit – in the hopes that the British would pick it up and that it would explode on one of their ships. The mine did explode, but didn’t take out any enemy craft or troops. Disappointed, Bushnell and his team had Turtle taken to the Hudson River, where another attack was attempted and also failed.

Turtle ended up being destroyed when British artillery sank the tender that was transporting it, and thus the first ever submersible watercraft used in war was lost forever – somewhat fittingly – beneath the waves.

Model submarine Bushnell (in section). Maritime Museum. Monaco.

Bushnell, disappointed in Turtle’s lack of battlefield success, abandoned work on another submersible craft. He did, however, continue to work on floating mines, which he had some success with. He ended up attaining the rank of captain in the Continental Army’s Corps of Engineers, and after the war he moved to Georgia and worked as a doctor and a professor.

As for Turtle, a fully functional replica was constructed from Bushnell’s designs in the 1970s, and is currently on display at the Connecticut River Foundation.

Forgotten History: Japan's Failed Submarine Attack at Pearl Harbor

Unlike the aerial attack, the submarines failed spectacularly.

The crew of Ha-18 abandoned ship without firing either of their torpedoes after falling victim to a depth charge attack. Nineteen years later, the U.S. Navy recovered the sub from the floor of Hawaii’s Keehi Lagoon and ultimately shipped it off for display at the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima.

The fate of the fifth submarine, Ha-16, remains controversial. At 10:40 P.M., the crew of the I-16 intercepted a radio message that appeared to repeat the word “Success!” A few hours later, they received a second transmission: “Unable to navigate.”

The belief was that Ha-16 transmitted these alerts. In 2009, a Novadocumentary crew identified three parts of the midget submarine in a navy salvage pile off of West Loch, Hawaii.

A popular belief is that Ha-16 successfully entered the harbor and fired off its torpedoes. Then the crew slipped out and scuttled the sub off of West Loch island before perishing of unknown causes.

U.S. Navy salvage teams probably later scooped up the sub amidst the wreckage of six landing craft destroyed in the West Loch disaster of 1944. They then proceeded to dump the whole pile of debris further out at sea.

That no one ever found the Ha-16’s torpedoes gave rise to the theory that the midget submarine might have successfully torpedoed the battleship USS Oklahoma. The USS West Virginia was another possible target.

A photo taken from an attacking Japanese torpedo bomber at 8:00 A.M., which appears to show torpedo trails lancing towards Oklahoma without a corresponding splash from an air-dropped weapon added more weight to the idea. In addition, the damage to the Oklahoma, and the fact that it capsized, suggested to some it was struck by a tiny sub’s heavier torpedoes.

However, this theory is dubious. The Oklahoma capsized because all the hatches were open for an inspection at the time of the attack. The heavy damage can be explained by the more than a half-dozen air-dropped torpedoes that hit the ship.

It is more likely Ha-16 launched the torpedoes at another vessel. At 10:04 A.M., the light cruiser USS St. Louis reported it had taken fire from submarine, but both torpedoes missed.

In the end, the air attack accomplished what the midget submarines could not. Japan’s naval aviators sank three U.S. battleships, crippling another five, blasted 188 U.S. warplanes — most sitting on the ground — and killed 2,403 American service members.

Unfortunately for officials in Tokyo, the Japanese Navy had struck a powerful blow, but not a crippling one. The bombardment failed to hit the repair facilities and fuel depots, which allowed the U.S. Pacific fleet to get back on its feet relatively quickly.

Just as importantly, not a single U.S. aircraft carrier was in Pearl Harbor at the time. The flattops would swiftly prove their dominance over battleships in the coming Pacific War.

Despite the debacle, the Japanese Navy continued sending Kō-hyōteki into combat. As at Pearl Harbor, the submariners in their tiny ships had very limited successes in operations from Australia to Alaska to Madagascar.