National Submarine Day - April 11
April 11 marks National Submarine Day, so designated because April 11 is the day the United States purchased its first commissioned submarine, the USS Holland, in 1900. From far back in history, just as men watched birds soar in the skies and dreamed of flying, so they considered the possibility of moving beneath the water hidden from the human eye. In fact, in 1620—the same year the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock—a Dutchman named Cornelius Jacobszoon Drebbel built oar-propelled submarine for James 1 of England.
Moving forward some 150 or so years, David Bushnell designed the first military submarine
for the soon-to-be United States. Turtry le, an egg-shaped device, was hand-powered by its single occupant. A similar vehicle found service in the War of 1812. Neither, however, managed to sink any British ship.
Jumping into another war, the United States Navy made use of a French-designed submarine (the Alligator), but it met its demise in a story off Cape Hatteras in April 1863. The Confederate States had only slightly more success though not so much against enemy forces. Perhaps the most famous southern sub was the CSS H.L. Hunley which did sink a U.S. ship but, alas, sank itself—twice—resulting in the deaths of many of its crew. The sub was raised from Charleston Harbor in 1995 and the remains of it crew members buried in Magnolia Cemetery (also in Charleston) on April 17, 2004. It can be viewed at its own museum, and visitors can tour a replica.
Submarines continued to be developed for use in other wars—most notably WWI and WW II. Afterwards, nuclear-powered submarines inevitably found their ways to the sea. During the Cold War, the USS Thresher was lost to equipment failure, and the Scorpion unknown causes. The Thresher sank in 1000 feet of water off Cape Cod and imploded, killing all 129 members of its crew.
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