During the Revolutionary War, the first submersible craft was utilized for defense under George Washington’s leadership.
The vessel was designed between 1771 and 1775 by Yale undergraduate David Bushnell.
The craft was named the “Turtle” because Bushnell thought it looked like two equally-sized turtle shells put together.
Bushnell’s invention had a few firsts; these include being the first submersible craft to contain a breathing apparatus and a screw propeller for underwater navigation.
It also was the first to show that gunpowder can explode underwater.
Unlike modern-day war submarines, the Turtle was made out of wood and was operated by one man.
It’s operator would turn a crank that would propel the vessel, while a hand pump would submerge and surface it.
This man had to act as a navigator, torpedoman, diving officer and engineer, which proved to be almost impossible during combat.
A year into the war, Bushnell had hoped the Turtle would help defend New York’s harbor, but problems arose ranging from the craft not being ready in time, navigational issues and strong tides.
After sinking on October 9th, 1776 the Turtle was recovered, but its fate after that is unknown.
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