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An Illustrated History of American Submarine Development
1776 The Turtle
David Bushnell's Turtle was the first undersea craft to actually attempt an attack on an enemy warship—the raison d'être for submarines. During a 1776 mission in New York Harbor, an attempt by the Turtle's pilot to drill into the keel of HMS Eagle to attach a powder charge was foiled by the warship's copper-sheathed hull. The gunpowder charge exploded harmlessly. In the War of 1812, Bushnell built another submersible that attacked HMS Ramillies at anchor off New London, Connecticut. This attempt also failed, although the craft's operator successfully bored a hole in the ship's copper sheathing. To maneuver the one-man submersible horizontally or vertically, her pilot used hand-cranked propellers. A lever controlled the submarine's rudder.
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Norman Polmar is an internationally known analyst, consultant, and award-winning author specializing in the naval, aviation, and intelligence areas. He has participated in or directed major studies in these areas for the U.S. Department of Defense and Navy, and served as a consultant to U.S. and foreign commercial firms and government agencies. He has been an advisor or consultant on naval issues to three U.S. Secretaries of the Navy and two Chiefs of Naval Operations, as well as to three U.S. Senators and a Speaker of the House of Representatives. He has 50 published books to his credit, including eight previous editions of Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet and four editions of Guide to the Soviet Navy. Mr. Polmar is a columnist for Proceedings and Naval History magazines. He is a resident of Alexandria, VA.
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