The Plunger, the Navy’s first purpose-built submarine (the Holland, its first sub, had been built on speculation by the designer, John Philip Holland), was commissioned in September 1903 at New Suffolk, Long Island, with Lieutenant Charles P. Nelson commanding. In nearly two years, she had amassed more than 300 submersions. But the technology was still raw. In August 1905, she was in the New York Navy Yard for overhaul, with critical attention paid to leaking air lines and a failing electrical system. On 9 August, Nelson received a very simple order from Secretary of the Navy Charles J. Bonaparte: “Proceed as soon as possible to Oyster Bay and report to the President.”
Historic Ships - Presidential Intervention
Some bumps in the road of history disappear with time, but they are no less significant. One such blip occurred on a dreary Friday off the Long Island coast, when a young Navy lieutenant invited President Theodore Roosevelt to take a brief cruise on board his boat, the USS Plunger (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 2). Literally within three days of that encounter, the U.S. Navy’s submarine community—by executive fiat—gained the stature needed within the service to become the force it is today.
By J. M. Caiella