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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

A View From the Periscope

For centuries men experimented with submersible vessels in hopes of finding ways other than ramming, boarding, or intense cannon fire to sink enemy warships. In 1776 the Turtle made the first submarine attack on a warship in 1776. Nearly 90 years later the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley made history by sinking the Housatonic.

Not until World War I did technological advances change the submarine from maritime oddity to an important asset in naval warfare. During the war, American submarines performed two functions--patrolling American seacoasts and harbors and deploying to Europe to keep the sea lines of supply open.

Between the wars significant improvements in submarine design and capabilities included growth in size and increase in speed. Viewed as an anti-ship weapon, the Navy trained submarine crews to scout for their battleship fleet and to attack the enemy's warships. During World War II, success in the silent war included targeting of merchant and convoy ships and sinking about one-third of the Imperial Navy.

The development of nuclear propulsion spearheaded by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and the Atomic Energy Commission freed submarines from any need to surface during patrols. Today's Navy has ballistic missile submarines to deter foreign nuclear attacks and attack submarines used in anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions.

Drawn to its sleek yet hidden shape, artists have long tried to capture the mystery of the submarine and the adventurous men who risk underwater combat.

Note: click on image to make it larger

 

CSS H.L. Hunley
R.G. Skerrett
Pen and ink drawing with wash, 1902
45-125-P

 

Submarine in Drydock
Vernon Howe Bailey
Pen and ink drawing, 1917
Gift of Mrs. Wilbur Jenkins
65-32-F

 

sub at a dockDeck Gun (Preparing for Sea)
Vernon Howe Bailey #30
Pen and ink drawing with wash, 1941
88-165-AD

 

 

 

sub in drydockUSS Barracuda in Drydock at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire
Vernon Howe Bailey #79
Pen and ink drawing, 1941/2
88-165-CB

 

 

men in the torpedo room of a sub playing cardsAll Hands Below, USS Dorado
Georges Schreiber #2
Watercolor, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.
88-159-IU

 

 

man sleeping on in his bunk above a torpedo while a group of men read a letter News from Home, USS Dorado
Georges Schreiber #13
Watercolor, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.
88-159-JF

 

 

Conning Tower, USS Dorado
Georges Schreiber #19
Watercolor, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.
88-159-JL

 

 

Firing of the deck gun of a subClear for Action, USS Dorado
Georges Schreiber #20
Watercolor, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.
88-159-JM

 

 

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1 April 2001