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Celebrating American Inventions: The Deep Dive

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The 4th of July celebrates the birthday of our country, and allows us to take time to reflect on life, liberty and all the other great freedoms we have living here.  As part of that celebration, this week we’re highlighting some prominent inventions that have impacted all of our lives since the founding of our country.

We’ll highlight one invention from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. We can’t cover every invention, so feel free to share other great inventions in the comments, and check back throughout the week to share how you’ve been impacted by the inventions we’ve selected.

The Submarine

Today, scientists use high-tech submarines to dive deep into the ocean and research underwater life. Tourists can take a submarine dive and visit underwater coral reefs. The military uses submarines to stealthily target the enemy with little to no detection.

But did you know all of this began with a wooden submarine named “Turtle,” first used in military action during the Revolutionary War?

David Bushnell, along with his brother Ezra, created the world’s first military submarine in Connecticut and launched it for the first time in 1776. The submarine they created featured ideas still used today, including the use of water as ballast for the craft, and the screw propeller.

Describing the Turtle, George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1785, “I then thought, and still think, that it was an effort of genius,” according to the Navy Department Library.

According to the Navy, during the actual Revolutionary War battle, Turtle didn’t fare as well as Bushnell hoped. Despite successful test runs (one of which Benjamin Franklin attended, according to reports!), Turtle’s attack did not succeed. Despite this hurdle, Turtle provided an invaluable ‘first draft’ of what would later develop into today’s submarine.

To hear from veterans of more recent wars about their experiences on a submarine, check out the Library of Congress’ video project, “The Silent Service.” Meet some of the Navy’s current submarine force, in this video from Inside Today’s Military.

Whether you’re watching fireworks or barbecuing with friends, make sure your own 4th of July celebration is safe and fun with these tips. And check the #july4 and #madeintheusa hashtags on Twitter to read about more American inventions this week.

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