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Submarine Day

On March 17, 1898, St. Patrick's Day, Irish-born engineer John Philip Holland demonstrated a submarine he designed, the Holland VI, for the U.S. Navy Department, off the coast of Staten Island. During the demonstration, the vessel was submerged for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Holland launched the submarine the year before, on May 17, 1897, after it was built at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The submarine was noteworthy for having features that would become the standard for submarines in future years. It and other of Holland's submarines are also noteworthy for being the first to run on electric batteries when submerged, but on internal combustion engines when on the water's surface. We celebrate the Holland and all other submarines on March 17 each year.

Future president Theodore Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time the submarine was demonstrated, and he pushed for the Navy to purchase it. However, it didn't happen right away, and it wasn't until April 11, 1900—after Roosevelt was already the Governor of New York—when the Navy bought the submarine, for the price of $150,000. April 11 has since become known as National Submarine Day.

The submarine was commissioned and officially became known as the USS Holland (SS-1) on October 12, 1900, in Newport Rhode, Island. It was the first submarine commissioned by the Navy, but it was far from being the first submarine used by the United States or even owned by the Navy. The first submarine used by the United States was the Turtle, which was used during the Revolutionary War, and the first submarine owned by the Navy was the Alligator, which was used during the Civil War.

The USS Holland (SS-1) served as a training submarine and was usually kept in Annapolis, Maryland. It was decommissioned on July 17, 1905, and was then put on reserve in Norfolk, Virginia, for just over 5 years. It was sold for scrap in 1913 for $100 but was then put on display in various locations for a number of years before being torn apart in 1932. After purchasing the USS Holland (SS-1), the Navy went on to buy other submarines from Holland's company, such as those of the Plunger class.

The designing of submarines came to prominence in the nineteenth century, and submarines were first widely used during World War I. Modern submarines range from small vessels that can only carry one or two people and stay submerged for just a few hours, to being large vessels such as the Russian Typhoon-class submarines, which can carry a whole crew and stay submerged for months.

How to Observe Submarine Day

Here are some ideas on how to celebrate the day:

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