Silent but Deadly: the Top 5 Most Amazing Submarines of All Time

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For thousands of years, boats and ships have played a huge role in countless conflicts. Warfare is conducted ship-to-ship on the open seas, and ships are used both to bring soldiers and supplies to shore, and to rain down death and destruction on land-based foes. In just the past few centuries a new weapon of war has come to the fore: Why wage war from atop the sea when you can do battle from beneath it? Today, submarines represent the most potent, lethal force in many world navies. And while the early days of this new type of maritime weapon were a bit less auspicious, the early submariners were no less daring and bold than those of the great conflicts of the 20th century, or the seamen of the present.

5 The Mightiest of Them All

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Today’s massive, mighty submarines both run on nuclear power and have the potential to unleash nuclear weapons on enemies. Kind of a full-circle there, huh? America’s largest subs, the Ohio Class, are almost 600 feet long, have a crew of around 160, and can carry more than 20 nuclear-armed missiles. And their range is essentially limitless. In short, these vessels can deliver a nuclear warhead to any target on earth. So don’t get them angry.

4 A Bad Time to Be on a Boat

While there was plenty of submarine warfare in WWI, it was during WWII that this type of warfare came to its apex in terms of sheer deadliness – and in how marked an effect it had on a conflict. For many years of the war, the German U-boat was a mightily feared weapon, and one that sank millions of tons of allied supplies. The success of the U-boat fleet came thanks to the technical excellence of the ships, the bravery of the men and the cunning tactics of the “Wolf Pack” deployment the German navy used, always attacking allied shipping with a great number of subs. It was not until convoy and aerial reconnaissance and attack tactics were adopted by the allies that the German submarine threat was reduced. And, in fact, by war’s end, U-boat crews had earned the dubious distinction of having the slimmest chances at survival.

3 Deadly, But Not to the Right Folks

The Hunley was the world’s first submarine that looked and functioned much like the subs we know today. Minor differences include the fact that its screws were turned by hand cranks and its only light came from candles. It was a small submarine by today’s standards, but at 40 feet in length, it was huge by the standards of the Civil War, mainly because it was the only active sub in the world. The Hunley was a Confederate craft, and it successfully sank one Union ship during the course of the war. Its record, however, was one for three, as the submarine itself sank three times, killing all hands on board each time.

2 The Sub that Started it All

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The Turtle might not look much like it has much in common with one of today’s nuclear powered behemoths, but in fact it shared two crucial elements with submarines of today: it was a submersible, and it was an offensive weapon. The Turtle was essentially a barrel weighted down with some ballast and powered by a simple pedal-turned propeller. Its creator and “captain,” an American patriot named David Bushnell, planned to pedal his (mostly) submerged craft up beside British warships and attach bombs to them. In practice, the plan failed every time, and had no real bearing on the Revolutionary War. But it was still an audacious, forward-thinking program!

1 All Dressed Up … And Going Nowhere

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The first “submarine” that was actually built and was almost practical would have been a potent weapon, had it been able to move. The so-called Rotterdam Boat was essentially just a long ship with a low draft that would float barely above the water’s surface, minimizing the likelihood of it being spotted. It would rush toward enemy ships and punch a hole in their hulls using a submerged battering ram. However, when the Rotterdam Boat was first “launched,” it was impossible to make it move.

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