David Bushnell, a Westbrook CT native and Yale graduate, was also an inventor who is credited with creating the first combat submarine. In February 1775, Bushnell approached Gov. Jonathan Trumbull and the Council of Safety with his plans for a pedal- and pump-powered submarine called TURTLE. Apparently the Council was sufficiently impressed with his plans to allocate resources for the development of the vessel.
On September 6, 1776 Ezra Lee of Lyme, CT attempted to use the TURTLE to attach explosive “torpedoes” to the hulls of British vessels in New York Harbor. His attempt was unsuccessful, but one of the charges exploded in the East River, marking the onset of a new kind of warfare.
The TURTLE eventually sank when a sloop carrying it was sunk by the British. David Bushnell later claimed to have recovered the submarine, but if so, the original has been lost to history. Numerous models and modern working versions of the TURTLE have been created, including one at the Connecticut River Museum.