Experimenting with a Midget Submarine

Jim Carnell: Worked at EB as an Engineer from 1956-63

I had this idea for a small submarine using tiltable motors and speed control. I didn’t put in a patent application but my boss did. The head of the patent group wasn’t interested. He said Electric Boat would not be interested in this.

So I got a few guys together and I said, “Let’s build one. Let’s build the whole thing.” I went to Lukens Steel and I bought a couple steel hemispheres and we welded them together, cut a hole for a hatch and cut holes for windows. We launched it, I guess it was at Groton town beach, and tested it. I did it on my own time and we purchased all of the materials ourselves.

When we launched the submarine there was a big article in the paper and it got in the New York Times. General Dynamics wanted to know what EB engineers were doing building submarines on their own. Dr. Sheets, the head of R&D, was going to fire me.

Finally the submarine was sold to General Dynamics. It had quite a history, doing a lot of testing of the ideas that we formulated. It was the precursor of the submarine rescue vessel. They renamed it STAR 1. It was the first of a series of STAR vehicles that they built.

But EB learned what I learned early on. You need an awful lot of support for a small submarine. They recognized that the cost of maintaining a submarine for that type of research wasn’t worth it. They laid all theirs up.