History of Maritime
War and Military History

What submarine was the first to sink an enemy ship?

User Avatar
Wiki User
January 03, 2009 9:14PM

It was the H. L. Hunley, a submarine developed by the Confederate navy during the U.S. Civil War. The mission had mixed results, however, because the Hunley sank soon afterwards, and all hands went down with it. The H.L. Hunley was under Confederate Army command because the Confederate Navy wanted nothing to do with it, as they considered submarines too dangerous, and it was dishonorable to attack at sea without showing the flag. Of the crew aboard when the sub made its fateful attack, only one was a sailor, and the rest were army men. It was not until World War 1 that a submarine would better the Hunley's achievement, as the German sub U9 sank three British cruisers and survived to tell the story. Robert Fulton's Nautilus was actually the first submarine to sink a ship, but it was a peacetime demonstration. Earlier than that, David Bushnell's Turtle made the first submarine attack in the American Revolutionary War, but it was unsuccessful, so Hunley was indeed the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.