A View from the Periscope: Submarine Art from the Collection of the US Navy


For centuries, the Navy has experimented with submersible vessels in hopes of finding ways other than ramming, boarding, or intense cannon fire to sink enemy warships.  In 1776 the Turtle made the first submarine attack on a warship in 1776.  Nearly 90 years later the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley made history by sinking the Housatonic.

Not until World War I did technological advances change the submarine from a maritime oddity to an important asset in naval warfare.  During the war, American submarines performed two functions: patrolling American seacoasts and harbors and deploying to Europe to keep the sea lines of supply open.

Between the wars, significant improvements in submarine design and capabilities included growth in size and increase in speed.  Submarine crews were trained to scout for their battleship fleet and to attack the enemy’s warships.  During World War II, success in the silent war included targeting of merchant and convoy ships and sinking about one-third of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The development of nuclear propulsion spearheaded by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and the Atomic Energy Commission freed submarines from the need to surface during patrols.   Today’s Navy has ballistic missile submarines to deter foreign nuclear attacks and attack submarines used in anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions.

Drawn to its sleek yet hidden shape, artists have long tried to capture the mystery of the submarine and the adventurous men who risk underwater combat.

Conning Tower, USS Dorado

Conning Tower, USS Dorado

This exhibit was made possible by the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and the United States Naval History and Heritage Command, with special thanks to Ron Tremblay Design.

The opening reception will be Saturday, September 21, at 1:00 pm. Admission is free.

This exhibit runs through December, 2013.