Modern Combat Diving



When did US SOF units start using modern day rebreathers? I know the OSS used some in WWII, but I didn't think the UDTs and Marine Recon units were using it until the 50's- could someone clarify for me?


When did US SOF units start using modern day rebreathers? I know the OSS used some in WWII, but I didn't think the UDTs and Marine Recon units were using it until the 50's- could someone clarify for me?

Here's Wikis's timeline, but it doesn't really answer your question. 1943 apparently was the first time Lambertson trained USOSS.

Timeline of underwater technology
Around 1620 in England, Cornelius Drebbel made an early oar-powered submarine. Records show that, to re-oxygenate the air inside it, he likely generated oxygen by heating saltpetre (sodium or potassium nitrate) in a metal pan to make it emit oxygen. That would turn the saltpetre into sodium or potassium oxide or hydroxide, which would tend to absorb carbon dioxide from the air around. That may explain how Drebbel's men were not affected by carbon dioxide build-up as much as would be expected. If so, he accidentally made a crude rebreather nearly three centuries before Fleuss and Davis.[3]

In 1853 Professor T. Schwann designed a rebreather in Belgium; he exhibited it in Paris in 1878.[4]

In 1878 Henry Fleuss invented the first certainly known rebreather using stored oxygen and absorption of carbon dioxide by an absorbent (here rope yarn soaked in caustic potash solution), to rescue mineworkers who were trapped by water.[5][6]

The Davis Escape Set was the first rebreather which was practical for use and produced in quantity. It was designed about 1900 in Britain for escape from sunken submarines. Various industrial oxygen rebreathers (e.g. the Siebe Gorman Salvus and the Siebe Gorman Proto, both invented in the early 1900s) were descended from it; this link shows a Draeger rebreather used for mines rescue in 1907.

In 1903 to 1907 Professor Georges Jaubert, invented Oxylithe, which is a form of sodium peroxide (Na2O2) or sodium dioxide (NaO2). As it absorbs carbon dioxide it emits oxygen. In 1909 Captain S.S. Hall, R.N., and Dr. O. Rees, R.N., developed a submarine escape apparatus using Oxylithe; the Royal Navy accepted it. It was used for shallow water diving but never in a submarine escape[6]; it was used in the first filming (1907) of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

The first known systematic use of rebreathers for diving was by Italian sport spearfishers in the 1930s. This practice came to the attention of the Italian Navy, which developed its frogman unit Decima Flottiglia MAS, which was used effectively in World War II.[6]

In World War II captured Italian frogmen's rebreathers influenced design of British frogmen's rebreathers.[6] Many British frogmen's breathing sets' oxygen cylinders were German pilot's oxygen cylinders recovered from shot-down German Luftwaffe planes. Those first breathing sets may have been modified Davis Submarine Escape Sets; their fullface masks were the type intended for the Siebe Gorman Salvus. But in later operations different designs were used, leading to a fullface mask with one big face window, at first oval like in this image, and later rectangular (mostly flat, but the ends curved back to allow more vision sideways). One version had a flip-up single window for both eyes to let the user get binoculars to his eyes when on the surface. They used bulky thick diving suits called Sladen suits. Early British frogman's rebreathers had rectangular breathing bags on the chest like Italian frogman's rebreathers; later British frogman's rebreathers had a square recess in the top so they could extend further up onto his shoulders; in front they had a rubber collar that was clamped around the absorbent canister, as in the illustration below.[6]

In the early 1940s US Navy rebreathers were developed by Dr. Christian J. Lambertsen for underwater warfare. Dr. Lambertsen, who currently works at the University of Pennsylvania, is considered by the US Navy as "the father of the Frogmen".[7][8] Lambertsen held the first closed-circuit oxygen rebreather course in the United States for the Office of Strategic Services maritime unit at the Naval Academy on 17 May 1943.[8][9]