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The University of North Carolina presents American adventure written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton American Adventure is produced and recorded by the University of North Carolina communications center. Earl when director. Nobody ever tells the story of as really you've Connecticut. And that's very strange because New England people talk about their heroes as they should. But there's a reason they don't talk about is really why most of our history books don't mention his name. It's an acceptable reason. But we're going to mention his name anyway and tell his story. At least that part of his story that concerns the first year of the American Revolution. When General Washington was losing battles and losing ground that concerns of place cold white
hole stairs in New York Harbor and nothing. Else. Spring. Bound with metal with a tiny window on its side. The thing was drawn up close to the bank. Two miles away only the British fleet. Lee you volunteered for this expedition and if you want to reconsider the danger involved. Yes General. What is it. I thought perhaps you might be afraid and understandably so. Well I'm no general as relaid doesn't know what fair is do you Les. Well yes I was afraid once or twice in my life when oh I remember once my brother said I was afraid to jump off the ridge of Paul's barn in Connecticut. They were right too. What did you do. I jumped herd you know. Don't worry about this mission tonight gentlemen. I aim to do one thing. Take your little boat out there in the harbor Mr. Bush now all the way to the Eagle and I aim to sink the eagle with Lord how any 64 got it.
And I reckon before I get back I wish I hadn't started but when I get back I'll be glad I went. All right leg over it one more time. Look here Mr. Bush No I've tested this water boat and I know over the operational procedure again. Now Les Your mind's not going to be clear. There's not enough air to breathe. You get confused. Now tell me what you do once more. All right. I get inside the water boat through this little hatch in the top. Yes you close the hatch. Close it down and lock it. Then I pump that handle and it turns the propeller shaft and the boat starts moving across the surface of the water. Exactly now to submerge beneath the harbor. I open the water cock with my foot. And water flows into the bottom of the water build. Then the weight of this water reaches a certain point and the
boat goes under. All right. Then to move underwater I put the handle in the propeller turns and it goes right along for how long do you pump until I get to the Eagle. No. There is one other thing you have to remember or you'll end up at the bottom of the harbor. Get hold of your temper Mr. Bush No. Yes. I work very hard on this. You must remember to surface the craft at least every 30 minutes at least that often. In order to open the airport and get fresh air. Yes. I remember that. Now to return to the surface. I grabbed that little pump handle and pumped out the water in the tank beneath until she's lightened up to run and when you get to the Eagle I drill a hole in her side with that corkscrew you've got sticking out the top of the water but put a pipe in the hole hang that magazine of powder on that pipe and set it to go off and then get out of there. You'll have 12 minutes before she blows. Well that charge on my tail I'll be able to move a long ways in 12
minutes. Good bye Les. Good bye see you got four miles out four miles back. So take your time. Good luck. Thank you sir thank you. All right. Close the hatch and push me further into the water. Your compass working properly as well. Let me see. Yes yes it is I guess. But this past present what doesn't light up much you can hope for success without the compass. You sound like the voice of doom Mr Bush No. Close the hatch and push me off. We'll be waiting for you Ezra. All right. Push him out of the water with the quote of mercy take it easy out there. You don't busted my shins.
All right your birth records show that you can. Thank me now. Yes rock and roll let me get away from this thing Bush now we have me I won't. Good luck. It's up to you. Israelis sat in the tiny waterboard prison Satine doctors. Through a small window he could look out so he could see the horizon the clouds lit by moonlight. Pressed his face to the glass as if the view was spectacular and he could not see enough. Then abruptly he sat back straightened up. Composed himself. Felt for the pump handle which move the propeller shaft. So began on an August evening in 1776 when a water boat called the American turtle the first submarine attack in the
history of the world. Man it's awful hard to reckon he is not far. He won't move fast. Why did you make that water boat in the shape you did. Only thing to be better at Pascha it makes it impossible for it to turn over in a current or unlikely at least. Yes that's true. So I put it together like that and working on the idea long time General Washington has great hopes for it but I feel he reached out in desperation for some possible way to hold New York. This idea came along and he grabbed at it. He says it's a concept of genius. I believe his hopes will be realized tonight concept of genius as much depending on that young man out there locked in a wooden metal prison and looking in the darkness for a 64 gun and British customs. I wonder what he's thinking.
Me I'm wrong. Cha cha. Cha cha cha. You can make a. Joke. I thought it was a sissy all the while before I was a I don't know how I would do that cha cha cha cha cha
cha. What's the matter what you got out there to the peak of the roof but you wouldn't jump would you Are you afraid Bryce for it takes a brave boy to leap off a barn roof. That makes the third time he told us he was going to jail their time had been up on that roof as well but you never do. We come out of the house and stand here waiting but you don't jump as I come up from the feel this time to see it jump. But you didn't jump. Chomp chomp chomp chomp. What does mama know about it. I tell you I've jumped off that roof before. Sure yeah as I say no one is or what's the matter boy. You're not afraid are you going to jump jump jump jump. Come on and jump best of charm. Chop chop chop chop.
30 minutes out from shore. There was no sound in the water boat except for as relieved as heavy breathing. He knew he had to go to the surface and get oxygen. But he had forgotten how to surface the craft his mind was dulled he could not remember his hand moved the handle of the water pump touched it rested there. But he didn't move the pump handle. Instead his foot went to the water cock and opened it again. I mean drink his eyes as more water flowed into the vessel. He turned off the water cockpit. The noise worried him. Or perhaps he realized that more water would only take him further down into the Hudson River. He ran a hand over his face he leaned forward on the small seat that had been provided for and he wiped his face with his hand. He loosened his shirt collar he tore at the front of his shirt but the noise of the cloth tearing startled him. He shook his head erratically. Then as if forcing himself out of a deep sleep he sat erect shook his head and looked down the wooden handle.
He touched it. He put his huge right hand around it. Then he began to move it and pump the water out of the water. All right. Three minutes later the surface of New York Harbor was broken as the submarine emerged as really clawed open the air vent fresh air surged and he leaned his head back and breathed deeply. It was always the same even in the trial runs always difficult to remember. He would have to come up sooner next time or one of these times he would not remember. He closed the air vent then with his foot he struck the water cock and once more the water bolts of the winch.
Maybe the British saw him when he broke water. Not likely. Why should they keep careful watch knowing how helpless we are to do them harm. Don't suppose that I know what it was. Even if they did sit home while it was a third of the way the British fleet doesn't seem far to me. I expected dust as really. Yes Methodist Yes. One of your ride to General Washington. Tell him I was really IS a third of the way. Out. I don't believe. I have got to do with. I never want to see you on that barn roof again never again as you are.
Now I want your promise is right. I want you to promise me never to go on that barn roof again do you hear. Oh you hear as well. I don't care what your brothers say. If you had jumped you might have hurt yourself. I'll talk to your brothers. Now promise me as Promise me oh oh oh oh. Promise me you are. I'll put you in that pantry until you do. Promise me do you hear it. Oh right his right into the pantry. Come on in with you now when you promise you can come out and not before. Oh now you can't open that door from the inside and you'll stay in there until you promise me until you promise me you will not come out out
Oh. Two thirds of the way up from shore the first American submarine lay on the surface of New York Harbor. The men aboard the British ship went about their chores and perhaps talked of home and they talked of women of course. Occasionally a man might mention the war or the Army of this this revolutionary General Washington. They did not see the American submarine. They did not notice as once more it began to submerge beneath the water. They had no way to know from history or from common sense. But there was then below the water and the thing that we should them harm. Me me
me. Come Out Boy what's the man. Why would you want in the pantry for when I come out. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. I don't care if you did go on the barn roof. You should lock him in that pantry there. Good lord woman what you trying to do to your own son make him afraid. Maybe make him scared a coward. Oh oh oh oh of course I don't want to jump off a barn roof. He's my son too. But what other way is there now. All you will do a boy should be taken out and horsewhipped you've gotten to the place where you has to jump off that barn roof. He has to jump Nacho chop chop chop chop chop. Now boy just just climb up the side and over the roof and and when you get to the peak you call to us those we can step back out of the way you want to boys get back now go on Ezra you got to jump now you gotta find out that you can jump.
Cho cho. Chop chop chop chop. All right now everybody back. All right as we're standing clear now. Pick your spot on the ground and go remember when you hit. Don't take no edger you got to jump. Can you hear me. Chop chop. Come on boy. Don't just stand there on the roof. Jump I tell you child jump as run jump jump jump jump as ride jump jump jump jump jump on. There boy is all right you did it. You go to Boise as we did. You're all right boy. You're all right you
got no need to be afraid anymore. That's what you have to do sometimes Boy you gotta jump when you can overcome your fears yeah you gotta jump in spite of them that's what even a really brave man must do sometimes. Jump in chump. Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe. A long way from shore under the shadow of the British vessel legal eagle submarine and as really inside the eagle flies is that the noise rules were. How does why God why God grants them mass care given as soon as light. Seems like something I would care. This it is yeah
I know that's a Strad one. What do you think it is. Oh you know most likely enough and most likely a log floated down the river. Thanks so. Probably a lock. Same as like in logwood. Move on down with the current. It does that. Better gone Dad can tackle on deck look as he would the sailor could see nothing except the ripples of your car. So we went below. Went back to bed. Well with. Me. With shoes on the morals of three hours being on the water. The Munsters bendable century. But in the American submarine as Ruby continued to work. Trying to touch the magazine of powder to the British I could not see the handle of the corkscrew he was operating from inside the vessel but it seemed that the corkscrew itself would not penetrate the side of the British ship and there was not enough oxygen.
He breathed deeply. He gasped for air. His mind became a confused muddle of sounds. Of thoughts of past days in Connecticut and his youth. His girl. Her hair the color of flax but infinitely more beautiful. With the ribbon when he should surface the vessel for air. He shouldn't try to go on. It might be they would discover him of course but he couldn't breathe. Any man would surface the vessel even a brave man. But instead his foot moved slowly to the water cock. He touched it turned and slowly the American submarine began to submerge even further below the surface of the harbor as really had decided to go under the vessel and try to find a better place to attach the magazine. On the other side. Almost any light. Yes I know. No explosion has really no water boat.
Not too late. Drown most likely. Said he wasn't necessarily dead yet Brueggemann you know. But as really do you suppose a brave man thinks about when he knows he's near them and thinks about saving himself I guess. Different stories about that. Some say brave men think about their fears. Others say they don't but keep their mind on the job. Most people probably forget to be afraid. Yes but when a man came for dead it goes on. That's an accomplishment to have courage in spite of fear. Why doesn't he come back. Why doesn't he surface it's light enough for us to seen. Yes you're right General Washington and tell him we failed. No wait not yet. Yes sir. Call the messenger back. General Head High hold your water boat is down at the bottom Bush will come along. I'm waiting here all right. No harm in them I'll be at headquarters General. There she was. I thought well wow swear. Still over a mile out. But that's the water boat all right. I'm
darn fool must still be running there. Did you do all right as well. Well that's a fine boat Mr. Bush now but the British flag ship is coated with metal metal. I reckon that's what it is. I couldn't bore a hole in her bottom. You got to the ship. Yes or she to Bloem. But I couldn't touch the magazine with all the dangers the impossible situations the one thing we didn't know defeated as one thing. I want you to promise to push into something that could be fixed easily a different drill perhaps. It couldn't be too thick and let alone the ships. Well that's all you need for a new drill. Look at her. Yes or I have all day to figure out a way to do it. To attach that magazine to the flagship all day to get ready yesterday and then tonight tonight Lee. I reckon I know what you want Mr. Bush now. Will you do it. I
reckon so. I know General Washington will be pleased. Well I never was one for decorations not for just jumping off a barn or something like that. You've got that drill problem licked Mr. Bush now. And tonight I'll put myself back out there to touch the magazine to the. That's the story of Ben's relief from the world's first submarine attack. For a second night as really took his place inside the American Underwater boat called the turtle. And once more the hatch was clamped down and he was pushed off into the water. Once more he started out to fight the British fleet. Along. And once more he failed. This time because a seaman spotted his strange craft
and surface for aid. So there's the reason as really his name is not listed in the history books. He failed. But we like his story. Even so. And we feel good about presenting it after these 18 decades of American independence. The story of as really of Connecticut decorated for bravery by General George Washington a man of honor. The American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton and is produced by the communications center of the University of North Carolina. And man of iron Robert Thomas was as really American Adventure is recorded in the studios of the department of radio television and motion pictures on the campus at Chapel Hill.
American adventure
Man of iron
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The story of Ezra Lee, a man who piloted a primitive submarine during the American Revolution.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
Lee, Ezra, 1749-1821
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Actor: Thomas, Robert
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Subject: Bushnell, David, 1740-
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:12
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Chicago: “American adventure; Man of iron,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023,
MLA: “American adventure; Man of iron.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <>.
APA: American adventure; Man of iron. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from