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The best understanding of America or so it was with the realisation that this nation is young yet. That she is still new and unfinished. That even now America is man's greatest adventure in time and space. The University of North Carolina presents American Adventure. Study of man in the New World. His values and his characteristics who he is what he believes what he lives by American Adventure is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational television and radio centers. Written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton. Today's program presents Bob Thomas as as really in a man of iron.
Nobody ever tells the story of Ezra leave 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. And General Washington was losing battles and losing ground. That concerns a place called Whitehall stairs in New York Harbor and other things. A spy. Made of metal with a tiny window on that side. The thing was drawn up close to the bank. Two miles away only the British police. They are not home his fleet holding the harbor but not for long in general. Not for long my friend. When you have confidence in this thing you have built this underwater contraption Bushnell.
Yes I have. But if it sinks a British ship I'll be amazed at well sir if that's really handled properly and doesn't panic how easily I don't know. You can't possibly be too calm knowing how much this means to General Washington in the cause and knowing the danger involved. Where is it. Looking over the water boats are leaving. Are you ready. Yes General I reckon so. Would you come here please. Yes sir. It looks like a good night for the mission doesn't it. Yes 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 numb general. As a really doesn't know what fair is do you late. 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 many 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 Lee thank you. If you can sink that eagle and frighten the British fleet out of this harbor then you will shorten this war and make victory more certain. Otherwise well I'll do what I can say. I'll be waiting by the water boat until you're ready to shove me off Mr. Bush now. Well what do you say most of us know as really is going to be all right. And with a little law did you notice his eyes. No. Deep under their sockets hardly a trace of fear. But his hands were clinched the whole time he was talking to us. Even so any man would be apprehensive as he stands on this bank and looks out across the harbor at the British fleet and then compares it to this tiny underwater boat in which he'll
be a captive closed in alone in a boat designed to move under the surface of the harbor to an engagement unlike any in the history of the world. Yes but the hopes of the new nation riding under the water with him. Yes there's bound to be fear in his mind but in his eyes Bush No. I saw no fear. 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 that your mine is not going to be cleared 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. Sit down on the wooden seat. You got fastened in there. Yes go ahead. 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 but then the weight of this water reaches a certain point and the boat goes under. 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 now. 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 was light enough to run and when you get to the Eagle I drilled a hole in her side with that cork screw you 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 a charge on my tail. I'll be able 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 comp is working properly address. Let me see. Yes yes it is I guess but this phosphorescent wood doesn't light up much. You can't hold 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. And you hear me as well. Yes. All right. Push him out of the lot on the one of mercy take it easy out there. You don't busted my shins. All right your birth records show that you can thank me as you may know as rock and roll lady get away from the slang Bush now we have me I won't. Good luck. It's up to you. Israelis sat in the tiny waterboy prison Satine doctors. Through a small window we could look out so we 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 and a water boat called the American Turco. The first submarine attack in the history of the world. How awful Archie reckon he is not far. It won't move fast. Why did you make that water boat in the shape you did. All it's going to be better than pear shape makes it impossible for it to turn over in a current. 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 the reached out in desperation for some possible way to a whole NEW YORK This idea came along and 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 wood and metal prison and looking in the darkness for a 64 gun British customs. I wonder what he's thinking. Me I'm wrong. On. That. Cha cha cha cha. Cha. Cha. Cha. Cha. Cha.
Cha. Cha. I thought it was all about it before I was if I don't know how to cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha. What's the matter with the way you got out there to the peak of the roof. But you wouldn't jump would be it. Are you afraid Weiss for it takes a brave boy to leap off a barn roof. That makes the third time you told us he was going to jail their time a bit up on that roof. 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 it's time to see you 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. I want to jump as you know chop chop. Come on and jump.
Sure. Chop chop chop. Chop. 30 minutes up 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 to 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. But you know what I mean. Drink inside as more water flowed into the glass. He turned off the water talking to 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 clock tearing startled him. He shook his head erratically. Then as if forcing himself out of a deep sleep he sat erect shook his head then 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. Yes. Sir. Three minutes later the surface of New York Harbor less work and as the submarine emerged as really clawed open the air vent fresh air surged in he leaned his head back and breathed deeply. It was always the same even in the trial runs always difficult to remember.
You'd have to come up sooner next time or one of these times. He would not remember. He closed the air vent and with his foot he struck the water cock and once more the water bolts in the image. 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 see it. Hope world was a third of the way the British fleet doesn't seem far to me. I expected just as really yes.
Yes one of General Washington really is a third of the way. I don't think I did I would never want to see you on that bomb roof again. Never again is there. Now I want your promise is right. I want you to promise me never to go on that bomb roof again do you hear. Do you hear as well. I don't care what your brothers say. If you had jumped you might have hurt
yourself. I have talked to your brothers Now promise me as you promised me. Promise me you are I will put you in that pantry until you do promise me do you hear. I don't. Oh right his right into the pantry. Come on in with you. Now when you promise you can come out and not be fall out. Oh oh oh oh oh oh 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 oh oh oh oh oh oh
you're. 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. JEAN.
Why would you want in the pantry when I come up. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. I don't care if you did go on the Barn rule. You should lock him in that pantry there. Good lord woman what you trying to do to your own son make him afraid and make him a 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. Oh you were a boy should be taken out and horsewhipped you've gotten to the place where you have to jump off that barn roof. He has to jump now. 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 a voice get back now go on as you got to jump now you've got to find out that you can jump. CHO cha cha.
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 hear it. Don't take no joy you got to jump. Can you hear me. Chop chop. Come on boy. Don't just stand there on the roof. Jump jump jump jump jump jump as high as ride jump jump jump jump. Joey was. Their boy. All right. You did it. You go to Boise as we did it. You're all right boy. You're all right. You guys don't need to be afraid anymore. That's what you have to do sometimes boy.
You got to jump when you can't overcome your fears. You got to jump in spite of them. That's what even a really brave man must do sometimes. Jump jump jump. Jump Jump. A long way from shore under the shadow of the British vessel legal eagle submarine and is really inside. So why is that noise. How does why God why God wants them mass care. Give a listen. So tonight seems like something I would share this city Yeah I know that's a strange one. What do you think it is
you know most likely enough and most likely a log floating down the river. Thanks so. Probably a lock. Same as like a lob would move on down with the current. It does that. Better go on dad can tackle on deck as he would the sailor could see the ripples of your car. So we went below. Went back to bed with shoes on them. Or in the street. How are you feeling under the water. The Munsters bendable. Out in the American submarine as Ruby continued to work trying to catch the magazine of powder to the British that. 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. To breathe deeply. He gasped for air.
His mind became a confused muddle of sound. Thoughts of past days in Connecticut. And his youth. His girl. Her hair the color of flax but infinitely more beautiful. With a ribbon. 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 daylight. Yes I know. No explosions no water boat not too late to drown
most likely said he wasn't necessarily dead yet Brueggemann you know but as rarely do you suppose a brave man thinks about when he knows he's near and thinks about saving himself I guess. Different stories about that. Some celebrated 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 can forget 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 telling me 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 that. I'll be at headquarters General. There she was. What. Well my house where
still over a mile out. But that's what about all right and the darn phone must still be running there. Did you do all right as well. Well that's a fine boat Mr. Bush know but the British flag ship is coated with metal metal and 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 for 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 a new drill. Look Lee. As for yesterday I have all day to figure out a way to do it. To attach ad magazine a patent to the flagship all day to get ready. Yessir. 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 get that drill problem licked Mr. Bush you know. And tonight I'll put myself back out there enough to touch the magazine to the ER. That's the story of Ben's really 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 surfaced for a. While there is 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 communication center of the University of North Carolina. Irwin director American Adventure is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of
educational broadcasters made possible by the educational radio and television center. IN MAN IN MY MOM Thomas was as were many. Others in the cast were Phil Johnston Jane see Alice Waters Jack school george brown horse paedo son Gene Williams and
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.
Other 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.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
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: 00:29:17
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Chicago: “American adventure; Man of iron,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 19, 2022,
MLA: “American adventure; Man of iron.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 19, 2022. <>.
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