Teddy Roosevelt was the first American president to go aboard a submarine and participate in a dive. The USS Plunger dove beneath the surface of Long Island Sound on March 25th 1905 with the President on board.
President Roosevelt not only achieved this historical first but was the man directly responsible for establishing submarine pay. The naval Admirals and bureaucracy of the day thought that submarine duty was neither unusual nor dangerous, and classified it as shore duty. For that reason, submariners received twenty-five percent less pay than sailors going to sea in destroyers, cruisers and similar surface ships.
From a story researched by Robert Loys Sminkey, Commander, United States Navy, Retired:
“Roosevelt’s two hour trip on Plunger convinced him that this discrimination was unfair. He described submarine duty as hazardous and difficult, and he found that submariners “have to be trained to the highest possible point as well as to show iron nerve in order to be of any use in their positions…”
Roosevelt directed that officer service on submarines be equated with duty on surface ships. Enlisted men qualified in submarines were to receive ten dollars per month in addition to the pay of their rating. They were also to be paid a dollar for every day in which they were submerged while underway. Enlisted men assigned to submarines but not yet qualified received an additional five dollars per month.
Roosevelt did not dilly-dally once he made a decision. He issued an executive order directing the extra pay for enlisted personnel. This was the beginning of submarine pay!”