Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit

The Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU) is an early model of closed circuit oxygen rebreather used by military frogmen. Christian J. Lambertsen designed a series of them in the US in 1940 (patent filing date: 16 Dec 1940) and in 1944 (issue date: 2 May 1944).[1]


The LARU is what the initials SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) originally meant; Lambertsen changed his invention's name to SCUBA in 1952;[2] but later "SCUBA", gradually changing to "scuba", came to mean (first in the USA) any self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. (Modern diving regulator technology was invented by Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943 and was not related to rebreathers; nowadays the word SCUBA is largely used to mean Gagnan's and Cousteau's invention and its derivatives.)


Lambertsen designed the LARU while a medical student and demonstrated the LARU to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (after already being rejected by the U.S. Navy) in a pool at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. in 1942[3][4] The OSS "Operational Swimmer Group" was formed and Lambertsen's responsibilities included training and developing methods of combining self-contained diving and swimmer delivery including the LARU.[5][6]


  • Two apparent large lengthways backpack cylinders under a hard metal cover: the right cylinder is oxygen and the left apparent cylinder is the absorbent canister.
  • Fullface mask with small eye holes like an old-type gasmask
  • Two breathing bags, one on each shoulder.
  • 4 lengths of wide corrugated breathing tubes in a loop: from the mask to one of the breathing bags to the canister to the other breathing bag to the mask.
  • Its harness is a strong cloth jacket that enclosed the diver's chest.
  • Mid front, a long zipped pocket: the diagrams do not show whether it was for kit or for diving weights.

Many diving rebreathers are descended from it. However, there were earlier underwater uses of rebreathers:

See also

  • Rebreather  Apparatus to recycle breathing gas


  1. Lambertsen's patent in Google Patents
  2. See Lambertsen's homage by the website
  3. Shapiro, T. Rees (February 19, 2011). "Christian J. Lambertsen, OSS officer who created early scuba device, dies at 93". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  4. staff (2013-10-30). "'America's first frogman' dies in Bend at 95". KTVZ. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  5. Vann RD (2004). "Lambertsen and O2: beginnings of operational physiology". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (1): 21–31. PMID 15233157. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  6. Butler FK (2004). "Closed-circuit oxygen diving in the U.S. Navy". Undersea Hyperb Med. 31 (1): 3–20. PMID 15233156. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
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