Here's a functional submersible toy that I had as a kid. My on-line pal Scott Van Sant (whose father served with Uncle Pat aboard USS LST 312 during the war) posted about this on facebook today. This is the G.I. Joe Sea-sled that really did work. Again, this toy might have worked, but the closest thing I had to the sea was my bathtub. This toy accommodated at 12" action figure and so this toy too didn't travel very far in the tub. This toy, like the Life Guard boat I had as a kid, had batteries in the hull. The tanks on the side would fill with water and this toy really ran deep...at least as deep as a bathtub would allow. The propellers churned the scuba diver to the other side of the tub in a matter of a half a second...big thrill.
I was disappointed at the time that the sled didn't come with a joe inside the box. I was always wanting to recruit new joes into my ranks. The sled did come with complete scuba diving gear. It was orange and didn't quite suit my uses for blowing up Nazi ships and subs. What commander would be so stupid as to send a G.I. Joe to blow up something dressing in bright orange wet suit? I wanted a black suit. I don't recall using the wet suit that much because it was so hard getting it on and off the figure. I'd just get a joe to take off his shirt and put the tanks on...wear the fins and masks. Sure the sea was frigid cold but he was tough - he could TAKE IT!!! Scott's little post today brought back some fragments of childhood memories.
I believe I once read where the G.I. Joe Seasled was only available through J.C. Penney back around 1966. I got a lot of my G.I. Joe stuff from Penney back in the day. The store used to be downtown before they relocated to the mall in 1974. There wasn't a toy department at J.C. Penney - mostly clothing. You could however order anything from the catalog and go down to the store and pick it up after a two or three weeks. I remember several times earning enough money for something I saw in the catalogue and thinking it a big deal to place the order by myself. The anticipation of waiting for the order to come in was agonizing.
I can still easily remember what that store looked like back then. Remember the huge old portraits hanging on the wall? Later, when I became a Boy Scout, J.C. Penney was where we'd go to get out official Boy Scout gear. The Boy Scout section was against the back wall.