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).
The LARU is what the initials SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) originally meant; Lambertsen changed his invention's name to SCUBA in 1952; 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 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.
Many diving rebreathers are descended from it. However, there were earlier underwater uses of rebreathers: