May 24, 1939 – Report on rescue attempt of the USS Squalus – Mutual – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
May 24, 1939 – News for this day was about a nation holding its breath and casting its attention to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where a drama was being played out, live over the radio. The USS Squalus, a U.S. Navy Submarine which sank off the coast of Portsmouth, the result of a catastrophic failure and plunging to the bottom. No prior rescue had ever succeeded beyond 20 feet, and the Squalus was down 243 feet. During the 39-hour ordeal, U.S. Navy divers challenged standard operating procedures previously written only in theory and not in actual practice during one of the finest efforts of heroism, grit, and survival in diving history.
The USS Squalus (SS-192), a newly launched $5 million, 300-foot-long diesel electric submarine commissioned on March 1, 1939. Two months into the new submarine’s service on the morning of May 23, everything was going according to plan for Captain Oliver Naquin and his 58 crew members (four officers, 51 enlisted, three civilians). At 7:30 AM, a routine mission launched to patrol the Pisquataqa River near the Isle of Shoals, a small group of islands along the coast and between the states of New Hampshire and Maine.
After successfully completing 18 dives, she went down again off the Isles of Shoals on the morning of 23 May at 42°53′N 70°37′W. Failure of the main induction valve (the means of letting in fresh air when on the surface) caused the flooding of the aft torpedo room, both engine rooms, and the crew’s quarters, drowning 26 men immediately. Quick action by the crew prevented the other compartments from flooding. Squalus bottomed in 243 ft (74 m) of water.
This report, given by Mutual details the initial rescue of crew members; the first seven to be brought to the surface. The anticipation and excitement take place live as it was happening. Here is that report as it happened on the morning of May 24, 1939.
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