May 25, 1939 – Rescued Sailors of The USS Squalus – Statements to the Press – Mutual – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
May 25, 1939 – After nerve-wracking hours spent trying to reach the surviving sailors trapped on the Squalus, lying at the bottom of the sea near Portsmouth. The first surviving sailors surfaced, some 39 hours after the initial disaster happened.
The heroic effort brought public intrigue. Throughout the night, updates were telegraphed around the world, and family members listened closely as their loved ones were short on air and had only hours to live. By 10:15 AM, Boatswain’s Mate Martin Sibitsky carefully checked the 240 pounds of gear strapped to his body and prepared to enter the water. His task was to attach a steel wire to the escape latch of the Squalus to prepare for the deployment of the dive bell. Adding to the confusion, however, since the buoy telephone line snapped, Sibitsky didn’t have the Squalus’ precise location, so he only had minutes to perform the job before feeling the effects of intense nitrogen narcosis from the water pressure.
Location and contact was finally made with the Squalus, and the 33 survivors cheered when they heard his lead boots clang outside. He did his job in pitch dark without a hitch and safely returned to the surface.
The decision was made to send up the weakest survivors first. Every decision was thought out carefully, as the risk carried far too many unknowns. The plan was to make four trips, each lasting two hours per transport. Each trip would first carry up seven survivors, then eight, and nine for the last two trips. Up to that point, everything that could have gone wrong did, so the decision was made to carry more survivors each time to increase survivability.
Here is an interview (given by way of statement and not an actual interview at the time) with one of the survivors. It was Navy policy not to allow Personnel to be interviewed by the Press, so a statement was given by Judson T. Bland, one of the survivors to the press and it’s read by this Mutual reporter.
Here is that report as it was given and broadcast live on May 25, 1939.
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