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Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History
     

Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History

by Peter Maas
 

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On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen—an extraordinary combination of

Overview

On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen—an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist, and man of action. In this thrilling true account, prize-winning author Peter Maas vividly re-creates a moment-by-moment account of the disaster and the man at its center. Could he actually pluck those men from a watery grave? Or had all his pioneering work been in vain?

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Mr. Maas...proves once again there is little he cannot achieve with the written word.
Boston Globe
Riveting.
Washington Post
Thrilling...breathlessly written.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Each time I pick up Maas, I feel that I have been given a backstage pass to an American moment.
Vanity Fair
Riveting.
Associated Press
A thrilling tale of naval heroism.
Life
Take a deep breath before diving into this Navy rescue.
Chicago Tribune
Suspenseful.
Portland Oregonian
Thrilling....A wonderful book...a harrowing tale of suspense.
Tom Brokaw
Peter Maas has given us a suspenseful tale of terror, courage, heroism and American military genius. I couldn't put it down.
Austin American Statesman
. . . riveting . . . The first audio in recent memory to glue me to the parking lot as I waited breathlessly to find out what happened next.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Maas, best known for his chronicling of the urban underworld (Underboss, Serpico, etc.), takes readers underwater for a thrilling account of the world's first rescue of a submarine. Before WWII, submariners were second-class citizens. Worse, until Charles "Swede" Momsen came along, it was standard procedure to treat downed subs as irretrievable. Fortunately for 33 men aboard the Squalus, Momsen had developed and tested pioneering rescue equipment (often at the risk of his own life) and was ready with his crew when the sub sank to a depth of 243 feet off Portsmouth, N.H., on May 23, 1939. While the captain of the Squalus kept the air slightly toxic so that his crew stayed drowsy and therefore docile, Momsen lowered his huge pear-shaped diving bell until it made contact with the sub's deck, then began to bring the men up in groups. Bad weather threatened, and then, on the last ascent, the cable tangled, and the final group of men had to be lowered to the ocean floor again and there await repairs. To the amazement of the surface crew, who had telephone contact with the occupants of the bell, they maintained morale by singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Unfortunately, 26 men had been drowned in the first few minutes of the sinking, and their bodies were not retrieved until the Squalus was recovered 113 days after the mishap. Maas anchors the gripping story in Momsen, whom he portrays as a larger-than-life hero, a brainy, brave iconoclast of the kind one associates with action movies. It's a white-knuckler of a read--but it's not for the claustrophobic. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-In 1939, the Navy's newest submarine, the USS Squalus, was test diving off the coast of New Hampshire when it plunged 243 feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Thirty-three crew members survived but there was no known way to rescue them. The admiral in charge of the Portsmouth Navy Base called in the one man who was involved in underwater rescue work. Naval officer Charles Momsen had set up a diving lab and created a large steel rescue chamber shaped like a bell to lower from the surface to the deck of a sunken sub. The project was unfinished and not tested under any but lab conditions. Earlier, Momsen had created a forerunner of the scuba tank called the Momsen lung that divers could use to remain underwater for an extended time. He had trained a small group of divers who worked with the lung and the diving bell at his Washington Navy Yard lab. Momsen and his group responded quickly to the emergency call and boarded a navy vessel hovering over the site of the sunken sub. Overcoming many obstacles and challenges to their personal courage as well as their scientific knowledge, they were able to rescue all surviving crew within 40 hours. Alternating chapters about the trapped men, their agonized families, and the rescue team make this a riveting account that is impossible to put down.-Penny Stevens, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061014598
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.88(d)

Read an Excerpt

Terrible Hours

The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History
By Peter Maas

Rebound by Sagebrush

Copyright ©2001 Peter Maas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0613458419

Chapter One



It was a Tuesday, May 23, 1939.

In New York City, Bloomingdale's department store was promoting a new electronic wonder for American homes called television.

With great fanfare, United Airlines began advertising a nonstop flight from New York to Chicago that would take only four hours and thirty-five minutes.

In baseball, a young center fielder for the New York Yankees named Joe DiMaggio was headed for his first major league batting title.

The film adaptation of the novel Wuthering Heights, starring the English actor Laurence Olivier in his first hit movie, was in its sixth smash week.

Another novel destined to become an American classic, Nathanael West's portrait of Hollywood, The Day of the Locust, was dismissed in the New York Times as "cheap" and "vulgar."

In Canada, the visiting British monarchs, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, met the Dionne quintuplets for the first time.

In London, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy advised an association of English tailors that they would never gain a foothold in the American market unless they stopped making trouser waistlines too high and shirttails too long.

In Berlin, as Europe teetered on thebrink of war, Hitler and Mussolini formally signed a military alliance between Germany and Italy with a vow to "remake" the continent. In Asia, meanwhile, Japan had finished another week of wholesale carnage in China.



That Tuesday morning, in the picture-postcard seacoast town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Federal architecture and cobblestone streets dating back to the late eighteenth century, Rear Admiral Cyrus W. Cole, commandant of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, the nation's oldest, received a group of visiting dignitaries. Cole was a peppery little man with an imposing head and a piercing gaze that made him seem larger than he actually was. Although not a submariner himself, he had a particular affinity for the men who manned the Navy's "pigboats." His only son served on one, and before coming to the Portsmouth yard, which specialized in submarine construction, Cole had commanded the Navy's underseas fleet. Now he liked to wisecrack, "They sent me back to see how they're built."

When one of his visitors asked the admiral if he thought the United States might be drawn into the looming conflict in Europe, he said he hoped not. If it proved otherwise, though, any enemy would rue the day.

You hear a lot about those German U-boats, he declared, but they couldn't compare with the submarines that the Portsmouth yard was sending down the ways. This very afternoon the newest addition to the fleet, the Squalus, would return to her berth after a series of test dives. He promised a tour, so they could see her for themselves.

"Squalus? What kind of name is that?"

Cole confessed that he'd had to look it up. "It's a species of shark. A small one. But with a big bite," he added, smiling.

Then Cole passed his visitors over to Captain Halford Greenlee, the yard's industrial manager. Their arrival, arranged at the last minute, had forced Greenlee to cancel plans to go down to the overnight anchorage of the Squalus and board her that morning. Greenlee had been especially looking forward to it. His son-in-law, Ensign Joseph Patterson, was the sub's youngest officer.

"Sorry you couldn't go out with her today," Cole said.

"It's not the end of the world," Greenlee replied. "I can always catch her another time."



Two reporters for the Portsmouth Herald at the yard on assignment for other matters were the first outsiders to hear the news. After frantically gathering whatever scraps of information were available, they raced back to the paper.

Minutes later, just past two p.m., the first stark, bell-ringing bulletin clattered over Associated Press teletypes to newspapers and radio stations throughout the country:


Continues...

Excerpted from Terrible Hours by Peter Maas Copyright ©2001 by Peter Maas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Tom Brokaw
Peter Maas has given us a suspenseful tale of terror, courage, heroism and American military genius. I couldn't put it down.

Meet the Author

Peter Maas's is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller Underboss. His other notable bestsellers include The Valachi Papers, Serpico, Manhunt, and In a Child's Name. He lives in New York City.

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