The Greatest Submarine Rescue Ever - Escaping Sinking Submarine USS Squalus

Video Statistics and Information

Captions Word Cloud
The date is May 23rd, 1939, and several hundred feet below the Atlantic waves just off the east coast of the United States, a group of submariners and their Captain huddle together in the freezing darkness. Their submarine has gone down, rear compartments flooding and causing the crippled sub to settle on the mud at the bottom of the sea. A rescue buoy with a telephone line was released hours ago, and yet still no contact had been established with the outside world. As far as the men are aware, nobody even knows that they've gone under, and every minute that goes by the air supply dwindles and the odds of rescue grow ever slimmer. Suddenly though in the pitch dark there's the ringing of the emergency telephone, rigged directly via hardline to the rescue buoy up top. Captain Oliver F. Naquin picks up the receiver and as he utters a greeting, the line goes dead. Up top a sea swell has severed the telephone line, leaving the trapped crew cut off from the world and with no idea if rescue will ever come. Between 1921 and 1938, eight hundred and twenty five sailors across eighteen submarines from various countries all died beneath the waves. The reputation of submarines was so poor that in the US, sailors called it 'the coffin service'. Insurance policies specifically dictated that they would not be paid out if the recipient died in a submarine accident. These underwater tools of war were by far the most dangerous ever created, and yet as World War I had proven, they could turn traditional naval power on its head. During the first world war, Britain operated the world's most formidable navy and kept the German navy boxed in on their home ports for the vast majority of the war- yet German submarines routinely slipped past Royal Navy ships to decimate shipping on the Atlantic, to the point that Britain's economy was put in dire jeopardy. Despite their dangers, navies around the world knew that the submarine was a vital tool of underwater warfare, and those that chose to ignore the use of subs did so only at great peril. A state of the art ship at her time, the Squalus was launched on the 14th of September 1938, just two months behind her sister ship. She would be officially commissioned on March 1st, 1939, and underwent sea trials during the following months. Commanding the state of the art ship was Captain Oliver F. Naquin, who headed a crew of five officers and 51 enlisted men. He was known as a stern commander, exactly the type of man you wanted in control of a ship where the smallest mistake could cost everyone on board their lives. As a diesel powered submarine, the Squalus would loiter at the surface long enough to charge her giant banks of batteries with her diesel engines. However, once the batteries were charged the ship would dive beneath the waves to avoid detection. One of the most advanced subs in the world, the Squalus could dive up to 250 feet and could travel up to 11,000 miles without refueling. On the morning of the 23rd of May, the Squalus once more put out for routine diving tests, moving 13 miles southeast of Portsmouth. Aboard that day were two Navy yard engineers and a General Motors representative, who were all there to evaluate the Squalus' ability to dive at high speed within 60 seconds- exactly as she would have to do during war time to avoid enemy planes. On the bridge, the Captain orders the dive to begin and the comms officer radios the sub's location back to Portsmouth as the diving klaxons begin to sound. Moving at 16 knots, the Squalus begins to sink beneath the waves, and in the control room the alarm board, also known as the “Christmas tree”, shows green lights across the board, indicating that all hull openings were closed. These opening included not just the main hatch and ballast tanks, but also induction pipes situated behind the conning tower, which fed air to the giant diesel engines and ventilated the boat, getting rid of the diesel exhaust. In order for the dive to be successful, the submarine had to quickly shut down the diesel engines, close the induction pipes, and turn on the battery-powered electric motors. The dive seems to be perfect, and in minutes the Squalus is already 20 feet below the waves. Suddenly Captain Naquin notices his ears pop from a fluctuation in the air pressure, and simultaneously a frantic plea comes over the ship's intercom from the engine room, “Take her up! The induction's open!” The Christmas tree shows green lights across the board, yet over the intercom the chief engineer is screaming for the boat to surface, and the roar of water can be heard in the background. Inside the engine room sea water is flooding through the induction pipes and quickly filling the compartment as men struggle to hang on and make their way to the main hatch. A sudden rush of air signals the ballast tanks being blown in an attempt to lift the drowning sub, and for a moment it looks as if it'll work- the sub's descent stops and the ship shudders in place, but then begins sinking again. Suddenly the stern plunges backwards at a 45 degree angle, sending sailors tumbling backwards into the freezing water. Those that had made it to the engine room's hatch are thrown back and away. On the bridge, Captain Naquin hangs on to the periscope as the sub tilts dramatically backwards. He makes a very hard decision, and immediately orders that all hatches be sealed. This will trap men in the flooded compartments, but may be the only way to save the ship. Electrician's Mate Third Class Lloyd Maness is at his post between the control room and the flooding rear compartments, trying to shove closed the 200 pound door, but the steep angle is making it almost impossible. Suddenly he hears shouts from the compartments behind him, men screaming for him to hold the door open- but Maness grunts with effort and slams the door shut, trapping the men behind it. With water already reaching the control room, it is the only choice to make, even if he has just doomed all the men behind that door to death. In the torpedo room at the tail of the sub, seventeen men try in vain to seal themselves in- but the rising sea water makes it impossible for them to seal their hatch. In the engine room, a sailor has reached one of the escape hatches and unlocked it, but the pressure of the ocean outside keeps it sealed shut and gives no chance for escape. Ahead of the sealed door keeping the rest of the sub from sinking, the forward battery room suddenly experiences a rapid voltage drain. Chief Electrician's Mate Lawrence Gainer realizes that the batteries have been exposed to sea water, and an explosion is imminent. As the power flickers off, he takes a flashlight and lowers himself down into the narrow crawl space underneath the main deck, crawling forward in several inches of water towards the giant battery banks. A single stray arc of electricity would instantly fry him, yet the sailor continues on. Reaching the bank of batteries, he disengages one of the two large disconnect switches, and suddenly a miniature lighting storm erupts right before his eyes- a cascade of blue-white electricity sizzles and melts the insulation on the hull, and half-blinds the sailor. Reaching through the arcing electricity to the second switch, he disengages the second switch, cutting the flow of electricity altogether and avoiding an explosion. His actions will ensure that the survivors have a hope of rescue, even if it's cost him part of his vision. The submarine continues its slow descent into the depths of the Atlantic. In the dark the survivors fear that the ship will implode at any second, and the hull groans and creaks as it takes on the weight of the ocean above it. Rated to a crush depth of 250 feet, the crew doesn't know just how far down this part of the ocean stretches, and while they are still on the continental shelf, they could hit a depth of up to 400 feet. Implosion would kill them all in an instant, underwater recordings of implosion events confirm that it occurs so quickly the human brain does not have time to register it happening- a small mercy for any doomed submariner. Suddenly though the crew is thrown to the floor as the sub hits the muddy floor below, settling 240 feet below the Atlantic. The 33 survivors take stock of their situation, they have approximately 48 hours of air and enough Momsen lungs for every survivor. The lungs are breathing devices designed to allow the crew to float to the surface, but they've only been tested to a depth of 200 feet, and even if they worked properly the crew could die from the bends. Swimming to the surface would be a last, desperate result. A rescue buoy has been dispatched, with signaling rockets being fired off automatically at a periodic rate. A telephone line attached to the buoy will allow the crew to speak with any would-be rescuers. In the dark the men wonder if there are survivors in any of the other compartments. They tap on air lines that lead from one end of the ship to the other, but there is no response. Many hours later, the crew can hear the sound of propellers over head and spirits soar- another submarine has discovered their location! A few minutes later, the phone rings- but almost as soon as Captain Naquin replies, an ocean swell snaps the taut telephone cable. The crew settles in once more, comforted at least by the thought that they have been found, and the Navy knows they are alive. Almost immediately the Navy orders the submarine tender Falcon to make haste out of New London, Connecticut. Aboard it is an experimental rescue chamber, in essence a giant diving bell, the inverted tumbler looking device had only ever been used in training and not in an actual rescue attempt. Its inventors, Lieutenant Commander Charles Momsen and Commander Allan McCann, both accompany the rescue chamber to assist in the recovery operation. Other navy ships arrive at the Squalus' location and use grappling hooks dragged across the sea floor in an attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the stricken sub. Finally a heavy anchor manages to snag the wreck, and the sailors both up top and below settle in for the overnight wait for the rescue ship to arrive. In the Squalus, the sailors communicate via Morse code with the ships above, banging out messages with welding hammers against the hull. A casualty count is generated and relayed back to Portsmouth, where family members and reporters are gathered, awaiting any news. As reports of the accident speed around the world, global attention turns to the rescue efforts- though none believe they will be successful. To date few submarine rescues had ever been attempted, let alone achieved. Throughout the night, Captain Naquin orders his men to engage in 'labor breathing', or short, sharp inhalations meant to conserve oxygen. This leaves the sailors with severe nausea and headaches, though from time to time the Captain releases stored oxygen to help with the symptoms. They might still have to swim for it, and if so, the men would need to be in physical condition to do so. At 0800 hours the Falcon at last moores over the Squallus, 23 hours after its sinking. An hour later a hard-hat diver begins his descent, carrying a cable connected to a winch on the rescue bell itself. He has to find the forward escape hatch and connect the cable to the hull of the Squalus, allowing the bell to guide itself in position over the hatch. Five minutes after leaping overboard, the men inside the sub hear the diver land with a loud thud on the deck over the forward torpedo room. With just a few inches of steel between them, the men can hear every word the diver communicates back to the surface and are elated. Yet the diver has been severely affected by the extreme depth, and is battling confusion and slow reflexes as he scrambles to find the hatch. After a few more minutes the diver at last succeeds in connecting the cable to the hatch, and signals the all clear up top. For an hour, the rescue bell makes its slow, steady descent to the Squalus, until at last settling gently around the hatch. A rubber gasket seals the chamber to the hatch and water is pumped out. This is the critical moment in the rescue- if the bell has been poorly designed the air lock could fail, and as the submarine hatch is opened the extreme pressure will rip the rescue bell free- killing the survivors and the rescuers both. Three taps on the hatch signals the all-clear from the rescue bell, and with a deep breath, Torpedoman First Class John Michalowski cranks it open. Water splashes down on him, but the seal holds! Three trips to the surface have already been made, and only ten survivors remain- including Captain Naquin who insists on being last. Loading into the rescue bell, the bell breaks free of the Squalus and begins its slow ascent. Suddenly though, the bell jams on its downward cable, immediately straining another cable which runs from the winch on the Falcon up above down to the bell itself. Under the enormous strain, five of the seven strands that weave together the heavy duty steel cable snap free, and a diver is immediately dispatched back down to the Squalus to cut the downward cable free. Once the cable is cut though, the crew above decide to let the bell drift back down to the bottom while they decide what to do next, and the bell slowly settles back down on the Atlantic floor. Captain Naquin can't help but chuckle ironically- he's survived a submarine sinking only to possibly die from sinking again on the rescue vehicle. At last though the sailors up top decide to pump compressed air into the rescue bell in order to lighten it, then, very carefully, the bell is lifted up by hand, dozens of sailors straining with the steel cable, raising the bell inch by inch from the bottom of the sea floor. Four hours later, the bell is at last at the surface. A navy court inquiry concluded that a mechanical malfunction doomed the ship, but exonerated the Squalus crew and singled out Captain Naquin for outstanding leadership during the crisis. Twenty six men in total died that day, but thirty three survived- many continuing to serve aboard submarines, where four would die in action during World War II. Would you ever serve aboard a submarine? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don't forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!
Channel: The Infographics Show
Views: 866,834
Rating: 4.8451896 out of 5
Keywords: submarine, sub, military, NAVY, Us Navy, rescue, mission, USS Squalus, US, United States, USA, Germany, economy, ocean, animated history, history, sailor, sailors, army, us military, united states navy, united states of america, us army, marines
Id: tRzNr9Q9iOw
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 12min 57sec (777 seconds)
Published: Fri May 10 2019
Reddit Comments
Related Videos
Please note that this website is currently a work in progress! Lots of interesting data and statistics to come.