Far from being pleased, they were outraged by what they saw as his insubordination in not going through appropriate channels. The "Momsen lung" was just the first of Momsen's many brilliant ideas.
He was doubtful that it would be sufficient when the water was too deep, or too cold, and in parallel developed a diving bell, which could be lowered down to a stranded submarine and pick up crew members though an escape hatch. Momsen's superiors grudgingly admitted that it was a breakthrough, but thought they had a score to settle after the supposed insubordination in the earlier project; they spitefully insisted on naming the rescue bell after another member of the project, and giving him the greater part of the credit.
It says a lot about Momsen's dedication that he only admitted many years later how hurt he was by this petty piece of interdepartmental politics. Although several examples of Momsen's rescue bells were built, they had never been tested in a real situation. Then, in May , a new sub, the Squalus , suddenly sank during initial testing. Momsen immediately flew to the scene, mobilizing a bell and some of his best divers. He coordinated every aspect of the rescue mission, which was extremely difficult and hazardous, and got everyone up without loss of a single life; it was rather like an underwater version of Apollo The Navy was not content, and wanted to know why the Squalus had sunk.
Momsen then also led the salvage operation, where his men had to make over dives. He successfully brought the boat up to the surface, and got it towed to a dry dock. Once again, there were innumerable problems, but not one of Momsen's divers even suffered serious injury. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the Squalus rescue, but some of Momsen's later exploits are if anything even more impressive. During World War II, a new type of torpedo had been issued to Pacific Fleet submarines, and it rapidly became clear to everyone who used them that there was a serious design flaw.
When the torpedo was fired at a target broadside-on, it would often not explode; the submariners were forced to unlearn their training and attack at an angle, where the target presented a smaller cross-section and was correspondingly harder to hit. Senior Naval officers refused to admit that the issue existed, but Momsen acquired a batch of torpedoes, and carried out tests where he fired them directly at a cliff face. Sure enough, a torpedo refused to explode, just as the submariners had said.
Momsen salvaged the unexploded torpedo, which contained pounds of TNT, and personally cut it open to see what had gone wrong. He was able to pinpoint the mechanical problem, and localize it to a firing pin which was a millimeter or so too long.
The Terrible Hours
Within a few weeks, all the remaining torpedoes had been modified by having their firing pins trimmed, and they functioned perfectly for the rest of the war. And I sometimes get annoyed because third-party software doesn't work as advertised, or my superiors are insufficiently appreciative of my efforts. Puts things in perspective, doesn't it? As I said, a truly inspiring story. View all 5 comments. Sep 28, Steve rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Anyone, particularly naval history buffs.
Commander Swede Momsen as its architect and guide. Momsen, the head of an experimental diving team, was summoned into action on May 23, after the Squalus, a new submarine on a training exercise, went down in the North Atlantic Ocean. As the inventor a of a special rescue chamber that had yet to be tested in the field, Momsen was the first man the Navy called.
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Before Momsen, men who went down with subs were considered a lost cause because of the immense complications that would be involved in a rescue. I happened upon this book while shopping, and it jumped out at me. Thank the good Lord that in , our men at sea had a determined, compassionate man like Swede Momsen looking after them. Most of the real heroes perform inspiring acts of courage and pass on without the world at large knowing their names. View 2 comments.
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This was an interesting and at times very exciting and harrowing story. It was also quite dry at times. The beginning was so filled with names and titles that it was hard to keep track of.
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Once the "accident" happens, it gets much better, but was still written in a matter of fact and unemotional way. While I felt terrible for all involved, I never really got attached to them. I like non-fiction better when it reads more like fiction. Still, I'm glad I read this I learned a lot about submarines This was an interesting and at times very exciting and harrowing story. I learned a lot about submarines and deep sea diving and a lot of the changes that came about due to this historic incident.
Apr 20, Shaun rated it really liked it Shelves: read-in , non-fiction. An inspirational story of the wonders of human ingenuity and perseverance that lead to an impossible rescue, The Terrible Hours packed a double punch. On the surface this is the recounting of the greatest submarine rescue in history, but really this is the story of Swede Momsen, a dedicated scientist and determined visionary, whose ideas revolutionized rescue at sea, among other things.
A nice, short, and uplifting read. Luckily, an int An inspirational story of the wonders of human ingenuity and perseverance that lead to an impossible rescue, The Terrible Hours packed a double punch. Luckily, an internet search had lots to offer. Nov 15, Andrew Bass rated it it was amazing.
The Terrible Hours: The Epic Rescue of Men Trapped Beneath the Sea
Swede Momsen is a hero. A real, true, understated, largely unknown, American hero. Not for the flashy exploits of his Navy career. By all accounts, he wasn't a flashy guy. Swede Momsen is a hero because he spent his entire life fixing problems that a bureaucratic system didn't want to be bothered with. Before GPS, cellular communication, and Sonar, what would you do if a Submarine lost control and sank to the ocean floor?
What if you went through training, were assigned to a submarine, and when you asked about what the procedure was if the submarine sank or lost control, everyone looked at you like you just violated some sort of taboo? Unfortunately, that was the reality for submariners before Swede Momsen. Momsen tried and failed to get funding and permission to develop a rescue plan but was sidestepped and rejected.
Life Is Rescues
Momsen did it on his own, under the table, using volunteer divers and his own body as test subjects. One of the more chilling and gut wrenching occurrences was a sub that sank in shallow waters--something like feet below the surface--yet rescue teams could only watch helplessly from the surface as the men below died over the course of the following days.
For Momsen, that was the last straw. If the Navy refused to approve the research, Momsen would do it on his own, sneaking into closed facilities after hours, using his own ingenuity and limited resources to fix the problem of deep water rescues. In time, he developed a reputation as a guy who had a particular set of expertise but it was assumed by many that he wouldn't ever be able to apply those skills in a real world situation.
Momsen is called because no one else anywhere has ever bothered to come up with a plan.
Looking for trouble with a national team of emergency-response volunteers.
The ensuing account is one of the most thrilling true life accounts I've ever read. All of Momsen's hard work and theoretical rescue methods are finally put into play as he attempts to locate and rescue the remaining survivors of the half flooded submarine sunk in deep water 9 miles off the coast. The men involved in the rescue and the volunteers who worked with Momsen during his deepwater dives throughout his research put themselves at nearly an equal risk as the men inside the Squalus.
No, this problem was basically solved by one man who doggedly pressed onward against the wishes of the Navy. Money talks after all. One of the most fascinating nonfiction accounts of real heroism I've ever read. I need more books like this. Books that illuminate the unsung heroes that truly made a difference in people's lives without seeking fame or even a pat on the back. Momsen didn't need those things. He just wanted to save the lives of sailors and knew he could solve a problem that was being ignored because of the perceived monetary cost.
Excellent read. Jun 18, Brian rated it really liked it. Peter Maas is an old style reporter. He is from the school that demands creating stories from the facts at hand. This book is a history, but it does not read like one. This story moves along at a 30 knot clip and demands your attention to the details of this incredible and almost unbelievable rescue story. Maas actually developed this story from an article about Charles "Swede" Momsen he previously published in the "Saturday Evening Post" in At that time, as he explains it, the story was mo Peter Maas is an old style reporter.
At that time, as he explains it, the story was more or less overshadowed by many of the historical events of ' Not to mention that a story about World War II hero was not exactly great reading during the tumultuous war-protester years of the 's. The last thing that people wanted to read about was a war hero from the previous generation.
The author only recently returned to his old story because he felt that people are much more responsive to the "Saving Private Ryan" and "Greatest Generation" heroism. He is correct, though I hope to God it is not a passing fad.
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