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Rescue of the Squalus Swede Momsen Submarines People Under the Sea Resources

Swede Momsen: Early Navy Years

Charles "Swede" Bowers Momsen
Charles Bowers "Swede" Momsen
(USNA Archives)

Charles Bowers "Swede" Momsen was born in Flushing, Queens, New York, on June 21,1896. He was to become one of the best-known pioneers in the field of submarine rescue in American history, primarily due to his invention of the Momsen Lung, an underwater escape device. His dedication to the rescue of sunken Submariners would eventually earn him a Distinguished Service Medal in 1929.

Momsen's Naval career almost ended prematurely. He entered the US Naval Academy in 1914. Due to grade problems, he had to leave during the spring of his plebe (freshman) year. For most young men, this would have been the end of a dream. However, Momsen doggedly pursued another appointment to the Academy. He succeeded and entered the Academy to repeat his plebe year. He graduated in 1919, a year early, due to the beginning of World War I.

S-1
Momsen served as the Commanding Officer of the Submarine S-1 (U.S. Navy photo)

From 1919 to 1921, Momsen served on the battleship USS Oklahoma. In 1921, he transferred to submarines and went to the US Navy Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, for training. He graduated in January 1922. A year and a half later, he took command of the O-15, an aging submarine. A few years after that, he was assigned to the S-1 as Commanding Officer. The S-1 was a World War I "S" Class submarine. At that time, it was the newest of U.S. Navy-designed boats.

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