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

Rescue of the Squalus: Squalus Reborn

Sailfish Memorial.
Navy memorial of the bridge and conning tower of the Sailfish (former Squalus) (Milne Special Collections and Archives Department, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH)

When the Squalus was inspected in drydock, it was found to be generally in good shape. The electrical equipment needed replacement, but some of the other sensitive hardware still worked.

The vessel was recommissioned on May 15, 1940, as the USS Sailfish. President Roosevelt suggested the name because he thought of a leaping sailfish when he saw the photograph of the Squalus bobbing to the surface bow first.

In the fall of 1941, the Sailfish was assigned to the Asiatic fleet out of a naval base in the Philippines. Interestingly, four of the original crew members were assigned to the sub. After Pearl Harbor was attacked and war on Japan declared, the vessel went on patrols to protect friendly ships and attack enemy surface ships. It endured a depth charge attack successfully early in the war. However, the attack so rattled the captain that he requested permission to return to base and was relieved of his command.

In November 1943, the sister submarine Sculpin, that had found the sunken Squalus soon after it sank, was on its ninth war patrol as part of the Asiatic Fleet. It was caught in a five-destroyer trap by the Japanese. Unable to dive in time, Sculpin had to fight on the surface. A shell hit the bridge, killing the captain and three other officers. Later, the remaining officer had to order the ship to be abandoned and scuttled. Twenty-one of the sailors were picked up by the Japanese and transferred to one of their aircraft carriers.

On December 3, 1943, the Sailfish attacked Japanese ships during a violent storm. When it came to periscope depth, it located a Japanese carrier motionless in the water. Three torpedoes finished the ship, which ironically held the captives rescued from the sinking Sculpin. All but one of them drowned when the carrier sank.

In 1945, the Navy decided to decommission the Squalus/Sailfish. On October 27, 30,000 spectators watched at the Portsmouth Navy Yard as she completed a cermonial final dive, surfaced and sailed toward the dock. On Veteran's Day 1946, a section of the submarine, including her bridge, conning tower and a piece of the deck, were established as a memorial in the Portsmouth shipyard, dedicated to the accomplishments of the submarine service.

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