The Terrible Hours, and More

Jennifer Huergo



New Book Transcribes Historic Gathering of Submarine Search, Rescue, Diving and Salvage Experts and Survivors

"It began with a frightening cry, Engine Room Flooding!" USS SQUALUS survivor Carol Pierce remembered. "Then the dark and bitter cold."

That was 1939. Pierce and 33 other men were rescued. Thousands of others have not survived.

Three years ago this month, the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered submarine KURSK left her base to carry out training exercises in the Barents Sea. After a torpedo firing exercise, two explosions sent her plunging down to the ocean floor, taking with her all her crewmembers, and raising once again the question of underwater rescue and salvage.

The event caused the United States to review its own preparedness for a U.S. submarine accident and to determine whether or not we'd be able to handle it.

A year after the tragedy of the KURSK, the Office of Naval Research sponsored a rare and historic 3-day conference at the U.S. Naval Academy, bringing together a most unusual group of experts on the subject. Participating were the survivors of the USS SQUALUS, which sank in '39 during a test dive; Charles Momsen Jr., son of the inventor of the famous Momsen Lung; Don Walsh, the Navy's first commander of the bathyscaph TRIESTE who took it on its deepest dive in the World Ocean in 1959; Brad Mooney, one of the first deep ocean submersible pioneers in the world – piloting TRIESTE II when it located the THRESHER; Clayton Decker, who survived the sinking of the USS TANG; John Spence, the last surviving member of the original WWII OSS Combat Swimmers team; writer Peter Maas; Scott Carpenter; Carl Brashear, and many others.

"It was an assembly of living icons who will not come together again, bringing in historians and modern naval experts from around the world to discuss some of the most daring and dangerous undersea missions of the last century," said Naval Academy conference chairman Lew Nuckols. "It became a long overdue reunion – a ‘who's who' of undersea warfare."

The accounts, observations, reports and reflections of these men are now transcribed in a new book, Naval Forces Under the Sea: A Look Back, A Look Ahead, published by Best Publishing Company with the support of the Office of Naval Research.

ONR's Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, speaking of the survivors of the USS SQUALUS and the USS TANG, said," We all, as citizens not only of America but of the world, owe them and all the members of the Greatest Generation an incredible debt…we are gathered in the presence of heroes."

Details: Book No. B1045 – hard cover, coffee table style, 295 pages. ISBN: 1930536046

To order: visit or email or call Best Publishing Company (800) 468-1055 or (928) 527-1055.

Artist's renditions of the sinking and rescue of SQUALUS can be found here:

Further photos can be found here:

Jennifer Huergo



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