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On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged into the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen -- an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist, and man of On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged into the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen -- an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist, and man of action. In this thrilling true narrative, prize-winning author Peter Maas brings us in the vivid detail a moment-by-moment account of the disaster and the man at its center. Could he actually pluck those men from a watery grave? Or had all his pioneering work been in vain?


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On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged into the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen -- an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist, and man of On the eve of World War II, the Squalus, America's newest submarine, plunged into the North Atlantic. Miraculously, thirty-three crew members still survived. While their loved ones waited in unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend upon one man, U.S. Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen -- an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist, and man of action. In this thrilling true narrative, prize-winning author Peter Maas brings us in the vivid detail a moment-by-moment account of the disaster and the man at its center. Could he actually pluck those men from a watery grave? Or had all his pioneering work been in vain?

30 review for The Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    "Sir! The engine rooms! They're flooding!" In May of 1939, a submarine named the Squalus sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Maas's book recounts the thrilling story of the crew's rescue using an ancient technology updated to serve a more modern purpose. Aristotle's diving bell, 4th century BC Charles Momsen's diving bell I saw this one mentioned in Mary Roach's Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. It's undoubtedly one of the HOLY CRAPpiest books I've ever read. The story is tense and "Sir! The engine rooms! They're flooding!" In May of 1939, a submarine named the Squalus sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Maas's book recounts the thrilling story of the crew's rescue using an ancient technology updated to serve a more modern purpose. Aristotle's diving bell, 4th century BC Charles Momsen's diving bell I saw this one mentioned in Mary Roach's Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. It's undoubtedly one of the HOLY CRAPpiest books I've ever read. The story is tense and action-packed, as everything that can go wrong does during the rescue efforts. The book finishes with the repeated attempts to raise the Squalus - not quite as thrill-a-minute, but still fraught with danger and potential disaster. Recommended to anyone looking for a good real-life thriller that leaves you gasping. Undisputed hero, Momsen, demonstrates his "Momsen Lung" device.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    The hero of this book, Charles "Swede" Momsen, is one of the most inspiring figures I have read about in ages. Momsen's distinguished career started in the late 20s. He was a US Navy submariner and diver; unlike nearly all his colleagues, he felt that, when accidents occurred on submarines, there should be some way to rescue the trapped sailors. The prevailing wisdom was that there was nothing to be done in these cases, and one just had to accept it as an inevitable risk. Momsen had been present The hero of this book, Charles "Swede" Momsen, is one of the most inspiring figures I have read about in ages. Momsen's distinguished career started in the late 20s. He was a US Navy submariner and diver; unlike nearly all his colleagues, he felt that, when accidents occurred on submarines, there should be some way to rescue the trapped sailors. The prevailing wisdom was that there was nothing to be done in these cases, and one just had to accept it as an inevitable risk. Momsen had been present at two disasters where submarines had sunk in relatively shallow water, and everyone had drowned. He was distressed by what he had seen, and became increasingly sure that there must be a solution. Operating mostly on his own, Momsen first pioneered a novel breathing device, the "Momsen lung", which allowed a crew member to leave a downed submarine and make his way to the surface. There were many technical problems; you could run out of air, be attacked by "the bends" if you came up too quickly, or be killed by the internal pressure if you held your breath and ended up with a chestful of expanding gas. Momsen tested many different designs, all of them on himself, and risked his life dozens of times as he worked out the kinks in the idea. He finally produced a version which allowed a safe ascent from a depth of 200 feet, and gave a public demonstration in the Potomac river. When it was reported in the papers, some senior Naval officials had not previously heard about his work. 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 1939, a new sub, the Squalus, suddenly sank during initial testing. 33 men were trapped on board, at a depth of over 240 feet. 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 13. 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 600 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 600 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. 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. Well. 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Ever hear of Charles “Swede” Momsen? Chances are you haven’t, and that’s a crying shame, but Peter Mass’s superb book “The Terrible Hours” might change that. “Hours” is a painstakingly researched chronicle of the first successful submarine rescue in naval history, with Lt. Commander Swede Momsen as its architect and guide. Momsen, the head of an experimental diving team, was summoned into action on May 23, 1939 after the Squalus, a new submarine on a training exercise, went down in the North Atl Ever hear of Charles “Swede” Momsen? Chances are you haven’t, and that’s a crying shame, but Peter Mass’s superb book “The Terrible Hours” might change that. “Hours” is a painstakingly researched chronicle of the first successful submarine rescue in naval history, with Lt. Commander Swede Momsen as its architect and guide. Momsen, the head of an experimental diving team, was summoned into action on May 23, 1939 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. 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. Momsen changed all that with his chamber, which docked with the Squalus and gradually brought the ship’s 33 surviving crew members back to the surface. Momsen’s story is made all the more absorbing because Maas frequently injects flashbacks in time where Momsen, during his research and development of rescue devices, experiences delay after delay, endless red tape and, most unforgivably, outright hostility from many officers up the chain of command. His persistence finally paid off with the saving of the Squalus’s men and the ship’s salvage. The salvage operation involved meticulous attention and much risk-taking by Momsen’s all-volunteer diving team, but it happens after the breathtaking rescue effort, and lives are no longer immediately in jeopardy. Consequently, the book tends to drag a bit in the pre-final stretch, but picks up later in Maas’s account of the Squalus’s service in World War II. I happened upon this book while shopping, and it jumped out at me. The tragedy of the Russian submarine Kursk (as well as Russian president Putin’s appalling lack of response to it) was still fresh in my mind. Thank the good Lord that in 1939, our men at sea had a determined, compassionate man like Swede Momsen looking after them. The term “hero” is routinely thrown around lightly in our age, used to describe rock stars and pro athletes. Most of the real heroes perform inspiring acts of courage and pass on without the world at large knowing their names. Swede Momsen was one of those people, and that’s why “The Terrible Hours” is not only an entertaining book but an important one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelli

    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. 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. It was also quite dry at times. The beginning was so filled with names and titles that it was hard to keep track of. 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 and deep sea diving and a lot of the changes that came about due to this historic incident.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    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. Some photos/illustrations could have made this so much better. 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. 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. Some photos/illustrations could have made this so much better. Luckily, an internet search had lots to offer.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Bass

    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. And because he was the spark that changed the way the Navy approached deep sea exploration & rescue.  Before GPS, cellular communication, and Sonar, what would you do if a Submarine lost control an 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. And because he was the spark that changed the way the Navy approached deep sea exploration & rescue.  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.  The most heroic thing about what Momsen did was that he not only dreamed up the solutions, researched and practiced and toiled and worked out the kinks of undersea rescues on his own time, but HE DID IT IN DIRECT OPPOSITION TO NAVY. Momsen tried and failed to get funding and permission to develop a rescue plan but was sidestepped and rejected. Momsen did it on his own, under the table, using volunteer divers and his own body as test subjects. His research was built on the backs of tragedies time & again with sunken submarines.  One of the more chilling and gut wrenching occurrences was a sub that sank in shallow waters--something like 100 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. Enter the sinking of the USS Squalus on May 12, 1939.  Momsen is called because no one else anywhere has ever bothered to come up with a plan. 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 240 deep water 9 miles off the coast. No sub had ever been rescued in anything deeper than 20 feet, so Momsen's longtime practice (usually off the record and on his own initiative) of beating the numerous pressure and communication problems involved in finding & raising men from the ocean floor are on the only hope for saving the men who still live & sit freezing inside the Squalus. 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. It's fascinating that a problem like this wasn't solved by some research & development team funded by the military or the government... No, this problem was basically solved by one man who doggedly pressed onward against the wishes of the Navy. Money talks after all. I LOVED this book. 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    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 1968. At that time, as he explains it, the story was mo 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 1968. At that time, as he explains it, the story was more or less overshadowed by many of the historical events of '68. Not to mention that a story about World War II hero was not exactly great reading during the tumultuous war-protester years of the 1960'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. There is so much that this generation and those to come could learn and benefit from reading about Swede Momsen and people like him. It is a great story of perserverence and never giving up on your ideas and dreams. Many of the deep-sea rescue techniques and submarine safety issues can be directly tied to Charles Momsen's efforts nearly 70 years ago. It seems very strange to be reading about this story and the rescue of the survivors of the "Squalus" during its 1939 disaster and then reflecting on the Russian submarine, "Kursk," that just sunk in the Barents sea last month. With all the bureaucracy that Swede Momsen had to fight through just to get his diving bell built, or create a team of expert rescue-divers that could be used save the lives of sailors trapped in a steel coffin; it's understandable how the Russians and the entire Soviet bureacracy was never able to develop the forsight towards rescuing their own downed subs. Instead they relied on someone else's technology, which no doubt may have cost them valuable time. One may never know. However this story is a great depiction that during rescue efforts, when time is essential, it is necessary to have a forward thinking individual like Swede Momsen on your side. Someone who is not afraid to try new ideas and with a lot of hard-work and pushing the right people in the right places he can make sure his ideas will become reality. His efforts and his diligence was what saved the thirty-plus survivors of the "Squalus." It was also these same efforts that would make it so future submarine accidents simply did not happen. Who knows how many future lives were saved? This is that type of story. You will be inspired and it is a great story to tell all your friends about. That sometimes one man can make all the difference.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Coralie

    In 1939, off the coast of Portsmouth, NH, a submarine and its crew submerge to do some routine testing when a malfunction causes the sub to sink to the bottom of the ocean. This book is the story of the first successful rescue out of a submarine. It tells the story of the captain and crew members, and also of Swede Momsen, who invented a rescue capsule for submarines, a diving bell that could lock on to a submarine over the escape hatch and form a seal, allowing the people inside to enter the re In 1939, off the coast of Portsmouth, NH, a submarine and its crew submerge to do some routine testing when a malfunction causes the sub to sink to the bottom of the ocean. This book is the story of the first successful rescue out of a submarine. It tells the story of the captain and crew members, and also of Swede Momsen, who invented a rescue capsule for submarines, a diving bell that could lock on to a submarine over the escape hatch and form a seal, allowing the people inside to enter the rescue capsule from the escape hatch, all underwater. The book told of Momsen's attempts to get the Navy to take his ideas seriously. People in those days weren't afraid to risk their lives in experiments. Time and time again Momsen and his buddies narrowly escaped death trying to improve on the rescue capsule, and also trying to fix different parts of it that didn't work well. The book also told about early decompression chambers and various attempts to experiment with the right mixtures of various gasses to allow divers to spend more time underwater. Divers routinely took risks in experimenting with these new technologies. Sailors went underwater in submarines knowing that if anything went wrong, they would surely die.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jef Sneider

    This book is an actual historical account of real Navy action on and under the sea in 1939. I always wondered about the Navy Dive Tables that we used when I was SCUBA diving. In this book, you can get an idea of the sacrifice that went into creating those tables. The rescuers of the trapped submariners aboard the Squalus were mostly healthy young men. They dove in heavy canvas suits with helmets on tight using compressed air until the advent of a helium/oxygen mix. At 250 feet these young men suf This book is an actual historical account of real Navy action on and under the sea in 1939. I always wondered about the Navy Dive Tables that we used when I was SCUBA diving. In this book, you can get an idea of the sacrifice that went into creating those tables. The rescuers of the trapped submariners aboard the Squalus were mostly healthy young men. They dove in heavy canvas suits with helmets on tight using compressed air until the advent of a helium/oxygen mix. At 250 feet these young men suffered nitrogen narcosis and struggled to do simple tasks in the few minutes they were allowed to stay at depth. There were some close calls, but in over 600 dives, no deaths. Incredible. The development of the technology to save submarine crews came just in time for WWII. Charles "Swede" Momsen, leader and architect of the rescue system went on to distinguish himself in several different areas of naval activity. He was a man with a driving curiosity to understand how things worked and how to make them better, from dive tables to torpedoes that refused to explode, he couldn't leave a problem unsolved no matter the risk in the solution. Peter Maas has written some engaging books, including Serpico and King of the Gypsies. In this one he turns the dry and crusty pages of Navy records and a personal diary into a gripping tale. My father used to watch episodes of Victory at Sea over and over. Peter Maas takes us back to the sea and under it and makes us feel every wave. Hold your breath!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I really enjoyed this short historical book. I had never previously heard of Momsen or the Squalus and I live right outside of Portsmouth, so I was stunned at how much history is right here in my own backyard. The story was engaging without becoming overdramatic. My version of the book had and afterword by the author which really shed light on the emotional state of Momsen, and delightfully, some actions that the Navy took to "make it up to him." I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read about I really enjoyed this short historical book. I had never previously heard of Momsen or the Squalus and I live right outside of Portsmouth, so I was stunned at how much history is right here in my own backyard. The story was engaging without becoming overdramatic. My version of the book had and afterword by the author which really shed light on the emotional state of Momsen, and delightfully, some actions that the Navy took to "make it up to him." I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read about this piece of history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Grant

    I loved the historical aspect of this book and how it was told in a way that really brought the story to life and sometimes made me had to step back and put the book down because of the intensity of it. The fact that this was a story so close to home and also because on page 232 the Harbor Master Shirley Holt shocked me because I'm a good friend of the Hold family was also very cool. Momsen seemed like such a heroic and soulful kind of guy, someone who really cared and did what it took to ensure I loved the historical aspect of this book and how it was told in a way that really brought the story to life and sometimes made me had to step back and put the book down because of the intensity of it. The fact that this was a story so close to home and also because on page 232 the Harbor Master Shirley Holt shocked me because I'm a good friend of the Hold family was also very cool. Momsen seemed like such a heroic and soulful kind of guy, someone who really cared and did what it took to ensure the safety of future endeavors. The whole concept of the wives braving the threat that their husbands may die or did die was so very scary. Great read if you enjoy marine history!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book but far too much time is dedicated to salvaging the sub itself after the rescue and that lost my attention. I also was hoping for a deep technical analysis of the cause of the accident but apparently there was not one. Still recommended if you like the subject but probably not engaging enough throughout for the average reader.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ice

    May 23, 1939. Television was being advertised for the first time to American consumers. Europe was on the brink of war as Hitler and Mussolini signed an alliance in Berlin. These were the days before sonar and before the discovery of nuclear power revolutionized submarine design. Dependent on battery power, submarines were actually surface ships that "occasionally dipped beneath the waves." If a sub went down, "every man on board was doomed. It was accepted that there would be no deliverance." Sw May 23, 1939. Television was being advertised for the first time to American consumers. Europe was on the brink of war as Hitler and Mussolini signed an alliance in Berlin. These were the days before sonar and before the discovery of nuclear power revolutionized submarine design. Dependent on battery power, submarines were actually surface ships that "occasionally dipped beneath the waves." If a sub went down, "every man on board was doomed. It was accepted that there would be no deliverance." Swede Momsen was, according to master storyteller Peter Maas, the "greatest submariner the Navy ever had," and he was determined to beat those odds. Momsen spent his career trying to save the lives of trapped submariners, despite an indifferent Navy bureaucracy that thwarted and belittled his efforts at every turn. Every way of saving a sailor entombed in a sub--"smoke bombs, telephone marker buoys, new deep-sea diving techniques, escape hatches, artificial lungs, a great pear-shaped rescue chamber--was either a direct result of Momsen's inventive derring-do, or of value only because of it." Yet on the day the Squalus sank, none of Momsen's inventions had been used in an actual submarine disaster. In The Terrible Hours, Maas reconstructs the harrowing 39 hours between the disappearance of the submarine Squalus during a test dive off the New England coast and the eventual rescue of 33 crew members trapped in the vessel 250 feet beneath the sea. It's also the story of Momsen's triumph. Under the worst possible circumstances, Momsen led a successful mission and helped change the future of undersea lifesaving. Not only has Maas written a carefully researched and suspenseful tribute to a true hero, in the process he has salvaged a long-forgotten, riveting piece of American history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    The story of this book makes it worth reading - the rescue mission of a submarine that becomes lost during a drill run off the coast of Maine in the late 1930's on the eve of WWII. Rescue technology was severely lacking before submarines were launched in those days, and much of what was used and developed as a result of the incident involving the Squalus would change the course of submarine naval history. The central figure in this book, "Swede" Momsen, was brilliant, extraordinary, nerves of st The story of this book makes it worth reading - the rescue mission of a submarine that becomes lost during a drill run off the coast of Maine in the late 1930's on the eve of WWII. Rescue technology was severely lacking before submarines were launched in those days, and much of what was used and developed as a result of the incident involving the Squalus would change the course of submarine naval history. The central figure in this book, "Swede" Momsen, was brilliant, extraordinary, nerves of steel and had the clarity of mind to seemingly know exactly what to do at the right time. Not everything he did worked right the first time but he had an uncanny ability to problem solve through things that were not successful and always move forward. Very impressive how this gentleman handled himself under pressure and his leadership capabilities. Easy to see why he was well respected. The disappointment of this book was the writing. Some parts of the book where technical terms are used lack explanation so that unless you are familiar with submarine technology (I am not) it becomes confusing. Drawings or a glossary would have helped considerably, or perhaps better editing. The story line did not always flow well, but the book was short enough that in a few pages it picks back up. I'm a bit conservative on my goodreads ratings, overall I give this story a 4 but the writing a 2.5, rounded it up to a 3 for the overall rating.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Steven McCarthy English 9 Ms. Fenn 4/1/11 The book The Terrible Hours, written by Peter Maas describes the submarine Squalus. The Submarine the Squalus was the newest American submarine during WWII. The word Squalus means “Sailfish”. The submarine could hold roughly 200 men. In The Terrible Hours Maas explains some of the tests that the submarine has to go through to be used. Later in the book Maas explain about a rescue involving thirty-three men. This rescue is the only reported successful rescue Steven McCarthy English 9 Ms. Fenn 4/1/11 The book The Terrible Hours, written by Peter Maas describes the submarine Squalus. The Submarine the Squalus was the newest American submarine during WWII. The word Squalus means “Sailfish”. The submarine could hold roughly 200 men. In The Terrible Hours Maas explains some of the tests that the submarine has to go through to be used. Later in the book Maas explain about a rescue involving thirty-three men. This rescue is the only reported successful rescue in history. One of the main characters is Charles Momsen. Charles is an important person in this event because he developed something that would save the lives of thirty-three men. The book The Terrible Hours is a good book. The author Peter Maas did do a good job in writing it. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the beginning it seemed slow in the beginning, but it picks up as you read. I also like this book, because in the middle of it there are pictures of the submarine and crew members. I give this book a four out of five, because it is a short. This book is the type of book you can pick up, read it in a short amount of time and still enjoy it. The Terrible Hours has 264 pages if you count the epilogue, and afterwards. Maas, Peter. The Terrible Hours. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 2001

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    Wow! This is a history book that is a real page-turner. It is not just dry facts; it makes the reader root for Charles 'Swede' Momsen, anxiously reading at many points, hoping Mr Momsen will win his frustrating bureaucratic battles to get his underwater bell approved before more submariners lose their lives. Also anxiously hoping the real physical battle of his rescue effort to save the submariners in stormy seas will succeed. So well written - the facts are all there, laying the scene & drawing Wow! This is a history book that is a real page-turner. It is not just dry facts; it makes the reader root for Charles 'Swede' Momsen, anxiously reading at many points, hoping Mr Momsen will win his frustrating bureaucratic battles to get his underwater bell approved before more submariners lose their lives. Also anxiously hoping the real physical battle of his rescue effort to save the submariners in stormy seas will succeed. So well written - the facts are all there, laying the scene & drawing the characters, but somehow Mr Maas does that while creating a smooth flow of events. A great study of how one person who has thought out a solution to an important problem can be right but still face disbelief and rejection from most of their colleagues, with no one to believe in them but themselves. How this person who believes in what they are doing and keeps trying, against stone walls at times, rebuffed, losing ground, hangs in there and tries again and again, can sometimes win and make a huge difference in life. Inspirational. You'll be rooting for this underdog all the way!

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    Maas tells the true story of a great WWII-era submariner, Swede Momsen, who was an underwater innovator, tenacious fighter of bureaucracy, and All-American hero. The story focuses on the rescue operation of The Squalus, a sub that sunk to a depth of 300 feet due to a mechanical failure and left 28 dead men and 33 survivors on the ocean floor. Momsen headed up the rescue and salvage operation using technologies that he pioneered. The author learned about Momsen, did extensive interviews with him, Maas tells the true story of a great WWII-era submariner, Swede Momsen, who was an underwater innovator, tenacious fighter of bureaucracy, and All-American hero. The story focuses on the rescue operation of The Squalus, a sub that sunk to a depth of 300 feet due to a mechanical failure and left 28 dead men and 33 survivors on the ocean floor. Momsen headed up the rescue and salvage operation using technologies that he pioneered. The author learned about Momsen, did extensive interviews with him, researched the rescue, and wrote articles on it in the 1960s and 70s. But the public, weary from Vietnam, didn’t really appreciate his heroism at that time. Momsen, now long dead, finally gets his due. He’s a guy who, as a kid, fell in love with “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” followed his passion and went on in life to become a sort of Captain Nemo. I’ve got to admire a guy that lives out his childhood dreams. Note to self: do that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    My brother and I went to elementary school with a boy whose father went down with the Thresher. In addition, my father was a close enough acquaintance of a career naval officer who was the navigator on the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, when it went under the Polar ice cap in 1958 — and later became Captain of the Skipjack and then the George Washington — so that we were able to tour all of those subs, even before the Nautilus was de-commissioned. We also got to tour The Piper, a My brother and I went to elementary school with a boy whose father went down with the Thresher. In addition, my father was a close enough acquaintance of a career naval officer who was the navigator on the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, when it went under the Polar ice cap in 1958 — and later became Captain of the Skipjack and then the George Washington — so that we were able to tour all of those subs, even before the Nautilus was de-commissioned. We also got to tour The Piper, a World War II diesel sub, and to experience the fuel-laden, claustrophobic humidity of the atmosphere of that class of ship. As a result, perhaps this book gripped me more than it might others. I felt like I was on the Squalus — trapped, borderline panicked, and increasingly cold. No spoilers here. Suffice it to say it's well worth the read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    More than a suspenseful tale of a rescue of a downed sub, this is a tribute to one man whose dedication to one cause -- perfecting methods to rescue submariners -- was put to the ultimate test. All the classic elements of a thriller are here, but there is also a very clear hero, if an unconventional one, in Swede Momsen, the pioneering man who invented the submarine rescue chamber. Author Maas does a good job of making the reader fully aware of the awful predicament of the sailors, contrasting i More than a suspenseful tale of a rescue of a downed sub, this is a tribute to one man whose dedication to one cause -- perfecting methods to rescue submariners -- was put to the ultimate test. All the classic elements of a thriller are here, but there is also a very clear hero, if an unconventional one, in Swede Momsen, the pioneering man who invented the submarine rescue chamber. Author Maas does a good job of making the reader fully aware of the awful predicament of the sailors, contrasting it with the frustration felt by Momsen. The book is fascinating both technically and in human terms.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Courtney LeBlanc

    Full disclosure: I used to work in submarine rescue for the US Navy so this story is near and dear to my heart. That said, it's a well written historical nonfiction book that reads like fiction. It's not too technical and it makes you want to keep reading to learn the fate of the sailors stuck in the submarine at the bottom of the North Atlantic... Momsen is an amazing man and the submarine rescue program on a whole owes so much to his ingenuity, insight, drive, and determination. Without him a Full disclosure: I used to work in submarine rescue for the US Navy so this story is near and dear to my heart. That said, it's a well written historical nonfiction book that reads like fiction. It's not too technical and it makes you want to keep reading to learn the fate of the sailors stuck in the submarine at the bottom of the North Atlantic... Momsen is an amazing man and the submarine rescue program on a whole owes so much to his ingenuity, insight, drive, and determination. Without him a submarine rescue capability would not exist. For anyone interested in Naval history this is a wonderful read!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    This is the story of the rescue of the crew and the salvage of the submarine USS Squalus and the man, Swede Momsen, responsible. Prior to this incident where Momsen was able to use techniques he developed, if a submarine sank the crew died. Very informative as it also tells the story of several crew members.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Meyer

    This is the story of Charles "Swede" Momsen, but particularly focusing on the sinking of the Squalus and it's subsequent saving of its crew and salvaging. Momsen was instrumental in getting the Navy to change its direction on submarine development, tactics as well as life saving equipment. He could practically be considered the submariner's patron saint.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Given to me by GoryDetails. Marvelous, marvelous book. I have no fingernails and I nibbled them off while the crew was being rescued. If this hasn't been made into a movie, it would make a terrific thriller!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Q

    I loved this book. It was equal parts compelling story and how to make dramatic change inside a military bureaucracy. Wonderfully written! As we struggle to embrace new ideas and approaches, the epilogue should be required reading. My favorite section is 'Swede' Momsen's answer to the the question about how he had persevered in the face of so many rebuffs and slights in his Navy career, " ...'Look,' he said, 'I loved the Navy and I loved submarines. In the military career I chose, it becomes ver I loved this book. It was equal parts compelling story and how to make dramatic change inside a military bureaucracy. Wonderfully written! As we struggle to embrace new ideas and approaches, the epilogue should be required reading. My favorite section is 'Swede' Momsen's answer to the the question about how he had persevered in the face of so many rebuffs and slights in his Navy career, " ...'Look,' he said, 'I loved the Navy and I loved submarines. In the military career I chose, it becomes very clear early on, perhaps for good reason, that the best way to get ahead is to stay with the pack. I guess, during my career, I steered a course a bit too much my own. It's happened in other services too. When an officer with initiative and imagination leaves the middle of the road, he's bound to have trouble. His superiors get set in their ways, indifferent of even hostile to new ideas. Sometimes it's just because they didn't think of them themselves. Often when I presented a new proposal, I was made to fee like a felon committing a crime and ended up not only having to defend the idea, buy myself for daring to bring it up. But it did happen - too rarely, maybe - to have someone up the line say, 'That sounds good. Let's do it.'"pg 307 Let us all endeavor to be the kind of leaders who say, "That sounds good. Let's do it" far more ofen than we say "no."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bob Schmitz

    I picked this book because I enjoyed his other book 'Love Thy Neighbor" and only after finishing it did I realize that the other author was Peter Maass. No wonder I found the writing so different. (boring) The subject matter is very interesting. The book describes the 1939 of a US submarine the rescue of the survivors and the naval officer Charles “Swede” Momsen who directed it. Momsen, a submariner, was shaken by the sinking of a submarine in 1925 and loss of all its crew and was determined to I picked this book because I enjoyed his other book 'Love Thy Neighbor" and only after finishing it did I realize that the other author was Peter Maass. No wonder I found the writing so different. (boring) The subject matter is very interesting. The book describes the 1939 of a US submarine the rescue of the survivors and the naval officer Charles “Swede” Momsen who directed it. Momsen, a submariner, was shaken by the sinking of a submarine in 1925 and loss of all its crew and was determined to find a way to rescue men from sunken subs. He devised the basic mechanism of undersea rescue. He figured out the mixture of oxygen and helium that could allow divers to descend 300 feet, allowing the tapping of Russian undersea cables. He devised the Momsen Lung, which looked like a hot water bladder that attached onto a submariner's chest and allowed him to breathe while ascending a rope at a certain speed with certain stops along the way to go from a submerged submarine to the surface safely. He developed heated underwear to keep divers warm in the frigid depths. Finally he developed a bell, a large metal upside down cup that could be lowered onto a submarine hatch and through which trapped submariners could escape. He did all this with initially very little support from the Navy who considered submarines a less important branch of the Navy and considered escape from a submarine an impossible task. The story centers on a submarine the Squalus, a kind of shark, which inexplicably sank on a test cruise off the coast of Maine in 250 feet of water. Of the 50 men aboard 33 escaped through Momsen’s bell. The others had been drowned in the first flooding of the aft of the sub. During 640 dives over almost 3 months there was not a single injury or loss of life, an astounding accomplishment It was the deepest dive and deepest salvage to date. The story goes into great detail of the exact words, positions and actions of each submariner. I found this tiresome and not particularly interesting, enlightening or educational. An engineer might find it interesting. With Momsen's work deep-sea diving down to 500 feet was put on a rational basis and the old nostrums of eating an apple before going down were gone. One tidbit for NC readers: the book mentions an air force pilot involved in the rescue, Seymour Johnson, after as in Seymour Johnson air force base. I have read in various books that in the Pacific war US torpedoes would not explode with direct hits and that initially the navy said there was nothing wrong and the sub commanders were covering for incompetence. But I have never read how this issue was finally solved and by who. Momsen who was in Pearl Harbor leading a submarine squadron when the Japanese attacked took the commanders at their word and took on the problem. Originally US torpedoes had a magnetic device which often exploded the torpedoes before they reach their target. These were removed and the commanders reported that now when torpedoes were shot at a 90° angle as they had been taught they would not explode whereas at much shallower angle they would. Momsen took a sub to a small island with a cliff going straight into the water and had it fire at the cliff. The second torpedo fired was a dud Monsen found it underwater and with help had it hauled to the deck where he dismantled the firing mechanism. He found that the firing pin crushed the some other part with a direct hit. Mystery solved. As it would take months to make new torpedoes Momsen had a group in Hawaii design an adjustment to existing torpedoes to allow them to go off correctly. Momsen also devised new US submarine tactics specific for the Pacific where the distances were great and US subs so few that subs could not be used in large packs as the Germans did. He he devised a system whereby three subs would attack a convoy and communicate with each other with ultra low-frequency sound waves. He received the Navy Cross for this innovation which was used to great effect throughout the war the rest of the war. He was then given command of the battleship Dakota which was involved in numerous engagements through the rest of the war laugh. During loading ammunition there was an explosion in the magazines of the Dakota of a type that had had occurred mysteriously occasionally in other Navy ships. Momsen asked the men what they were doing when the fire started and they were loading gunpowder which came in silk sacks. Momsen supposed that that gunpowder and the silk created static electricity that set off the powder. The army ordinance department thought he was crazy but with enough pushing made tests. On the last day of the month long testing the simulated loading of powder in silk sacks cause an explosion and the procedure was halted With the advent of nuclear power moms saw that submarines could become a true underwater ship not a ship the traveled on the surface most of the time and drove to avoid enemy attack. He knew that carrier dominated Navy would not be interested in funding and atomic submarine and he also knew how to get such a thing done. He knew that aircraft carrier admirals feared submarines and so he proposed his atomic submarine as a target for Navy submarine hunter killer groups. Since as a target she would not be armed Momsen made sure that only the Bureau of Ships was involved thus removing other naval interference. He instructed the designers to do everything they could to increase the speed of such the underwater speed of such a submarine. When tested the hunter killer groups could not catch the fast new sub. These designs were used to fashion the later atomic subs. Post script: Reading about Momsen in Wikepedia it seems that “Postwar, submariner Walter F. Schlech, Jr., among others, examined submerged escape without breathing devices and discovered ascent was possible from as deep as 300 ft (91 m): "in one sense, the Momsen Lung concept may have killed far more submariners than it rescued".[12]” All the other stuff was confirmed. Momsen was an innovative genius.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Amazing story about a courageous rescue and the remarkable man who orchestrated it all. The thoughtfulness and tenaciousness with which Momsen pushed the boundaries of what we thought we could achieve in terms of diving, submarines, rescue operations, etc., was pretty incredible. He also had a great leadership style and intuition to make an awesome dive master. It's no wonder his men trusted him so much. As a diver, I especially enjoyed reading about some early research and developments in diving Amazing story about a courageous rescue and the remarkable man who orchestrated it all. The thoughtfulness and tenaciousness with which Momsen pushed the boundaries of what we thought we could achieve in terms of diving, submarines, rescue operations, etc., was pretty incredible. He also had a great leadership style and intuition to make an awesome dive master. It's no wonder his men trusted him so much. As a diver, I especially enjoyed reading about some early research and developments in diving physiology and technology. Some parts about what the divers did at ~240ft depth during the rescue made me laugh (e.g., one guy thought he was securing a line and then realized he was actually just waving his arms over his head). I felt a little better about my own difficulty with basic reasoning skills at much shallower depths. The writing style is a little rough in a some places. It's not bad, but he could've used a better editor to fix a few typos and get rid of some unnecessary over-foreshadowing to small or non-problems. Other than that, it was a really good read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jean Boobar

    Author Peter Maas is a remarkable researcher who made me think he had been present during the 1939 tragic trial run of the USS Squalus that unexpectedly sunk outside Portsmouth Harbor near the Isles of Shoals. He made the principal naval personnel aboard come to life as well as providing detailed descriptions of the sequence of events, electrical, mechanical and operational that caused the sinking and enabled the eventual raising of the sub from the ocean floor. I was spellbound at each turn of Author Peter Maas is a remarkable researcher who made me think he had been present during the 1939 tragic trial run of the USS Squalus that unexpectedly sunk outside Portsmouth Harbor near the Isles of Shoals. He made the principal naval personnel aboard come to life as well as providing detailed descriptions of the sequence of events, electrical, mechanical and operational that caused the sinking and enabled the eventual raising of the sub from the ocean floor. I was spellbound at each turn of events even though I knew the final outcome through my own family history. My father's older brother, Charles Myron Woods, a former navy man who was aboard the Squalus as a civilian electrician. He was in the stern of the vessel when seawater rushed in and drowned the men in that section. Those in forward compartments were saved by committed, highly intelligent and resourceful naval men, primarily one Charles "Swede" Momson.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joe Rodeck

    "Swede" Momsen was the father of undersea rescue. As a Naval officer he chose submarines, then not the favored path to military rank and glory. A patient red tape and naysayer fighter, he invented the Momsen lung and the rescue chamber. This impressive pre-WWII sub rescue story is obscured by larger events that ensued. Highly recommended for naval historians and scuba divers. For the non-gear head like me it can numb you out with the physical science and engineering, a lot maybe that could have "Swede" Momsen was the father of undersea rescue. As a Naval officer he chose submarines, then not the favored path to military rank and glory. A patient red tape and naysayer fighter, he invented the Momsen lung and the rescue chamber. This impressive pre-WWII sub rescue story is obscured by larger events that ensued. Highly recommended for naval historians and scuba divers. For the non-gear head like me it can numb you out with the physical science and engineering, a lot maybe that could have been covered by footnote: "The synthetic mix had been clogging up in the helmet's internal circulation system by a combination of freezing in such low water temperature and too rapid expansion of gas as it passed through a tiny suction tube. . . . The canister of soda lime used to sop up excess carbon dioxide was replaced by on containing a casutic potash compound, Shell Natron Equally efficient as a CO2 absorbent."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Like a Tom Clancy novel - equal parts military hidebound culture, an intrepid experimenter (legendary diver ‘Swede’ Momsen), and technical data surrounding the workings of an American submarine. It’s good. The men described were extraordinarily dedicated to the rescue of their crew mates, trapped below the surface. At times, the drama is well overshadowed by the detail of all the things that went wrong (weather the politics to funding to mechanical malfunction). Not unlike real life, in which th Like a Tom Clancy novel - equal parts military hidebound culture, an intrepid experimenter (legendary diver ‘Swede’ Momsen), and technical data surrounding the workings of an American submarine. It’s good. The men described were extraordinarily dedicated to the rescue of their crew mates, trapped below the surface. At times, the drama is well overshadowed by the detail of all the things that went wrong (weather the politics to funding to mechanical malfunction). Not unlike real life, in which the emotional impact often gets overshadowed by the need to survive some new challenge. But still, I’d have a hard time re-reading this story.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tim Corke

    If you need a bit more tension in your life right now, you should definitely pick this one up!!! This account of the rescue of the SQUALUS, a USN submarine in 1937 will keep you on your toes - not only does it give you the insight from those inside the stricken submarine but also importantly from those rescuing, including the indomitable Mr Charles Bowers Momsen, a USN officer. Momsen had been instrumental in submarine rescue techniques but it was the SQUALUS that brought attention to him from r If you need a bit more tension in your life right now, you should definitely pick this one up!!! This account of the rescue of the SQUALUS, a USN submarine in 1937 will keep you on your toes - not only does it give you the insight from those inside the stricken submarine but also importantly from those rescuing, including the indomitable Mr Charles Bowers Momsen, a USN officer. Momsen had been instrumental in submarine rescue techniques but it was the SQUALUS that brought attention to him from right across the USN and paved the way for a rethink in submarine technology, their use in warfare and importantly their rescue.

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