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Terrible Hours, The Unabridged [Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Peter Maas
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 23 2000
Now, the New York Times bestseller - Unabridged

It was the greatest undersea rescue mission in history

On the even of World War II, America's newest submarine plunged helplessly to the bottom of the North Atlantic during a test dive.  Miraculously, thirty-three crew members survived.  While their wives and girlfriends waited in nearly unbearable tension on shore, their ultimate fate would depend on one man.

In this thrilling true narrative of terror, heroism, and courage in the depths of a malevolent ocean, prize-winning author Peter Maas brings us in vivid detail a blow-by-blow account of the disaster and its uncertain outcome.The sub was the Squalus. The man was a U.S. Navy officer, Charles "Swede" Momsen, an extraordinary combination of visionary, scientist and man of action. Until his advent, it was accepted that if a submarine went down, her crew was doomed. But Momsen, in the face of an indifferent, often sneering naval bureaucracy, battling red tape and disbelieving naysayers every step of the way, risked his own life again and again against the unknown in his efforts to invent and pioneer every escape and rescue device, every deep-sea diving technique, to save an entombed crew.

Now, with the crippled, partially flooded Squalus lost on the North Atlantic floor, Momsen faced his personal moment of truth: Could he actually pluck those men from a watery grave? Had all his work been in vain?

The legacy of his death-defying probes into our inner space remains with us today, and in this depiction of the perseverance and triumph of the human spirit, Swede Momsen is given his rightful place in the pantheon of true American heroes.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Like a tough old salt holding forth in a dockside pub, Kevin Conway narrates this riveting maritime drama in a raspy voice well-weathered by sea spray and Lucky Strikes. Chronicling the true story of 33 American sailors trapped aboard a sunken submarine just prior to World War II, author Peter Maas uncovered the unsung hero behind their attempted rescue, Navy officer Charles "Swede" Momsen. A deep sea visionary, Momsen's unorthodox theories and unproven inventions represented the lost men's only hope. "For someone whose formal education had shaped him for duty as a line officer in the US Navy, Momsen was getting into pretty deep water." Conway does an excellent job of portraying the various crew members without turning character into caricature and knots the nerve-wracking, claustrophobic tension of this ill-fated mission in the back of your throat. (Running time: 6 hours, 4 cassettes) --George Laney --This text refers to an alternate Audio Cassette edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Maas, best known for his chronicling of the urban underworld (Underboss, Serpico, etc.), takes readers underwater for a thrilling account of the world's first rescue of a submarine. Before WWII, submariners were second-class citizens. Worse, until Charles "Swede" Momsen came along, it was standard procedure to treat downed subs as irretrievable. Fortunately for 33 men aboard the Squalus, Momsen had developed and tested pioneering rescue equipment (often at the risk of his own life) and was ready with his crew when the sub sank to a depth of 243 feet off Portsmouth, N.H., on May 23, 1939. While the captain of the Squalus kept the air slightly toxic so that his crew stayed drowsy and therefore docile, Momsen lowered his huge pear-shaped diving bell until it made contact with the sub's deck, then began to bring the men up in groups. Bad weather threatened, and then, on the last ascent, the cable tangled, and the final group of men had to be lowered to the ocean floor again and there await repairs. To the amazement of the surface crew, who had telephone contact with the occupants of the bell, they maintained morale by singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Unfortunately, 26 men had been drowned in the first few minutes of the sinking, and their bodies were not retrieved until the Squalus was recovered 113 days after the mishap. Maas anchors the gripping story in Momsen, whom he portrays as a larger-than-life hero, a brainy, brave iconoclast of the kind one associates with action movies. It's a white-knuckler of a readAbut it's not for the claustrophobic. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Courage, Determination & Imagination April 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This story illustrates the benefit of those visionary, courageous individuals who put their ideas into action and make the world a better place. In this case, the story is of Charles "Swede" Momsen and the recovery of the crew of the sub "Squalis" in 1939. That story alone is worth the read, but its also interesting to realize all of the rescue, submarine and simple diving innovations that came from Momsen's efforts. Bravo.
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After the loss of the Kurst a few years ago, there was an occasional mention of Lt Swede Momsen and all this very rare individual brought to the US Navy. Peter Maas does an excellent job of documenting Swede's contribution in rescuing the sailors from the Squalus in 1939. Momsen was responsible for the Navy's pioneering work with mixed gas deep water breathing, inventing a breathing apparatus for sailor to make free ascendants and developing the diving bell to save men from stranded submarines. Each one of the sailor who got off the Squalus can thank the remainder of the lives for Momsen for not giving up in the face of the Navy bureaucracy. One comes away from this book with an even higher level of respect for all those sailors endured during those terrible hours. An easy read that will keep your attention from beginning to end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Terrible Hours Jan. 8 2003
I like the way that Peter Maas wrote the book cause you feel like you're in it by all the details in the book. But, I thought it was bad for all the men to go down, but I thought it was cool that all but one was rescued in the sub. It was a long time for them and it was not cool that they when down cause of the vents in the Squalas because the Christmas tree board. It was the best rescue under water ever in history. I thought it was a god idea that Momsen came up with the suit but, they didn't use that they used a chamber and brought and got all them men air before so, that they could live longer so, that they could be rescue I thought it was amazing that they got the sub and men back and the sub, back the work just under name Sailfish and not under the Squalas. So, I thought it a 4 Star book for history people to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Terrible Hours a good book Jan. 8 2003
By A Customer
This book by Peter Maas is a good book. It is the true story of the USS Squalas. I think Peter Maas really went in to the true details of the story. He talked about Swede Momsen one of the only people who could perform under water rescues and he came to save the crew of the Squalas. It is a pleasure knowing that this happened in my city. I recommend you read this book because I liked it a lot. It is a cool thing to know that I have been on what is left of the sub on a memorial to it on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. It is amazing that most of the crew got out alive and that the sub was fixed up and launched again as the USS Sailfish the name was thought of by president Roosevelt him self.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling! Dec 2 2002
I found this book so interesting I didn't want to put it down. The story was amazing with attention paid to the suspense, the drama, the tragedy and the personal tales of the sailors who were part of it all. I was emotionally involved with the story and would count Swede Momsen as a hero of the Navy and our country. Maas' efforts to acquire for Momsen the recognition he deserves are flawlessly executed as an undercurrent to the story and a prologue.
A fantastic read.
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Peter Maas, an ex-Navy man himself, has done a masterful job with this recounting of the U.S. Navy's greatest prewar submarine disaster. Written in a matter-of-fact style, he takes us through the sinking and salvage of the Squalus in the days when deep-ocean diving was in its infancy. He also acquaints us with a man whose work in underwater operations is at least as important as that of Jacques Cousteau, Commander Charles "Swede" Momsen. The rescue of the Squalus's survivors and her subsequent salvaging by Momsen and his dive unit is only half the story.
The rest of it concerns Momsen's determination to insure that the tragedies of the S-4 and the S-51, lost with all hands in peacetime accidents with their crews unable to escape from their sunken boats, would not be repeated if he could help it. Helium-oxygen diving gas, rescue chambers, the first self-contained underwater breathers using heli-ox, the first attempts to provide submariners with emergency rescue breathers, all are products of Momsen's fertile mind and driving personality. His impact on the Navy is still felt today, including in modern submarine design. In his own way, Swede Momsen's influence on submarines is as important as that of Mush Morton, the wartime sub skipper sans peur.
I can recommend this book unreservedly to anyone interested in submarines, ocean salvage, deep-sea diving, or page-turning sea stories. It's worth the reader's time to learn of this unsung American hero and his work.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unabridged audio - poor narrator Aug. 16 2002
By brubar
Format:Audio Cassette
The story is great, but the narrator of the unabridged audio is not. His misplaced emphasis and intonation are very distracting -- instead of listening to the story, I keep noticing the poor narration.
This is a dense enough story, with many characters, that it would have been a little difficult to listen to anyway. But of the 15-20 audiobooks I've listened to, this had the worst narrator.
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