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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
Format:Hardcover
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Tale of Heroism and Survival May 13 2002
Format:Hardcover
In May of 1939, The U.S.S Squalus, the Navy's newest submarine, was finishing her trials off the East Coast when something went terribly wrong. A hatch which was shown to be closed on the sub's control pannel was left open and thousands of gallons of water poured into the submarine as she was executing a test dive. The sub plunged to a depth of over two hundred feet. Thirty three men out of a crew of fifty nine survived as the sub landed on the bottom, but no crewmen had ever been rescued from such a depth. "Swede" Momsen, the developer of the Momsen lung and the submarine rescue chamber, was summoned by the Navy to assist in the rescue. It is in this part of the book where Maas does his best work. He tells Momsen's story with brilliant detail and puts the reader on the deck as the brave divers attempt to attach the diving chamber to the deck of the Squallus. Due to the heroic efforts of Momsen and his crew, the thirty three survivors are eventually rescued. But Momsen's work didn't end here. These same men also accomplished the amazing feat of actually raising the Squallus to the surface and returning her to port. This book describes in great detail the story of Swede Momsen and his heroic group of divers, who, despite over 600 individual dives, did not lose a single diver. This book also points out Momsen's other contributions to the submarine community, such as the development of wolfpacks, where a group of three submarines hunted enemy shiping as a group, and the correction of the faulty torpedo detonators which failed to explode. Swede Momsen had a huge part in the development of the American submarine fleet, and this excellent book is a fitting tribute to him and his brave men. I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone who enjoys submarines or good old fashioned heroism and courage.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Tale of Courage and Survival May 6 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
May, 1939-Europe was on the brink of war, and the United States had just launched her newest submarine, the Squalus. She was the pride of the submarine fleet and contained many features not found on older submarines, including air conditioning. However, on Tuesday, May 23, 1939, something went terribly wrong. A valve, which was shown to be closed on the submarine's contol pannel, was left open and thousands of gallons of sea water poured into the Squalus as she started one of her last test dives. Fifty nine men were suddenly trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. Never before had surviving crewmen ever been rescued from a sunken submarine-until now. "Swede" Momsen, a U.S. Navy officer, risked his own life numerous times to rescue the trapped crewmen. Momsen was the man who developed the Momsen lung, a breathing device which allowed crewmen to ascend to the surface by using controlled breathing techniques. But perhaps his greatest achievement was the development of the submarine rescue chamber; a bell-shaped device which attached directly to the submarine over the hatch. By using this apparatus, Momsen and his men were able to successfully rescue the thirty three men left alive in the submarine after she went down. However, Momsen's job was not finished. After the crew was rescued, attempts were made to raise the submurged Squalus, and Momsen's team was again at the forefront of these efforts. On September 11, 1939-after over 600 individual dives and over 100 days after disappearing into the Atlantic, the Squalus was raised. Momsen's contributions to the Navy did not end with this mission. He helped correct the problem that submariners were having with the detonaters on their torpedoes by test firing them against a rock cliff and designing a new detonator. Read more ›
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book tells two parallel stories that merge together through out the book. The author is detailing the sinking of the USN submarine Squalus in 1939, and the career of Swede Momsen who worked on underwater devises used to help rescue people from downed submariners. I wanted to read the book for the submarine rescue story, but the story of Momsen's fight with his Navy Department superiors and the ingenious gadgets he came up with were very interesting reading.
The author does a great job telling the story of the submarine sinking and the crew that was left to try and be rescued. The author took some time to introduce the reader to the crew. In stead of just a number of sailors we got to know their names and something about them. With this info you really start to get concerned for their lives and the tension grows until the rescue. It reminded me of what we have heard of the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk. The rescue attempt was so slow that the two groups of surviving crew must have felt the same emotions. You even wonder if the same bureaucratic slow pace detailed here about the rescue was the same problem in Russia.
The recovery of the Squalus and its remaining life are covered at the end of the book and again this is a riveting account of the process. It is just something that a big hunk of steel that big could be lifted from the bottom of the ocean with 1930's technology. Overall this is a wonderful book that offers the reader a great history lesson and a wonderful, suspenseful and exciting rescue tail. The author put together a well-written book. My only complaint was the lack of photos, maps, and diagrams. If this subject interested you I would suggest you read "Blind Man's Bluff", also a very interesting book of USN submarine stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Terrible Hours a good book
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. Read more
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unabridged audio - poor narrator
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... Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Swede Momsen would have been pleased
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