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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History » User review

Bravery, fear, courage - and the lessons of history.

  • Dec 9, 1999
Peter Maas has a gift. His words make men and women whom we'll never know personally come alive. In his telling of the tale of the Squalus, Maas also provides a shocking glimpse into the rigidity of the pre-World War II Navy, presents a picture of domestic life that we no longer enjoy (and probably are worse off for it) and the willingness of men to willingly endure danger. It is also the story of one very brave, very determined man who fought a stolid bureaucracy in order to save the lives of his comrades. Maas' reporting - and that's what it really is - is solid. He never gets into phony histrionics, but his descriptions of the reality are frightening - you can imagine the terror of being trapped in a submarine, 240 feet below the surface, not knowing if you will be dead or alive in a matter of hours. Maas also captures the unassuming and unfailing courage of the rescuers who fight inadequate equipment, foul weather and fate itself. The Terrible Hours is adventure of the most terrifying kind because it recounts a reality most of us could never endure.


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Jerry Saperstein ()
Ranked #197
I am an e-discovery strategist, computer forensics specialist and testifying expert witness - and an avid reader.      Aside from technology books, I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, … more
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About this book


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. ...

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ISBN-10: 0060194804
ISBN-13: 978-0060194802
Author: Peter Maas
Genre: History
Publisher: HarperCollins
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