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WARM BREAD AND HAZARDS Kate’s Journal


Episode 7
New London, 1939

The reassuring warmth and smell of freshly baked bread greeted me upon my arrival home after the hurricane in 1938. Since that time, I equate that pleasant smell with home.

We toured the eastern seaboard from Maine south to the Carolinas numerous times during our tour of duty. The first weekend we visited my mother’s birthplace of Woodsville, New Hampshire also introduced us to the Lake Morey country club/resort in Fairlee, Vermont where my aunt Corinne was born. The two towns seemed to be separated by just a cow-path, but that may be my faulty memory.

The resort was first built by my great-grandfather George Kendall and cleverly named The Kaulin. From the beginning it had golf course, tennis courts and country club amenities showing great foresight in a country gentleman.

“Gone With The Wind” was being shown in Hartford, and we treated ourselves to new clothes. Mine was a pink wool coat and the ubiquitous hat with streamers, this time a pink one. Yet again it shows my absolute shallowness to remember what I wore instead of Scarlet O’Hara’s plight.

Mom & ad 1938
Mom and Dad 1939

My Dad was studying hard these days, bringing home piles of books, and we often studied together. Since he was often annoyed by my complete brain vacancy in math, I began reading some of his papers hoping to impress him with my memorizing skills. As we sat down I brightly asked “What is the definition of a limberhole?” Without giving him time to answer I replied “A hole in the bulkhead of the doublebottom which facilitates the flow of water and lightens the weight of the metal.” I had the answer in case he ever needed it.

The diving gear in those days consisted of Men from Mars suits, with a large round helmet bolted to it. In his training, my father was dressed in this heavy confining outfit and lowered into the tall narrow tower on the Thames River, working at whatever skill he was perfecting.
helmet

“On the morning of May 23, 1939, the submarine USS Squalus slipped beneath the storm-tossed surface of the Atlantic on a sea trial. Minutes into the maneuver, she began flooding uncontrollably. The boat sank to the ocean floor nine miles off the New Hampshire coast, trapping 59 men on board.”

For some of the crew this date would be carved on their headstones. For others it would mark a 39 hour ordeal they would live with the rest of their lives. And for a hastily-assembled Navy rescue team rushed to New Hampshire, it would be remembered as the date they launched an unprecedented rescue mission that stretched their abilities.

No submarine rescue had ever taken place below twenty feet of water–the Squalus was 240 feet down resting on the bottom. The rescue methods had only existed in theory before this time.

In the end, there would be four Medals of Honor, 46 Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service medal awarded to officers and men of the submarine rescue and salvage team. There would be a glorious new chapter written in the history of underwater rescue.

My father was part of this rescue mission, with a change of rank and uniform, and a new appreciation of the unforgiving power of the sea for those who choose to challenge her depths.

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17 comments on “WARM BREAD AND HAZARDS Kate’s Journal

  1. I’ve not heard of the submarine USS Squalus. How interesting your father was part of the rescue mission. I have family in New Hampshire. I’ll have to ask my stepdad if he’s heard of it. I suspect he has. He grew up in Maine and now lives in New Hampshire. I love it out there.

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  2. The sub was known for her tour of duty during WW11. She was raised, recommissioned and renamed the USS Sailfish in May 1940.
    I loved the East, but the winters were a bit colder than California! I remember telling my Dad how much I loved the snow and he said “try having your hands freeze to a steel deck.”

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  3. A great story,Kayti. I saw one of those helmets at an antique shop not far from here. I wonder how many people were rescued 240 feet down? Amazing!

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  4. It’s amazing to hear that story, then think of what was done to cap the well after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. We’ve come a long way, from operating at 240 feet to being able to operate at 4,000-5000 feet: for submarine rescue, too.

    It was interesting to me to see many of the techniques used in space also used in those deep water conditions. On the other hand, companies like Oceaneering have started in the oceans, and then gone to space.

    One of the most touching tributes to the men who died in the Deepwater explosion is here. I still go back and watch some of the videos from those weeks — utterly amazing. RockyPaloma, the fellow who did this one, has a collection of fascinating videos on YouTube. As terrible as these things are, the human capability to cope with them is equally amazing.

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    • That video is amazing. When you think the Deepwater Horizon explosion was in 2010 and remember the Squalus in 1939, think of what has been accomplished.
      When the sub was raised it was recommissioned and renamed the USS Sailfish. After it went into its Pacific duty the captain threatened to maroon any sailor using the work “Squalus”. Men began calling her Squalfish instead and then threatened with court martial. Such if the superstition of men who go to sea.

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  5. Did some of the crew die before the rescue took place? I assume the date carved on their headstones meant they didn’t make it. The stress on the rescuers must have been extreme. Did your father talk about this event?

    Much of your stories concerns the fact that during the war, your dad was gone. Your mother and her sisters were clearly independent.

    What was your dad like? Were you closer to your father or mother?
    If I have missed some of these details in your middle postings, please forgive me.

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    • Twenty-six men died immediately when the sub flooded. I don’t remember my Dad ever talking about the rescue or about the War. Much like most of the men involved in the fighting. Before he died he was interviewed regarding Pearl Harbor and we learned more about the actual bombing. I’m sure they just wanted to forget.
      My father was gone most of my life and the women in my family had to be pretty strong. My grandmother was the standard.
      My dad was very handsome and smart with a wry and teasing sense of humor, but brooked no nonsense. I was close to both parents but probably closer to Dad. My life would have been much different had he been home to push me academically. My skills seemed to be of the artistic kind which pleased the women– dancing, singing and art.

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  6. hehe, totally get the importance of remembering your pink coat and hat. I do that too. Life measured out in outfits! And now I’m equipped with “limberhole” 🙂 Great story. xx

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  7. We just watched #27 and it wasn’t up to the older ones. Maybe we hoped too much. We have watched the original ones about 5 times and never tired of them! Her clothes in this one of course were great. We’ll watch #28 tomorrow.

    Thanks for the links to the houses. They are really something. My grandma was a kinder version of Aunt Prudence. I can see her in Aunt P. when i watch these.

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  8. Found my way back to your blog at last. As you might imagine, I just love these stories – and the photos :). Thank you – I learn such a lot from your stories – I think it’s important to remember the past to see how far we’ve come (or what we’ve left behind). You have such an interesting life story!

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  9. Thank you, I love your stories too Mir. It’s lovely to learn more about your part of the world and compare the way young people live today from when I was a girl. Actually there isn’t a lot of difference except in the tech activities which seem to be changing as we speak! Kids are the same everywhere in every era.

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