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Terrible Hours, The
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is a MUST read for anyone interested in U.S. Navy history. Maas's account of the loss of the USS Squalus & subsequent rescue efforts is exceptionally well done. The reader truly feels what it must have been like for the 33 crewmen trapped in their crippled submarine at the bottom of the North Atlantic as they prayed for rescue. The book also provides a biography of U.S. Navy officer "Swede" Momsen. Often at the risk of his own life, & sometimes with minimal support from the Navy, Momsen developed the deep-sea diving devices that made it possible to attempt the rescue.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Peter Maas gives us a tale that brings the heretofore unknown Swede Momsen to the forefront of the American heroic tradition. In describing how Momsen performs the first deep sea rescue of a marooned submarine crew, Maas tells a first-class tale. He describes how Momsen became one of the Navy's best officers, often not by blindly saying "yes," but more often by challenging conventional wisdom and practicing relentless innovation -- even when it was not welcome or understood. He risked his life many times. The rescue of the crew of Squalus off the Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, is enough of a story to merit a place for Momsen. But Maas proceeds to describe Momsen's entire naval career, which includes a hand in bringing about nuclear submarines and even a stint at solving the worst problem in the entire fleet -- namely, bringing order to the Navy's worldwide mail. Momsen has been dead for more than 30 years, but his life and work are a story about leadership, innovation, practical organization politics, and being personally effective. It's a great book, a real page-turner. The only drawback is an occasional spell of technical briefing which produced nothing more in me than a desire to skip a few pages and return to the spellbinding story of this man's life's work.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Though ostensibly about the first successful deep water submarine rescue in American History, "The Terrible Hours" is really the heoric story of Swede Momson, the dedicated U.S. Naval officer who overcame reams of red tape and mountains of bureaucratic ineptitude to develop the equipment that allowed the successful operation to take place. His story is an inspiring one for any American. Author Peter Maas first reported on Momsen's story nearly thrity-five years ago, and this project was a labor of love for him. His account of the sailors aboard the trapped submarine is quite harrowing. And the rescue is detailed with the right amount of white knuckle suspense. Overall, this well-written book is an excellent and informative piece of reporting.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
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.
Jerry
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A real page turner. Content of this story made me believe that there are still true American heroes, and "Swede" Momson was one of them. The story is written as though you very much cared and knew the men trapped on that sub. I felt with Maas' descriptions, that I was actually in the sub suffering the cold and horror that the men endured during their entrapment. I highly recommend this book as it is a true story and the writing is as excellent as it is fast paced and descriptive.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Many times the early works of an author are offered again after the writer has attained 'best seller' status. The truth can not be changed, and so it stands to reason that the story told in THE RESCUER sounds familiar in THE TERRIBLE HOURS. I have read them both and see the similarities and the differences. It is good to tell the story again in a time when the world yearns for heroes, and to offer the truth in a world where honesty often takes a back seat. I have heard this story all of my life, as VADM Momsen is my grandfather. Peter Maas spent nearly a decade interviewing him and sharing his life before he died. This is not a small story. Peter told me just last night that in spite of all his forays up the best seller list that "this is the one that counts." He told me, "I have been as dedicated to your grandfather's story as he was to his work. The man was a true hero." My grandfather longed to tell the story himself - and I own his original attempt to do that. But he was an inventor, and Peter Maas is the writer - and Peter has taken the tale out of the scientific information and turned it into a wonderful story of an exceptional man. There may be tellings of the story by those who were on the Falcon from the start to the finish of the rescue, but they surely can not rival the story told by the man who developed the rescue devices in the face of skepticim and opposition, risked his own life to test them, and came at last to that certain hour when the lives of 33 men rested on the sum total of everything he had ever done or learned or dreamed. His whole life was dedicated to underwater rescue and the Navy's submarine service. It is time for the scope of his accomplishments to be told - or told again to a more listening world - and Peter Maas has done an exceptional job at the telling.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Maas provided a riveting read and a naval history lesson. Swede Momsen was truly a hero. The book is a tribute to his character and dedication to his work. The difficulty of raising Squalus while solving technical problems and performing scientific research critical to your mission at the same is so daunting that most men would have thought it impossible at the outset. Even today the task would be a near impossibility. I agree with other reviewers that illustrations and/or diagrams of the submarine, rescue operation, and diving apparatus would have been very helpful to the average reader. As an ex-submariner, I could easily visualize all of descriptions of scenes Maas recounted, but I can easily see how other readers less familiar with submarines could have difficulty with visualizing the predicament of the Squalus crew, their brave rescuers, and the extreme danger inherent in the entire operation. Well done, Mr. Maas. Now carry on with an illustrated edition.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book clicks along at a pace that rivals a Tom Clancy novel. The difference is that "Swede" Momsen actually lived and the story told here is true.
It's hard to imagine a time when even a minor submarine accident meant certain death for her crew. It's equally hard to imagine being on the surface, listening to the men trapped below banging on the hull with hammers, begging to be rescued...and knowing it was simply impossible.
Momsen's life's work made those tragedies a thing of the past. This book tells the story masterfully and is highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2002
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you followed the Russian submarine incident with interest, you must read Peter Maas' book "Terrible Hours". In the year 2000, Russian submariners perished while the whole world watched and waited. In the year 1939, an American submarine, disabled and sitting on the bottom in 250 feet of water, was located and its crew rescued, thanks to the determination and guts of one Swede Momsen.
Maas does an excellent job bringing to light the early days of American submarine warfare and his portrayal of the pioneer days of underwater rescue is fascinating.
The US Navy wasn't very kind to Momsen in his day. Maas notes that Momsen's efforts to develop and test rescue techniques and equipment were actually frowned upon by the brass. Momsen's accomplishments were achieved mainly on the sly and at great personal and professional risk.
"Terrible Hours" is truly a must read, not only for those interested in submarines and submarine history, but for anyone moved by the gripping human drama of crewmen trapped on the ocean floor, waiting, waiting for that tap on the hull.
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