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The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (October 1, 1999)
  • ISBN-10: 0060194804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060194802
  • ASIN: B000HWYUD4
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

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Customer Reviews

This is a true story of a great American hero.
Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Cowan
Maas has an easy style and paces the story well.
J. Gifford
The book is a page turner and a very good read.
Wayne A. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer 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 By Douglass T. Davidoff 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 By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on June 17, 2000
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 By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 9, 1999
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 By Jean E. Ditzler 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 By A Customer 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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