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We Rescue The Men From The U. S. S. Squalus, by Lt. Comdr. C. W. Shilling (MC) USN

Shilling Narrative, Page 1

I was in the Dispensary at the U. S. Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, doing physical examinations on candidates for the submarine service when, at 1300 on the 23rd of May, 1939, my Chief Pharmacists' Mate, Ira A. Everley, called me to the phone. When I answered all I heard was the curt message, "Event one thousand". Cryptic but full of meaning for me because these words meant, "Mobilize for rescue. A submarine has failed to report surfacing on time.”

I told Everley to get someone else to finish the examinations and started on the double out of the dispensary, across the short intervening space to the dock where the submarine rescue ship, the U. S. S. FALCON, was tied up. As I hurried to my duty station on the ship I wondered whether this was another drill or whether perchance this was the real thing. I could not know that I was to be part of the greatest underwater rescue feat of our time, and that as a consequence of the rescue and of salvage of the submarine there would be four Medals of Honor, forty-six Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Medal awarded to the officers and men of the rescue and salvage team.

As I reported aboard the Falcon the officers and men were working at top speed, preparing to get underway -- this was no drill! Unfortunately, the cry for help had caught the ship in the midst of an upkeep period and with both boilers cold. What steam she had required was being furnished from the dock, and Chief Machinist Paul Cottrell was working with his black-gang force in a frantic effort to get steam in the boilers. The Falcon's young Commanding Officer, red-headed Lieutenant George A. Sharp, was calmly and efficiently getting everything aboard and in readiness for the rescue and salvage operation which might be necessary.

I asked the officer of the deck how much time I had and he said, “Unfortunately you have at least an hour, for it will take that long to get enough steam in the boilers to get underway.”

With a “Thank you”, I raced down to our little sick bay, asked the Pharmacists' Mate if he had everything in readiness and instructed him to check on the various supplies. I then ran for my car and drove the two miles to our home which was just north of the Submarine Base and actually right beside Red Top, Harvard crew's quarters. Once there, I grabbed enough clothes to last for a week or ten days, said goodbye to Miriam and the two children, and dashed back down to the Falcon.


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