Rescue account from Sheppard J. Shreaves, the diver who blasted the mud away from under the bow of the sub to run the cable that brought the sub to surface. He received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for his action
“I could spot the O-5 on the bottom by the air bubbles exhausted from the compartment where Breault and Brown were trapped. To survive, they were bleeding air from 3,000-pound compressed air reserves in the forward torpedo room.
… Since the Navy divers had given me a good briefing on the position of the O-5 and the location of the two trapped men, I went right in through her side. The light of my lamp was feeble against the pitch black. The inside was in an awful mess, and it was tight and slippery going. I was constantly pushing away floating debris. When I reached the forward bulkhead of the engineroom I hit it with my diving hammer. Faint raps were returned. Breault and Brown were alive. I acknowledged their taps, but almost with a feeling of hopelessness because I couldn’t do anything for them at the time. … The O-5 lay upright in several feet of soft, oozing mud, and I began water jetting a trench under the bow. Sluicing through the ooze was easy; too easy, for it could cave in and bury me. … Swirling black mud engulfed me, I worked solely by feel and instinct. I had to be careful that I didn’t dredge too much from under the bow for fear the O-5 would crush down on me. Once in a while, I’d rap the hull with the nozzle to let the boys know someone was working to bring them out. Their raps were returned weaker each time. … I came up from what I hoped would be my last dive. I was near exhaustion. The job below was done and we were ready for a third lift. At 12:30 p.m. on the 29th, from topside, I released compressed air into the engineroom of the O-5 to unflood that compartment and lighten the boat. Water and mud bubbled to the surface as in a boiling cauldron … I signaled the Ajax to slowly lift the O-5. … God, how we prayed the cable would take it this time. The intense silence of the rescue force and spectators was electrifying — almost unbearable. … After what must have seemed a lifetime, the bow finally broke surface. When the hatch was clear the two trapped men crawled out, more dead than alive. They were taken to Coco Solo and placed in a decompression chamber and later transferred to Colon Hospital for examinations. …
I was a big hero for a while. The boys carried me around on their shoulders. Everybody rushed down to the Stranger’s Club in Colon for a big celebration. But me, I went to sleep at the party.”
Voltaire99: Silent Cal is tragically underrated. Easily the greatest president of the last 100 years.