Squalus Survivors Say Momsen's Work Saved Them
By Diane Scarponi
The Portsmouth Herald, Wednesday, September 20, 2000
GROTON, Conn. — Navy Vice Admiral Charles Momsen, who pioneered ways to rescue submariners in underwater disasters such as the Squalus sinking off the New Hampshire coast, will be honored with a warship in his name.
The USS Momsen, a destroyer, is to be christened in 2002, Navy Secretary Richard Danzig announced Tuesday at the Nautilus submarine museum.
Among the guests at the announcement were survivors of the 1939 sinking of the submarine Squalus off the coast of New Hampshire.
Momsen led the rescue of 33 Squalus crew members and helped develop devices to rescue sailors trapped in stricken submarines, including the "Momsen lung," a submarine escape breathing device.
"I think it’s an honor long delayed," said Squalus survivor Carl Bryson of New London, who said he owes his life to Momsen’s work.
Momsen’s granddaughter, Helen Hart Momsen, said the family hopes the USS Momsen "would serve in compassionate peace."
Danzig said the Navy is honoring Momsen as a Navy leader, scientist, visionary and a man of action, as well as for his compassion in trying to find ways to make submarines more safe.
"He saw a problem he cared deeply about, and he committed himself to dealing with it," Danzig said.
He said it is unusual for the Navy to name a surface ship after someone best known for submarine work, but he added that the ship’s name will remind sailors in ships and in submarines that there is one Navy.
Besides Momsen’s submarine safety work, he commanded an attack group of submarines in the East China Sea during World War II that sank five Japanese ships and damaged eight others.
After the war, he directed a fleet of surplus ships that evacuated Japanese from Pacific islands.
He later was commander of the submarine force of the Pacific fleet. Momsen retired in 1955 and died in 1967.
The USS Momsen will be the 42nd ship of the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers.