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The Sunday telegram. [volume] (Clarksburg, W. Va.) 1914-1927, May 09, 1915, Image 27

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85059732/1915-05-09/ed-1/seq-27/

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How 21 Men Of Uncle Sam's Under-Sea
Navy Met Death In Honolulu Harbor?
Sunken Craft Had Every Known Safety
Device And Distress Signal But
No S. O. S. Reached
the Surface After
Her Fatal Plunge
"Evidences of the heroism with
?which the 21 members of the crew
of the United States submarine F4
must have gone to their death when
the boat plunged to the bottom of
the sea in the' harbor of Honolulu
recently are accumulating in dis
patches from the scene, quoting div
ers at work in an attempt to rescue
the sunken vessel.
That every man remained a hero
to the last is indicated by the re
port of Diver Agraz who descended
far enough to peer into one of the
I The dim light to the men dying of
suffocation must have reminded
them of the surface above where the
sun was shining, and of that space
three hundred, feet above where
there was fresh air. the lack or
?which they were slowly dying from.
With the exception of this one
rfimpse into the interior of the F4
by this daring diver, the manner in
which the entire crew met its death
will never be known in detail.
How those brave men went to
their death can only be surmised
from their positions in the cramped
interior of the submarine. All went
to their deaths as heroes though
there might have been the bark of
an automatic pistol as some man.
crazed by lack of air. his lunsrs
paining and his blood almost burst
ing from his ear drums, took th^
shorter course to inevitable death?
The F4 was one of the modern
submarines of the United States
navy and had been pronounced in
perfect order a month before. Less
than a month ago with other sister
vessels of a submarine fleet she
skimmed over the water of the har
bor of Honolulu with" her periscope
and just a part of her deck showing.
Her crew were in their neat uni
forms and her captain stood on the
slippery deck as they sailed away
from the cruiser that acts as their
protector when they are above sur
face and at rest.
The F4 and her sisters were well
equipped with gasoline for the en
gines and tanks of oxygen, provis
ions and water for the crew, it was
known by previous test that sh<
could remain nndcr water a week
on the air supply she contained al
though her provision stock would
not last that long.
At a command from the captain
the men descended down a ladder
to the dark interior and took their
positions in the cramped quarters,
each man at his post. The port
holes were closed, the pcriscope ar
ranged satisfactorily, and the cap
tain took his place on the little nar
row bridge. At his signal the gaso
line engines turned, the propeller
turned. aU valves were tested and
the engineer reported to the bridge
through the speaking tube: "AH O.
The captain gave the signal to
descend. The compartments on the
8id"s were opened, the sea poured
in and the vessel slowly settled.
When she was so far below tlie sur
face that only a half foot of the
periscope was above water, the
captain gave a signal to stop de
scending and full speed ahead. The
F4 sped out into the harbor one of
the most graceful of crafts that
Uncle Sam possessed.
Sailors watching her from the
decks of her cruiser saw her sud
denly plunge and disappear. This
was a part of the maneuvers in the
Honolulu Bay that afternoon. When
the F4 did not reappear no alarm
was felt. It was believed she
might be trying to break a record.
It was known that she could remain
beneath the sea for at least three
days without the least discomfiture
to her crew.
When she did not appear the
second day the crew of the cruiser
became alarmed and sister subma
rine* were sent to search for her.
Down into the depths they plunged
but they gained no sight of her for
two more days. At last a black hulk
was seen lying on the bottom of the
sea. three hundred feet from the
surface. That ship gave no signs
or life. As far as observers were
concerned it might have been some
old Spanish galleon, filled with gold
and sent to the bottom many, many
years before.
After several hours maneuvering
a submarine came close enough that
the captain through his periscope
could observe the "F4" mark paint
ed on her bow. The submarine
quickly sped to the top and called
for help. The captain of the cruis
er wired the secretary of the navy
for help and through th^ United
States was flashed the information
that a submarine of our navy had
sunk and is crew of 21 brave souls
was in peril.
Th?? wireless was put in use and
all of the vessels in that part of the
world were sent to aid. Subma
rines arc provided with rings on the
side so that in an emergency such
as the one the F4 experienced, oth
er vessels might lower grapling
hooks and raise her to the surface.
The rescue work was started with
that dispatch that any member of
the United States army or navy uses
in going to the assistance of one of
their number in danger. It needed
no playing of "The Star Spangled
Banner" to urge these men to work
fast in their efforts to raise the
sunken submarine before her crew
should di*' of suffocation. But their
efforts were in vain. Several"?imes
it is believed the grappling hooks
of cruisers on the surface caught in
the deck rings of the sunken sub
marine but always an accident pre
vented the lifting of the vessel.
Several times the prongs of the
grappling hooks broke for the
F4 was in a position at the bottom
of the sea with a water pressure of
approximately 18.000 pounds to the
square inch and she could not be
budged. More powerful craft with
clcctric hoisting apparatus, heavy
cable and grappling liooks were
sent to the rescue. They succeeded
in drawing her several hundred
feet nearer the shore but not in
raising her.
\V. C. Parks, a civil engineer,
started the construction of an im
mense divine bell. It is doubtful if
any such bell, unless of the heaviest
metal obtainable, can possible re
sis! the water pressure at the depth
at which the F4 rested on the bot
tom of the sea. It was feared that
the bell would be crushed in by the
pressure. Before the bell was oc
cupied by iU builder iu his at
tempt to rescue the sunken ship, it
was lowered to the bottom and then
raised again to see what effect the
water pressure had on it. At that
depth even tbe fishes have to have
great protection against the pres
sure. It is a knefwn fact that when
fish from such a depth are brought
to the surface they burst because
the great pressure to which they
are accustomed and for the resist
ance of which their bodies were
particularly provided, has been re-,
duced. While the pressure of air
on the surface is 16 pounds to the
square inch, water pressure in
creases at the rate of 60 pounds per
inch for each foot descended.
Whether the engines of the F4 re
fused to work when she got to the
bottom of the sea. whetfier her
sides caved in under terrific pres
sure. or the exact nature of the in
cident that left her helpless at such
a depth can only be surmised.
When a week passed without any
chance of lifting the vessel all hope
for her crew was given up. In fact
there had been grave doubts as to
anyone being alive within for no
sound had been heard from any of
her apparatus for communicating
?with other vessels..
Perhaps her iron sides were
crushed in on some shelving rock
or corral on which she struck, the
water rushed in and her crew was
subjected to death by drowning,
far more painless and merciful at
the time than the slow, agonizing
death by suffocation. However, it
is feared that death by the latter
means resulted. The F4 rested on
the bottom of the sea. Her engi
neer struggled vainly with all pow
er od. but the whirring propeller
with all the force of the powerful
gasoline engines, failed to move her.
Imagine that silent crew huddled
about, each man so near the other
that their shoulders touched, yet
each man with the certain knowl
edge death faced him. pretending
all was well and even trying to
cheer up the man beside him.
Thoughts of the mother or sister,
or perhaps the sweetheart at home,
must have passed through their
minds as they sat huddled there in
the dim light of the deep sea.
Fishes flashing by the portholes
must have been the most serious
reminders of their fate for those
fishes meant life?free life in the
open?the principle that every man
recognizes as his greatest boon. To
the human under, such circum
stances the approach of death is by
far more agonizing than to an ani
mal in such circumstances, even
than to the proverbial rat in the
trap as it slowly drowns. To the
beasts it is but a question of preser
vation of life?that instinct that
makes it struggle until the last
gasp. To the man and especially to
a member of the United States navy,
trained to bravery in emergencies
and taught to expect possible death
as his possible reward for the de
fence of his country in times of
war. death?death by such a means
?brings a great mental agony. '
Above him. he knows, are other
United States ships, with their hap
py care-free crews. Far -away on
shore or hundreds of Americans
enjoying themselves in freedom.
But there at the bottom of the sea
were 21 stalwart sons of Uncle Sam
doomed to a terrible death and des
tined to face death like the iron men
the United States navy produces.
If it had been on shipboard with
national airs playing and a foe in
sight these men would have rushed
into a thousand dangers and gladly
gone to death for the defense of
their country. But here they were
prisoners with not even a glimpse
of the sun to liven them, to cheer
them in their last hours. If they
had been in battle line ashore or
behind the big gun aboard ship they
would have been contented for a
whistling steel shell, a death scream
and all would be over.
But now hours of agony faced
them. For several days they had
lived on scanty rations in the hopes
they would not starve and that they
might be rescued at any time. If
they were still alive what joy must
have possessed them when they
heard the grappling hooks pass over
the deck of their vessel. That
sharp pronged hook was as if the
whole United States were lifting out
its hand to aid them in their rescue.
What disappointment must have
possessed them when the book fell
to the sea. having failed to catch
their deck rings.
By this time the air in the oxy
gen containers must have been quite
exhausted. Breathing would be dif
ficult. The air laden with no nitro
'gen and carbonic acid must have
pressed heavily on their lungs.
Imagine them tearing open the
bosom of their shirts as if to relieve
the great pressure. Seated about
with swollen lips, distended eyes
and lungs paining as if a knife had
been thrust through, these men
must have sat about praying for
the end. The captain can be 1m- .
agined still at the bridge, standing
as an officer must stand while on
duty, yet with bis head bent on bis
chest, his breath coming heavily %
and his mind a blank.
On him had rested the responsi
bility of the lives of those 21 men.
While they sat helpless in their
places beside the shafts of the pro
pellers. he thought'or all the ways
ever employed by mecnantcs in
such circumstances. The engineer
backed him up in an efTort to raise
the vessel. But there came a time
when orders ceased to come from
the bridge and when the engineer
was not prepared to heed them. The
latter long since had sunk into a
coma and was dreaming happily
despite the heavy pressure of his
lungs. Death was showing mercy.*
The tired captain, his head sunk on
his breast, still stood half uncon
scious and also in a coma. His
work was over when the hand of
death took charge of the wheel of
that vessel, but death was slow, al
though it bad kindly given him the
anesthesia of unconsciousness.
Thus the crew of F4 went to its
death. Historians may add another
chapter to the history of the United
States when that hulk is raised and
the bodies recovered.

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