Saga of the Submarine Squalus

  • Documentary

A documentary film about the sinking, rescue, and salvage of an American submarine named the “Squalus”. This submarine was performing its last trial run on May 23rd, 1939 when a system malfunction caused it to sink off the coast of New Hampshire in 243 feet of water. Twenty six of the crew died almost immediately but thirty three men were still alive and trapped on the ocean bottom. During an extraordinary rescue operation, the trapped men were saved. To this day, it is the greatest submarine rescue in history. After four months of monumental effort, the Squalus was raised from the ocean bottom and towed into the Portsmouth New Hampshire Navy Yard where it was repaired, refitted, and recommissioned as the Sailfish. The Sailfish would later join the Pacific Fleet and sink a number of Japanese ships in World War Two.

Runtime 49

Released 2019

Director Mike Garland

Producer Karen Raynes

Writer Karen Raynes, Mike Garland

Cast (Narrators) Karen Raynes, Mike Garland, and Josh Silveira

Watch On YouTube


Filmmaker Statement

This documentary was envisioned to be an educational project to inform the New Hampshire seacoast community about the incredible events that happened off their coast in 1939. Many people in that community had either vague notions about these events or knew nothing about them at all. With the 80th anniversary of those events coming up in 2019, the producer and I decided to make this film as a service to the community. The structure of the film was heavily influenced by the production style used by Ken Burns although we did forgo the use of “talking head” type interviews. The film was premiered at the local American Legion on Memorial Day in 2019 where it was received with great enthusiasm. It was then shown at a variety of local venues during 2019 and early 2020. The New Hampshire PBS station reviewed the film and thought it was a good candidate for national distribution but they were concerned about potential copyright issues and therefore declined to show it. Our original intention was only to show the film at local sites such as libraries, museums, historical societies, private clubs, etc. Under those conditions, we assumed that any copyright issues would be covered under the “Fair Use” law since we made the film for strictly educational purposes. We received no financial support for its production and received no monetary compensation for the local screenings.

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