Submarine Docked In Lake Erie Stands In For Sunken Vessel

CLEVELAND (AP) - A World War II submarine docked in Lake Erie is starring in a National Geographic documentary about a sub that sank nearly 63 years ago.

The USS Cod is standing in for the USS Squalus, which sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on May 23, 1939, when a valve stuck open during a trial dive off the coast of New Hampshire.

Of the Squalus' 56 crew members and three civilian contractors, 26 men drowned. They were trapped in the rear engine rooms.

The remaining 33 were rescued after a day-and-a-half. They had been huddled in forward compartments sealed by watertight doors before climbing from the submarine into a diving bell specially designed to link with the sub's hatch.

It was the first such undertaking in history, according to the Navy.

"Prior to this (rescue), any submarine disaster spelled certain death for the crew," said Paul Farace, curator of the Cod.

The Squalus is one of two submarines to be featured in the documentary on submarine rescues. It will be televised in July on MSNBC.

"We were looking for a submarine we could use to represent the Squalus," said Simon Boyce, chief rescuer, who produced the documentary. "For the re-creation we needed a boat that could look as similar as possible."

The Cod is of a similar vintage and still intact, with working valves and control boards. Several area actors landed roles in the documentary.

A film crew spent last week costuming and applying makeup to the actors and working out makeshift lighting in the cramped quarters.

Farace said the Squalus got as much attention as the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk received in 2000 when all of its 118 crew members died during a training operation in the Barents Sea.

The Squalus was raised to the surface after the rescue. The flood damage was repaired and the submarine compiled a distinguished war record as the recommissioned USS Sailfish.

The Squalus reenactment meant extra cash for the Cod's staff to continue its mission of maintaining an accurate and authentic piece of history.

Money from National Geographic is "icing" on the Cod's gate-dominated budget, Farace said.

The Cod's president, Dr. John Fakan, lent the film crew authentic World War II Navy blankets and uniforms for the filming.

The items were gathered from donations and continual searches of online auctions.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)