"A Survivor's Story" historical lecture

Interview with Gerald C. McLees, United States Navy

Up until his death in December 2004, Gerald C. McLees (World War II veteran) was one of the last living survivors of the USS Squalus that sank on May 23,1939 during sea trials off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The miraculous rescue of the 33 survivors with the McCann Rescue Chamber has become a legendary example of the United States Navy’s teamwork and ingenuity. 

“This video production marks the beginning of what will be my exclusive look at the lives, jobs and history at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard”, notes Filmmaker & Lecturer Neil Novello about his exclusive interview recorded in 2001 with Gerald C. McLees. 

Mr. McLees, an electrician on the submarine, the Squalus, recounts the events leading up to the tragic moments when a valve failure caused the submarine to sink within minutes, drowning 26 submariners and leaving the 33 survivors for nearly 39 hours waiting to be rescued.  The interview is illustrated with vintage photos and film footage of the rescue efforts. 

This historical lecture includes rare footage of the Squalus salvage efforts when the submarine was lifted from over 100 feet of water to be reconditioned and put back into service as the USS Sailfish, which Mr. McLees served aboard during the war effort.

Gerald C. McLees, who came from a farm in Richmond, Kansas, volunteered for submarine duty and never looked back.  Despite his experience on the USS Squalus (80th Anniversary this year), he remained committed to the submarine service. 

As recognition of this veteran's experiences, the lecture includes the video, A Survivor’s Story and an Addendum, a photo montage paying tribute to the individuals who contributed to the rescue and salvage efforts of the USS Squalus. They include Lt. Commander, Charles B. “Swede” Momsen, who directed the rescue & salvage operations, and Lt. Commander, Allen Rockwell McCann, whom the Submarine Rescue Chamber is named.