A real life detective story

by | Apr 5, 2013 | Book Reviews

Never Forgotten
The Search and Discovery of
Israel’s Lost Submarine Dakar
David W. Jourdan
U.S. Naval Institute, 2009
248 pages, $34.95
ISBN: 978-1-59114-418-2

1968 was a bad year for submarines, the worst since WWII. The K129, a Soviet Ballistic Missile sub sank in March. The French submarine Minerve was lost with all hands January, and the USS Scorpion famously disappeared in May. Less well reported was the disappearance during her maiden voyage home, following extensive renovation in Great Britain, of INS Dakar, a WWII diesel electric boat given to the Israeli Navy.

Never Forgotten details the dramatic effort to locate the remains of Israel’s lost submarine and bring closure to the families of the lost crew, albeit 31 years later.

The author, David W. Jourdan, is a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a submariner, and the holder of a Master’s degree in applied physics from Johns Hopkins University. After leaving the Navy Jourdan co-founded Nauticos, an ocean exploration company located in Cape Porpoise, Maine, of which he is president.

Jourdan, in one slim volume has given the reader what amounts to two stories. The first involves the intimate revelation of the pride of the elite crew and its leaders, the cohesiveness of their families, their expectations and heartbreak when Dakar, following a speedy transit of the Mediterranean, failed to come home. What began as just another underwater investigation became a sacred mission as he came to know the families and understand their need for resolution three decades after the tragic loss. As in many literary mysteries, there is a “McGuffin.” at play. The recovery of an emergency buoy identified as having come from Dakar in relatively shallow waters close to Israel’s shores influenced Israeli search efforts and gave rise to all manner of theories. Did the captain make a fatal error? Was the submarine captured by the Egyptians and hidden away with the crew captive? It was concluded by Israeli scientists and military experts that she had sunk in relatively shallow water not far from the coast.

Enter Nauticos, the United States Navy, the Ballard organization (discoverer of the Titanic), and others, now equipped for deepwater search not technically feasible in 1968. Jourdan travels to Israel, is read into the problem and is finally asked to make a proposal to search for the remains of Dakar. Jourdan, after studying all the data held by the Israelis, decided that with the assistance of what amounted to an international community of undersea exploration resources, Dakar might indeed be found. The fascinating details of the science and art employed in making a totally different assumption as to where the submarine sank, and the complexity involved in deploying state of the art equipment to test those theories is the second story in Never Forgotten. In 1997 Jourdan’s calculations put the submarine far out to sea, in deep water, over 10,000 feet.

Now, in May of 1999, taking advantage of a slim window of opportunity in terms of financing, equipment and personnel availability, one last effort was mounted with remarkable results. Not only was Dakar found, but a section of the conning was lifted from that great depth to be installed as a permanent monument to the lost crew. Other mysteries were solved, including the reasonable conclusion that Dakar, operating submerged, suffered a massive hull failure in the vicinity of one of the forward torpedo tubes, resulting in uncontrollable flooding in the bow. Inexorably she sank below her crush depth and all was over in a matter of seconds.

The families of the lost crew were unstinting in their appreciation. “…By finding Dakar you accomplished a holy mission that was a dream to us….you brought them home; even deep in the sea…our lives changed the moment your cried out ‘we found.’”

Never Forgotten has been rightly termed “a fascinating, hi-tech detective story.”

—Hal Sacks is a retired Jewish communal worker who has reviewed books for Jewish News for more than 30 years.