Never Forgotten

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

The disappearance of the Israeli submarine Dakar some thirty years ago is the compelling subject of NEVER FORGOTTEN, a new book by ocean explorer David W. Jourdan (Naval Institute Press). Subtitled The Search and Discovery of Israel's Lost Submarine Dakar, the book describes how a group of dedicated American and Israeli scientists and engineers devoted themselves to solving the mystery of the Dakar, which went down in the Mediterranean without warning on her maiden voyage from England to Haifa, taking the lives of 67 crewmen and officers with her.

The Dakar was a second-hand sub, having first started service in the British navy in 1943. Completely rebuilt in the U.K. to Israeli specifications, the renamed Dakar took to sea on Jan. 9, 1968. Sixteen days later, all communication with her ceased and the sub sank from sight somewhere between Crete and Cyprus, for reasons unknown. The Israeli navy tried twenty-five times to find the sub, without success. Finally, the Israelis turned to an American company called Nauticos for help. Headed by ocean engineers Tom Dettweiler and the author, Nauticos specialized in finding shipwrecks, notably sunken subs. With outside help from the British and U.S. navies and the likes of Dr. Robert Ballard at the Deep Submergence Laboratory (instrumental in the discovery of the Titanic) and a team of sonar experts from MIT, Nauticos tackled the seemingly impossible task of locating the Dakar.

Jourdan's description of the high-tech detective work that commenced in 1999 and continued for a tense, heart-stopping year reads like a science-fiction thriller. There were times when many of those involved in the project thought the mystery of the Dakar would never be solved, but men like Jourdan, Dettweiler and Admiral Gideon Raz of the Israeli Navy persevered. The remains of the Dakar were found ten thousand feet down in the sea and hauled to the surface. The sub, it was determined, did not suffer a collision and neither was it attacked or damaged by hostile forces. It was in the midst of a deep dive when "there was a massive hull breach in the forward part of the pressure hull," Jourdan writes, "leading to uncontrollable and catastrophic flooding of the bow spaces."

It only took sixty-five seconds for the sub to implode and sink, taking the lives of all hands aboard. Today, the undamaged bow of the Dakar still sits on the sea bottom. "There it will likely remain for a hundred years or more, as it slowly dissolves into the sea," comments Jourdan. "On the bow rests a plaque, fashioned at sea by the discovery crew, placed gently and ceremoniously, as the team members solemnly watched. The plaque will dissolve as well in time, but the sentiment will remain. It reads: 'The Men of INS Dakar. Never forgotten!"