It was early morning on a Sunday in October 1923. U.S. Submarine O-5 was leading a patrol of four subs in a bay off the northern end of the Panama Canal. Suddenly the lead sub was violently struck by a steamship. Amid the ensuing chaos one of the O-5 sailors, Henry Breault, escaped to the sub’s deck. But then he remembered that one of his buddies was still below. He had a split second to decide what to do next.
Henry Breault came into the world on October 14, 1900, in the city of Putnam in Connecticut. When he was just 16, he decided to join the Royal Navy. That said something about his spirit. Enlisting with the British navy in 1916 meant making a start fighting the Germans the year before his native country even entered the First World War.
After a four-year spell in the Royal Navy, Breault hopped back over the Atlantic and joined the U.S. Navy. The First World War had ended in 1918, so Breault would not have seen any action with the U.S. Navy after he joined in 1920 – at least not until that fateful day, October 28, 1923, which we’ll come back to in more detail shortly.