TM2 Henry Breault, USN – (Torpedoman Second Class)
Henry Breault was born in Putnam, CT on October 14, 1900. At the age of sixteen, Henry enlisted in the British Royal Navy, and after serving for four years, joined the United States Navy. It is while serving in the U.S. Navy that young Henry would go above and beyond the call of duty earning him the distinctive Medal of Honor.
On October 28, 1923, TM2 Breault was serving aboard the United States submarine O-5 (SS-66). The O-5 was sailing across Limon Bay, towards the entrance to the Panama Canal, when it was struck by the SS Abangarez, a steamship headed for the Dominican Republic. The Abangarez performed some miscalculated and costly maneuvers leading it to collide with the O-5. The collision caused a ten foot hole to open in the starboard hull, near the control room. The submarine rolled sharply to the port side and then back towards starboard, causing it to take on water.
TM2 Breault had been working in the torpedo room when the collision occurred. After reaching topside, Breault realized that his shipmate, Chief Electrician’s Mate Lawrence T. Brown, was still down below. Rather than jumping off of the boat and saving himself, TM2 Breault went back down to rescue Brown, closing the deck hatch just as the bow went underwater. Breault found Brown in his bunk awake, yet disoriented and unaware of the order to abandon ship.
Knowing that the bow was underwater, Breault led them aft in hopes of exiting the sinking boat. Unfortunately, their escape route was cut off by water coming into the forward battery compartment. The men were able to reach the torpedo room, where Breault closed the compartment hatch just before the battery shorted and exploded. Breault realized that they were trapped on a sinking vessel.
Divers were immediately dispatched to search for missing sailors. The divers hammered on various parts of the ship in an effort to locate those that might be trapped and found alive. While hammering on the hull nearest the torpedo room, they received hammering blows in return.
In an effort to rescue the men, the ship was lifted up from the mud where it rested. After a harrowing thirty-one hours of attempts, the bow was finally lifted above the surface of the water. The torpedo hatch was immediately opened and the men were rescued.
Petty Officer Breault was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Calvin Coolidge, on April 4, 1924.
Information garnered from: Submarine Hero, Jim Christley, EMCS(SS)