Submarines have, over the years, played host to everything from pets to prisoners of war to presidents. But few have had guests as unique as a helicopter. An article in the Key West Citizen from 27 April 1956 describes the unusual event.
“The sleek silhouette of the submarine USS Corporal (SS-346) coming to the rescue was a welcome sight to four Navy airmen aboard a disabled helicopter off Key West yesterday afternoon.
“With only a few fleeting moments of air time left, the helicopter, number 51 of squadron VX-1, and piloted by Commander W. F. Culley, hovered over the submarine and landed safely on the fantail with only a few inches to spare.
“Commander Culley, his co-pilot Lieutenant J.K. Johnson, and two other crew members, G.A. Dechamp, SO3, and M.R. Dronz, AT2, were participating in exercises some 18 miles from Key West when their plane had a mechanical failure .
“The ’copter radioed a distress signal to the other planes in the area and the message was relayed to the Corporal who had just surfaced after completing part of her operation.
“The call was answered immediately by the submarine and it proceeded at maximum speed to the disabled plane. As the helicopter prepared to land it began communications with the submarine’s radio room.
“Nearing the submarine’s fantail the ’copter received the message ‘Do you think you will make it?’ The reply was prompt and meaningful: —‘We’re on your deck and damn happy to be here!!’
“The crew was welcomed aboard by the Corporal’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander E.O. Proctor, USN, and after the plane was secured to the submarine, the vessel proceeded immediately to the Naval Annex and arrived there about 6:30 PM.
“Cars and spectators crowded the pier and within a short time after docking the helicopter was again back in its own element, leaving the seas for ships and submarines like the fast-cruising Corporal.”