PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Some 50 anguished women, their faces drawn after a sleepless night, kept vigil in a little brick house overlooking the sea today.
They were the wives and sweethearts of the officers and sailors trapped in the submarine Squalus on the floor of the Atlantic ocean, 15 miles outside the harbor. Trained themselves in the ways of the sea, they made brave efforts to conceal their own suffering.
Navy yard marines patrolled the home of Captain H.R. Greenlee where they were quartered and rigidly enforced the official rule which gave them privacy. Mrs. Greenlee took care of the more nervous of their number, pouring coffee throughout the night, serving food, and offering what cheer she could.
They were the first to be told of the official dispatches from the scene of the sinking. By order of Lt. Commander J.J. Curley, the reports were telephoned to the Greenlee home before they were made public. Those infrequent reports, terse and inconclusive, were the events around which the women now were building their hopes for the future. Curley, himself, read most of the messages to the Greenlee home.
The wives and sweethearts of the Squalus men were escorted to the "vigil house" by navy officers. Many of them had run breathless and frantic into the commandants office. They had been soothed and reassured there and then sent up to the brick house on the hill.
Mrs. Oliver F. Naquin, wife of the lieutenant commander of the ill-fated vessel, spent some time with the other wives, trying to console them. She was hopeful. Of her husband she said:
"He is perfectly all right. I know it. The whole thing will be over tomorrow."
Mrs. Naquin, a pretty, plump brunette and the mother of two young children, had been up, like the others, all night.
When she first heard the news, she trembled but collected herself and devoted her time to the others.
Meanwhile, this ordinarily reposed little city of 15,000 had been converted into a turbulently aroused community whose one interest and topic of conversation was the Squalus. Thousands milled around the navy yard, where the Piscataqua river pours into the Atlantic Ocean, and intently watched rescue preparations and operations.
Most of the officers and sailors attached to the yard are quartered in small apartments and cottages throughout the city. A few of the officers have homes within the yard. The usual social activities of the "navy set" had, of course, come to an abrupt halt. The bridge parities, the Saturday night dances, the gay get-togethers were now eminently unimportant. The townspeople, too, found it difficult to resume their day-to-day tasks.
Portsmouth itself, although the only seaport of New Hampshire, long has been an important naval center. The navy yard is one of the largest in the country and is the principal one for the construction, fitting and repair of submarines. The yard was established in 1800.