Red Fox Ambassador Christine Dennison of New York City has been awarded the Brazilian Navy League Medal of Honor, for her efforts in discovering the lost World War II submarine R-12, and her 42 entombed sailors.
Christine Dennison is the co-founder and president of Mad Dog Expeditions, an internationally recognized technical scuba diving and exploration company.
“I have worked on various expeditions and projects around the world and the USS R-12 Submarine project has been the most inspiring, emotional and rewarding on many levels,” Christine said. “I believe this is in part not just because of the historic discovery of a WW2 submarine and 42 lost souls but the connection to their families.”
She worked with Tim Taylor in finding the submarine, and making sure it was preserved.
Two of the entombed are Brazilian officers who are recognized as heroes in Brazil, thus the awarding in October of the Brazilian Navy League Medal of Honor.
The R-12 was one of 30 R-Class vessels of which fifteen were commissioned and built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts. She was laid down March 28, 1918 and launched in 1919.
The ship was decommissioned on December 7, 1932.
However in the late 1930’s it became apparent that a war in Europe might be getting closer. Although built two decades earlier, the R-class submarines would see action again as the U.S. prepared for WWII. The R-12 was recalled in 1940, received a complete refit for activation and was fully re-commissioned.
The R-12 patrolled the east coast of the U.S. until tragedy struck on June 12, 1943.
On that day in the Florida straits, the ship was offshore on a day mission. While on the surface between exercises she was running routine transition procedures, when the forward battery compartment began to flood. The collision alarm was sounded and orders were given to blow main ballast, but the sea poured in too fast. In about 15 seconds, R-12 was lost sweeping 5 crew off the coning tower as it plummeted to the bottom in six hundred feet of water. The commanding officer, one other officer, and three enlisted men were rescued five hours later. Forty-two lives were lost that day.
Tim Taylor and the crew of his Research Vessel Tiburon launched an expedition to locate the lost submarine in the fall of 2010. They discovered her on that fall and launched repeat expeditions in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to photograph and map the entire ship. Following the discovery Christine Dennison and Tim Taylor undertook the mission of seeking out family members of the entombed crew.
“I had worked on various expeditions with Tim Taylor throughout the years and knew some of the members that formed the team,” Christine explained. “My professional background in organizing and leading my own expeditions gave me the expertise in remote operations and logistics that was useful on this project. In addition I was trained on our customized ROV “OTIS” and I continued to learn from Tim and other members of the team throughout the project. It was a great adventure and life changing discovery.”
“It was all very intense and in operations like this there is much going on and happening very quickly. We are dealing with robots over a wreck, cameras, currents and a boat rocking in the waves and currents,” Christine said. “It’s a rough ride and everyone is at a work station doing what they are there to do as a team to make this a success. You are on your toes at all times and working at optimum levels. It’s exciting but it’s exhausting.”
The Red Fox Ambassador and adventurer is thrilled that all the hard work helped bring closure for the relatives of the lost sailors of R-12.
“There are many undersea wrecks being discovered thanks to modern technology but our ongoing project has included the personal interaction with the families of the entombed crew. I strongly believe that this connection to people is what makes such a discovery so worthwhile,” she said.
“I am very proud to have been able to provide closure to many of the children, sisters, brothers and a widow of the sailors of the USS R-12. The hardest part of my job to date has been meeting and interviewing the families who have lived with such pain and loss for 70 years. Their heartbreak and their strength has moved me to tears and inspired me. I am of the opinion that if we as individuals can afford to mount expeditions to find treasure, space junk, wrecks and more we should go in search of bodies which litter our oceans. These bodies are related to people and have a history and story which should be told. I feel this is the real discovery and exploration, going in search of the families to whom these souls belong to. It should also make us aware of all the destruction we are causing in our oceans as we are not just killing marine life and eco systems we are also disturbing grave sites.”
Learn more about the team and the R-12 at www.R12sub.com. A documentary about the discovery of the R-12 called “Expedition R-12- Discovering Americas Forgotten Submarine” will be released soon.
Congratulations to Christine and the entire team, on a job well done.