Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#63 The Squalus, Jackson County and Fingerprint Technology (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Grave of Joshua Casey
Campbellton Baptist Church
Campbellton, Florida
The maritime disaster that claimed the life of a Jackson County man and led to the first systematic use of fingerprint technology is #63 on our list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

Please click here to see the complete list as it is unveiled.

On May 23, 1939, the submarine USS Squalus attempted a test dive off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Despite all indications that systems were functioning properly and that the sub was ready to dive, a major problem developed. Water started pouring into the engine room.

USS Squalus
Courtesy U.S. Navy Historical Center
The submarine settled to the bottom, 243 feet from the surface, as 26 men drowned in its rear compartments. Another 33 men rushed to the front of the submarine and managed to close the watertight doors and prevent their compartments from flooding. They were rescued in a dramatic three day operation by the U.S. Navy.

The submarine itself was raised and repaired by the Navy, then sent back to see to help fight World War II with the new name USS Sailfish.

It is one of the most dramatic and tragic stories in the history of the U.S. Navy, but in death the unfortunate 26 sailors of the Squalus forever changed American history. One of them, Joshua Casey, was from Jackson County.

Rescue and salvage ship over USS Squalus in 1939
Courtesy U.S. Navy Historical Center
It is a little known fact that prior to 1939, crimes in the United States could not be solved by using fingerprint technology. Recognition of the possible benefits of using fingerprints for identification was not a new idea and individual agencies in the U.S. had been taking fingerprints for some time. One of them was the U.S. Navy.

Even so, actually using fingerprints to identify bodies from a mass casualty event had never been attempted. The use of the technology to identify the bodies recovered from USS Squalus forever changed identification procedures in the United States.

Federal investigators were able to use fingerprints to positively identify the remains of Joshua Casey and the other men who died when the Squalus went down. In doing so, they changed the way law enforcement and death investigations were handled. Thanks to the unfortunate men who died on the submarine, it was proved that fingerprint technology was accurate and a critical new tool for investigators.

Grave if Joshua Casey
The number of crimes solved and bodies identified using fingerprint technology since 1939 numbers into the millions. The Jackson County man whose death forever changed history helped make modern crime and death investigation a reality.

The grave of Joshua Casey can be visited today at Campbellton Baptist Cemetery. He rests beneath his native soil within view of Florida's oldest Baptist church in continuous operation. The memory of his tragic death has been all but forgotten locally, but Casey is deserving of greater recognition for the role he played in giving law enforcement a vital tool that has been used to save thousands of lives by bringing murderers to justice before they can kill again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing story that is news to me. Thanks for keeping history alive.