As his submarine cruises submerged in enemy waters, a young World War II pharmacist's mate performs an emergency appendectomy with the tools at hand.
On 8 September 1942, the USS Seadragon (SS-194) was on patrol in the South China Sea when Seaman First Class Darrell D. Rector first reported to Pharmacist's Mate First Class (PHM1C) Wheeler B. Lipes said he was not feeling well and had a pain in his abdomen. Several hours later, with the patient's temperature above normal and rising, Lipes was confident the diagnosis was acute appendicitis. The vessel was then in enemy-controlled waters.
With Rector's symptoms growing worse and medical evacuation impossible, the only alternative was surgery. Failure to intervene could result in rupture of the appendix and eventual death. But there was no medical officer on board to do the appendectomy.
Lieutenant Commander William E. Ferrall, the Seadragon's commanding officer, and lieutenant Norvell G. Ward, her executive officer, went to the crew's quarters to talk with Rector. The seaman said whatever Lipes decided to do was okay with him.