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EPRON (Russian: ЭПРОН, "Экспедиция подводных работ особого назначения" - "Special Xpedition for Underwater Works"). It was created on Dec., 17 of 1923 in the Soviet Union initially as a unit within GPU to salvage valuable cargo and equipment from sunken ships. Its first operation was treasure-hunting near Sevastopol the wreckage of HMS Prince (Eastern War-time steamship sunk by tempest on anchorage off Balaklava in November, 1854) which departed from Britain having aboard salary in gold for British troops in Crimea (GBP 200,000). Project team was financed, equipped, trained and managed by Japanese diving specialists, highly experienced on salvaging warships of Russian Imperial Navy sunk or scuttled during Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The wreckage was reported to be located but there were no reports of gold in quantities found. Henceforth EPRON extended its operations to rescue and sunken ships salvaging, gradually absorbing other diving units (less experienced and/or worse equipped) and creating new ones. In 1929 EPRON became the sole corporation in USSR responsible for all kinds of works under water - in marine operations, hydraulic and river engineering, mining, wreckage and derelict logging and utilizing, etc. In 1931 it was transferred from OGPU as a department to NKPS (Russian: НКПС, "Народный Комиссариат Путей Сообщения" - "People's Comissariate (Ministry) of Transport"). In 1936 EPRON was subordinated to NKVT (Russian: НКВТ, "Народный Комиссариат Водного Транспорта" - "People's Comissariate (Ministry) of Sea and River Transport"); in 1939 - further to NKMF (Russian: НКМФ, "Народный Комиссариат Морского Флота" - "People's Comissariate (Ministry) of Merchant Marines").

By 1941 EPRON had rescued 36 ships and raised 74 sunken ships with total deadweight of about 25,000 GRT. In 1941 naval rescue and salvage units were transferred to Soviet Navy (under name of EPRON); in 1942 it was renamed to ""Naval Rescue Service" (Russian: Аварийно-спасательная служба ВМФ).

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