This is the last article of three that will close our wondrous adventure to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. This part of our tour takes us through the WWII USS Drum – (SS-228) Gato classified submarine and around the park’s outside exhibits. Lets begin with the submarine. The word “Drum” comes from a fish that makes a drumming or croaking noise. This style of submarine was the first to be mass produced for the war.
The Drum made it to Pearl Harbor in April 1942 and cruised the shores of Japan. On May 2nd she sank a Japanese seaplane tender, and then shortly after that torpedoed three cargo ships. The Japanese Imperial Navy tried to destroy the Drum by launching a 16-hour depth charge attack with no success. Before returning and ending her Pearl Harbor tour, the USS Drum critically damaged and sank many of Japan’s supply cargo ships that fed their war machines in the Pacific waters.
We started topside and walked along the catwalk that roofed the subs exterior. The Conning Tower laid base to the entrance, communication and sonar antennas. Just ahead of the tower was a five inch – 25 caliber gun for protection when the submarine surfaced. Before dropping down into the interior of the submarine, I wondered by looking at the outer circumference how cramped it would really be down below.
I made my way through the narrow portal and immediately had an answer to my previous question. The passages were small and dimly lit. This is probably why my photos are less than stellar. I apologize for the few that didn’t come out well and hope they can provide some type of visual distinction. If you are claustrophobic and can not handle tight areas, this is not the tour for you.
The forward quarters (pictured below) are where the Drum’s firepower was unleashed. When launched, the propeller driven torpedoes could bring a full-size vessel to its fateful end. Many ships have settled into their final resting places at the bottom of the ocean.
The Drum’s crew consisted of up to 8 officers and a crew of 75. I can’t imagine that many people scampering around in this limited area. Every section had to be entered and exited through a watertight door (shown below). The doors were designed to seal off sections of the submarine if leaks occurred.
All the submarine’s quarters such as the mess hall, kitchen and officers rooms lined the narrow halls (see photos below – right. Please excuse the blurriness). There was enough room for two people to pass and that was about it.
Mid-Bow is the command room (shown below – left) where the Captain spent most of his time calculating the ship’s next course and future targets.
Traveling towards the stern of the submarine is where the ballast system was controlled and monitored. This was very evident from where I was standing with all the gauges starring out at me. Here is where the tanks were filled with either air or water depending on a desired depth – above or below the water’s surface. The familiar words, “Dive, Dive” were yelled out in many Hollywood war movies depicting danger was approaching from above.
We exited the USS Drum from an Aft portal into fresh air. The air below is very still and lifeless. The afternoon sun hit my dilated pupils and I had to shade them from the day’s brightness. I was actually kind of glad the tour was over.
My wife and I climbed down the metal stairway and proceeded across the paved trail that led us back to the park’s main lobby. This is where the snack bar, gift shop and restrooms are located. Before heading to our car, I wanted to look at a few of the war artifacts strewn across the park.
The B-52 Bomber was one of the outside attractions I wanted to see up close. The Stratofortress – Flying Fortress, which is a name given to the Boeing built jet-powered bomber was introduced to the skies in 1955. The B-52 was in production from 1952 to 1962, and believe it or not is still in service (2016). The original manufactured cost was a meager $14.43 million in 1956, which would equate to $126.93 million today.
The B-52’s 184 foot wing span holds eight turbojet engines that produce 8,700 lbs. of thrust per square foot – each, and carries up to 70,000 pounds of weapons. The bomber has been upgraded several times. During the Cold War Era it was retrofitted to handle a nuclear arsenal that could take out a small country. This particular plane (shown left) has its successful bombing missions tattooed to its outer fuselage.
The Navy has lots of seaplanes (pictured right) that were deployed to transport supplies, patrol open waters and do search and rescue. Sometimes they were also commissioned to run random air attacks on smaller sailing vessels.
The B-25 Mitchell (pictured left) is a twin engine turbo-prop plane that served well in WWII. The multipurpose, medium bomber plane remained in service until 1979 when it was finally retired completely. It was used for a wide variety of missions that included smaller bombing patrols and reconnaissance flights.
The Army’s M48 Patton Tank was the 3rd tank to be named after the great General Patton. The various models of the M48 tank were equipped with either a 90 or 105 mm gun. They served in many wars and conflicts throughout its 40 years of service. The four man crew consisted of a commander, gunner, loader and driver. This 16 plus ton rolling thunder of steel cruises at a speed of 30 mph. Every foot patrol wished they had one.
There is so much more to see, but I would turn this lengthy travel article into a full blown book if I continue. This Memorial Park is dedicated to all the men and women who serve and have served in the armed forces. If it wasn’t for them, who knows where we would be today. Hats off and God Bless you all.
I would like to thank the Park’s management for the complementary passes.