Hail and victory and sink 'em all!
January 3, 2010 10:52 PM   Subscribe

The San Francisco Maritime National Park operates the USS Pampanito (SS-383), a World War II Balao class Fleet submarine museum and memorial that is open for visitors daily at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The Park website also hosts "The Fleet Type Submarine, Navpers 16160", the first in a series of submarine training manuals that was completed just after WW II. The series describes the peak of WW II US submarine technology. posted by KokuRyu (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is really cool. Thanks!
posted by The Toad at 1:36 AM on January 4, 2010

This is a nice site. My dad was an officer on a WWII sub (Gato class, the predecessor to the Balaos). The targeting system the US developed for submarines in WWII, The Torpedo Data Computer Mark III was a very advanced system - something neither the Germans nor the Japanese had at the time. Its unique attribute was the ability to do real-time, continuous target prediction. It was connected to all of the torpedos and updated them based on the target's predicted position and the sub's current position and speed. It was an electromechanical analog computer and weighed 1500 pounds.

"The position keeper solved the equations of motion integrated over time. The result was a continuous prediction of where the target was at any instant."
posted by zippy at 2:05 AM on January 4, 2010

I find submarines simultaneously fascinating and terrifying - the whole 'trapped in an underwater tin can' bit mainly. Great post, thanks!
posted by Coobeastie at 2:53 AM on January 4, 2010

I don't care that they say the Pamanito is 311' 9". It looks tiny and by the time I was one chamber away from the hatch it felt like being placed in the hollow between two facing cast-iron bath tubs and having the seam welded shut. Ficken Sie das Boot.
Great site.
posted by vapidave at 3:02 AM on January 4, 2010

I remember a visit to the USS Bowfin in O'ahu and was struck by how cramped the interior was.

I really had to watch my dome around all the valves, other protrusions and tiny hatches between the bulkheads.

If you were more than 5'8" tall, you were way too vertical to work in that sub.
posted by bwg at 4:49 AM on January 4, 2010

"Whiskey thins out the mix! Gives us another 50 RPM's!"

Ahhhh, Down Periscope.
posted by rhythim at 6:17 AM on January 4, 2010

The Pampanito is not operated by the Maritime National Park, which is itself run by the National Park Service. It's operated by the Maritime National Park Association, which is a private, unrelated entity.

That said, this is a very good exhibit. I was just there a couple of weeks ago. I banged my head on the first three bulkheads, I think. There's another open US WWII submarine in Baltimore, the USS Torsk, which is also open to the public. Being a WWII submariner must have been a fairly unpleasant experience in the best of times.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:25 AM on January 4, 2010

Another Balao-class submarine, part of the world's largest naval ship exhibit.

If you're in Eastern MA or in RI, it's well worth a visit.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:50 AM on January 4, 2010

There's also the USS Cavalla in Seawolf Park in Galveston. I was really impressed by the volunteer work that goes into keeping this exhibit open to the public, especially after Hurricane Ike.
posted by mrbill at 7:34 AM on January 4, 2010

More on the Confederate sub HL Hunley, preserved at the old Charleston Navy base in a 90,000-gallon observation tank. The website has great history and pics, animation of excavation and preservation. And if you get the chance, the exhibition is really well done and even moving. [full disclosure: I find it charming when they call it the War of Northern Agression"]
posted by njbradburn at 8:12 AM on January 4, 2010

It's also worth it to note that another Balao-class sub holds the record for the largest warship sunk in battle- a record that stands to this day. The USS Archerfish, in the closing days of WWII, sank the Japanese supercarrier Shinano with a spread of six torpedoes- a claim that was initially dismissed as absurd, since the Japanese had kept the Shinano a secret so well, it was believed that the target Captain Enright sank could not possibly have been as large as claimed.
posted by pjern at 8:12 AM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

As small as this tube feels, imagine it in wartime circumstances, fully crewed, with an additional 73 rescued POWs aboard. An amazing story.
posted by Mike D at 10:05 AM on January 4, 2010

... and further imagine that, on leaving port at the beginning of a patrol, almost every free space including one of the two bathrooms would be filled with fresh produce and bread, since food was the limiting element to any patrol.
posted by zippy at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2010

with an additional 73 rescued POWs aboard.

Just to add something about POWs, the logbook for my dad's submarine talks about finding enemy sailors in the water after a successful torpedo run, and taking no more than one or two of them as prisoner. Either in the logbook itself, or an account from one of the sailors much later, the account is that the officer asked for a volunteer from one group of survivors, and the group refused, instead swimming headfirst into the side of the sub (to show their fighting spirit?). Finally, one junior guy volunteered and became a favorite of the ship's crew on the way back.

I would love to find this POW and hear his account of his time in battle and then on board a US submarine, but I only have the romanized version of his name. I'll post a longer version of this to Ask MeFi, but if anyone here has experience searching for Japanese service records from WWII, please send me a message.
posted by zippy at 1:06 PM on January 4, 2010

« Older Are you happy to see me or is that just a...   |   One million years of isolation Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments