Sunday, August 8, 2010

SUBMARINE FORCE MUSEUM AND THE NAUTILUS

Groton, Connecticut is home to General Dynamics Corporation where the development of the first nuclear propulsion submarine was made possible by a group of scientists and engineers. My partner worked on the USS Nautilus (SSN 571) in the mid-1960's. It was like old home week for him to board the vessel and go through the whole history of submarine development in the nearby museum.
The Nautilus was a huge step forward for submarines and is huge compared to the cramped little bullet that first made its frightening underwater trip with arms. The front of the Museum has two rings, one showing the diameter of a modern sub, the inner ring showing the diameter of the first sub.
The subs were all kind of familiar from those old war movies I watched so many years ago. How fragile and small they seem, with their thin metal skins, when looked upon in the museum yard.
This Italian mini-sub carried a couple of brave frogmen into a harbor of enemy ships. They would exit the sub and plaster a mine on the underside of the ship with a timer, then scoot for cover. They were very effective in WWII.
A more modern US Swimmer Delivery Sub called a SEAL for sea-air-land, piggybacked to a bigger submarine. It gave the Navy Seals more range and effectiveness for clandestine operations.
 Jim also worked on the George Washington, the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile firing submarine. The sail sits in the yard with its number of missiles (16) painted on the side. Nearby, the preserved propeller, anchor and a missile shell.
Inside this very comprehensive museum, we visited a simulated control room and several periscopes where we could send a missile out to explode the Bronco in the parking lot-if it were real, of course.
Among some very good pictures, and I kept searching to see if I could find my uncle, John L. Moore, who was a submarine commander, but I couldn't find him.
 During WWII, submariners made flags of their kills, a skull for a kill and a half-skull for damaging a ship. I didn't count them but this one had about 20 skulls and about 10 half-skulls.
Maime Eisenhower was the first woman to launch a sub. Others followed suit. It amused me that the champagne bottles were covered in material or mesh to prevent the champagne from soiling the ladies dresses. The metal containers in the background? No explanation.
The museum is very thorough and takes you from the first experimental, but not very successful subs during the Civil War, through the Cold War Defenses, the SOSUS system, (underwater sound detector) that detected the incoming Russian subs during the Bay of Pigs. There is much adjunct equipment and many subs to view. A wonderful history of accomplishments by world inventors and brave sailors. One in every five men lost during WWII was a submariner. In fact, President Carter was a submariner and George Bush was saved by the crew of the Submarine Finback when he was shot down and landed in open water.
A 50 minute film is worth the trip to Groton by itself.
For a look at more pictures, click on the link:  http://picasaweb.google.com/1579penn/8710SubmarineForceMuseum#

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