Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So How Big Was A German U-Boat?

U505 Front

Much bigger than I realized!  I don’t know what I was thinking.  But when I saw this huge submarine at the Chicago Museum Of Science and Industry, I was surprised.

Seeing it was the highlight of our Chicago trip.  My boys are all history buffs, and to see the only surviving German U boat on American soil was a pretty cool thing.


As you walked the maze of halls leading to this giant display room, video monitors told the story of her capture off the coast of Africa on June 4, 1944.  The clips of actual footage was mesmerizing.

Just as staggering were the tally charts indicating the thousands of ships sunk by German U-boats.

Did you know that there were 58 (?) crewmen on board?  And that they would be out at sea for up to three months?  The tiny bunks were used around the clock.  When one crewman got up for his shift, another would be ready to collapse into the still warm bed. 

I can’t imagine all those men in such a small space.  I can’t imagine the living conditions they endured. 

Once her crew was evacuated, US Seamen hurried to board her knowing they might not emerge alive.  The teams of men had specific objectives.  Some formed a brigade and gathered everything they could, including secret files and code books (which would help in code breaking operations).  Others hunted for charges that would have been set to scuttle the submarine.

I can’t imagine the adrenaline surge of being among them.

The U-505 was towed to Bermuda in secret, and her crew was interned (and isolated) at a prisoner of war camp.  The US managed to keep her capture a secret from the Germans.

We had the privilege of taking a walk-through the sub.  To see the inside, and to hear the recreated sounds of men and machinery was strangely eerie.  As depth charges were simulated, the lights dimmed and men shouted, scurrying to check for damage and repair what they could.

It was an experience unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and it wasn’t hard to imagine how frightening it must have been for the crew on board.

U505 Communications room hatch No pictures were permitted inside the sub.  This was at the end of our tour, looking back in to where my husband and youngest son were still talking to the guide.  The hatch my son is sitting on, lead to the forward part of the sub.  It was the communications room, or the torpedo room. 

If you are ever in Chicago, this exhibit is worth going to see. 


Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said...

Ok I had NO idea the U boats were that big either! Wow what a great picture to put in in perspective!
Sounds like a great trip!

Christina said...

Wow! What an awesome experience. You son was right when he said it was a trip of a lifetime.