Saturday, September 09, 2006

uss pampanito

the USS Pampanito at Pier 45 in San FranciscoThe USS Pampanito was commissioned in November of 1943 and served in the Pacific Fleet during World War II. A Balao class submarine, she is 311 feet long, 27 feet wide and carried a crew of 80 sailors. Before being decommissioned in December 1945, the Pampanito completed six patrols, sank 7 ships and earned six battle stars. Most memorable may be her third patrol during which she rescued 73 British and Australian POW survivors from the wreck of the Rakuyo Maro, a Japanese transport ship.

left: aft torpedo tubes, center: mark 14 torpedos, right: forward torpedo tubesThe Pampanito was saved from the scrap heap and turned into a national museum in 1982. Restoration efforts since then have transformed her into one of the best preserved and most accurate of all the WW II fleet. She is docked at Pier 45 in San Francisco, and open daily for tours.

the control room.  left: dive plane controls, center: a map of the pampanito's missions, right: the hull opening indicator panelTours are $9 for adults, $3 for kids and free for little ones under 6. They are self-guided and move from the aft torpedo room forward all the way through to the forward torpedo room. The cost of admission includes rental of a iPod Nano with a 12 chapter, 30 minute, section-by-section narrative that explains the ship’s operations and history. Many of the stories and descriptions are provided by crewmembers from the Pampanito.

The tour is highly recommended. Kids should think it is the coolest thing ever and, for adults, it is remarkable to think about what life must have been like during the war. 80 men, 3 bathrooms, showers no more than once-a-week, hot-swapped bunks (there were more men than beds) and extreme terror when the hull was being pinged. Spending time below deck is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by the “Silent Service.”

left: the forward engine room, center: a view from the forward torpedo room into the forward battery compartment, right: the aft engine roomI also suggest you explore the Pampanito’s website. It features an on-line tour with a high-resolution, 360-degree view of each compartment along with detailed descriptions of the functions of all of the subsystems. It is amazing. In addition, the website goes in-depth on key technology like the Electronic Cipher Machine, the Torpedo Data Computer and the ship’s radio and radar.

More impressive yet, the website hosts the now declassified Fleet Type Submarine training manual and 11 more multi-hundred page reference documents for every aspect of Baloa-class submarine operations including propulsion, air systems, sonar and torpedo tubes. Incredible!

Bonus link: more photos of my visit on flickr

details from the papanito.  left: tube propulsion controls, center: air supple indicators from the engine room, right: battery indicators from the manuevering room