Thursday, April 20, 2017

USS Drum

You know that you're in a bad neighborhood when you wake up in the morning and you find your submarine up on blocks.
Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama doesn't just have a battleship...They have this wonderful Gato-class fleet boat: USS Drum (SS-228).

Last time I saw Drum, she was still in the water. But two hurricanes and seventy+ years since her last war patrol have done a number on her, so now she's up on these concrete supports.

If nothing else, she's safer here...and visitors get a great look at her props and rudder as well as her stern tubes.

Up on deck, she's looking good. Got a 3"/50cal. deck gun and a 40mm Bofors Anti-aircraft gun forward.
There's also a 20mm Oerlikon gun on the after deck of the conning tower.

Going down through the old torpedo loading hatch brings you into the forward torpedo room, with six of her ten tubes await fresh fish. Back in the day, these subs sailed with 24 torpedoes, sixteen up front here and eight in the aft torpedo room where she had four tubes. Several of the crew got to bunk in these compartments too, sleeping above and below the torpedoes.

Leaving this compartment via this hatch, you find yourself in the forward section known as "Officer Country".
Here's the Officers' Wardroom.
Officers slept two and three to a small compartment except for the Captain, who got his own small compartment. Since they were all glassed over and the corridor itself was cramped, I couldn't get an angle to take a good shot of any. I did find this memorial to Howard Gilmore though.
Commander of Growler, he was machine-gunned on the bridge and wounded during a surface action in which Growler had rammed a Japanese vessel and destroyed 18 feet of her own bow. In the heat of battle he gave the order to dive, knowing he couldn't get off the bridge. The sub dove away beneath him and was saved, but Commander Gilmore was lost. He sacrificed himself for his boat and crew. Now there was a MAN. And yes, he was awarded the Medal of Honor...posthumously.

Another hatch...and the control room beyond.

Control room.
Helm (or "steering wheel" to civilians, landlubbers and brown shoe types.)
Diving planes. These control the pitch of the bow and stern.
Alarm switches. (Hey Old AF Sarge...remember these?)
"Christmas Tree" board, with two lights for every hatch and vent. Green meant closed and red meant open. Gotta have a whole green board to dive, meaning a lot of people in different areas have to work fast to close a lot of things off when the dive horn sounds.
Helm again, and plotting table.

And because I'm retarded or something, I got no pictures of the crew's mess. But click on submarines here to see pics of the insides of several other fleet boats that are laid out pretty much the same.

Cold storage beneath the crew mess.

Next was a bunk space for much of the enlisted crew--just stacks of racks--but most of them were out for some display stuff. Again, no pics for some reason. But then it was tie for the two engine rooms, and I like to think I made up for it.
Four Fairbanks-Morse engines, originally designed for railroad locomotives. These two are in the forward engine room.
And this hatch leads to the after engine room.

Each crew member got one locker like this for all of their stuff--spare uniforms, personal effects--everything.
Through another hatch, and you're in the electrical compartment.
It's back here that power is shunted from the four big diesels up front to either the battery chargers that put power into the 252 batteries below the decking or to the two electric motors that actually turn the propellers (or a combination of both). That's right--those four huge diesels just generate electricity for the electric motors that actually turn the screws. On the surface, the electric motors take their power fro the diesels. Underwater, they get it from the batteries. But either way, the subs motors are electrically driven. And here's the panel where it's routed.
By the way--this area and the engine rooms were so loud that most crew members who served in them suffered permanent hearing loss to some extent.

Next we come back to the aft torpedo room. These subs could and did fire shots from both ends.
And how is this for tight rack space?
USS Drum. A great memorial to the heroes of the "Silent Service".

Go to Battleship Park and see her if you're in the area. And let me know--I may just join you.


  1. Good photo series.
    Battleship Park is now on the list of places to see, thank you.

  2. Thanks for the great pics. Long been wanting to get down there and visit.

  3. The 'all electric drive' was why they called it the GD - Electric Boat Division there in Groton, CN. Still is. Thank you for the tour. Those fleet boats were built to go to war, and crew comfort was somewhere down the list of priorities. They made a massive difference in the war with Japan because it was a navy war and the lonely subs were the tip of the point of the spear.

    And while the battleships looked good, it only took one small submarine to drop them to Davey Jones.

  4. Great pics Murph!

    Drum looks better than she did back in '87 when we toured her, of course my hearing was better back then.


    So, did those alarms actually function? I know you tried...

    1. Of course I tried 'em...and they don't. But stay tuned, because I found other stuff to play with later!

    2. When I went aboard Drum back in '97, the diving alarm still worked. (That's the one with the green handle.) I told my buddy who was with me at the time: "They might throw us off, but I have to try it."


      Yep. It worked. And they didn't throw us off!

      At that time, you could also climb the ladder up into the conning tower for a look at the radar, sonar, periscopes and fire control apparatus.

      As my buddy and I slowly moved aft through the boat we started to gain a following of fellow tourists. At the throttle console, one of the docents - a cute girl of about 20 - came back and told us we had to move along because we were holding up a crowd. The "crowd", practically in unison said: "That's okay. We're with him!"

      Roy - Qualified in Submarines, 1974.

    3. You are the Man, Roy. Thanks for your service.

      BTW, the dive horn and other alarms work on Lionfish and Silversides, although Silversides is now muted. Might still work on a couple others but if so, I haven't found them yet. (I check on every boat, just because it's what I do.)

  5. Thanks for giving us the tour!
    RIP, Howard Gilmore.
    Fair Winds and Following Seas...


  6. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Thank-you for the tour.
    I remember hearing and reading about Howard Gilmore

  7. Great pix, Murph!

    The only sub I've ever been aboard is the U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

    Thanks for taking the tour for us.

  8. I love idea why. Thanks for the photos ML.

  9. FM diesels are LOUD, even with double-hearing protection.