For years, the Submarine Base at Groton has shown an area (presently a parking lot), just to the south of the Base alongside Goss Cove and fronting on the Thames River, as a location for a “museum. n With the establishment or this area as a site for the Nautilus in accordance with a Bill signed by the President in 1980, an opportunity to have a submarine museum-library just inboard or the Nautilus pier, was presented. Submariners in the New London area rapidly responded to this opportunity.
The Submarine Force Library and Museum Association which was incorporated in 1972 by Admiral James Fife, Vice Admiral Vernon L. (Rebel) Lowrance, and Bob Chappell, has taken over the job of raising the money for construction of a museum-library on the Nautilus site — to be ready when the Nautilus returns to Connecticut in 1985. Although the construction or this museum-library will be in the hands of the Navy, working with the Connecticut Nautll us Collllittee (chaired by former governor Dempsey), the Library and Museum Association will act as advisors as to its design and content. The Association, a group or dedicated submariners who have volunteered their services to perpetuate the history, tradition and means of the “Silent Service,” see the museum-libary as an indispensable way to promote and disseminate a knowledge about submarines and the men involved with them in peace and war.
The content or the museum-library stems from an early collection or submarine models, drawings and related papers which Electric Boat gave to the Submarine Base in 196~. A Sub Base museum was then established at the Sub School. This museum has had a steady buildup or items, from torpedoes, fire control consoles, and submarine models to personal items such as submarine insignia and cigarette lighters. At the same time a research library connected with the museum obtained a file of World War II patrol reports, the Columbia University series of oral histories from senior officers who conducted submarine operations during WW II, RADM Tommy Dykers “Silent Service· ” TV series, as well as many books and manuscripts on submarine history, design and construction along with books of fiction related to submarining.
Now, the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association plans to move this reservoir of submarine material to the Nautilus site and greatly expand the content of a museum-library which will be located there. While relatively few visitors annually have visited the Sub School’s submarine museum because of Base restrictions, the locating outside of the Base of the Nautilus with its accompanying museum should cause up to half a million tourists and students of submarining to visit this memorial site — which will be free to the public.
Connecticut’s Nautilus committee is aware of the value of enhancing the knowledge of visitors to the Nautilus through the background information they can gain in the contiguous museum-library. The visitor’s appreciation of where Nautilus fits into the evolution of modern submarines should be heightened. In addition, the museum-library will provide visitors with shelter, comfort facilities, crowd overflow space, a store for souvenirs, etc.
To aid the public funding of this historical submarine memorial the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association has established a “Building Fund” to assist with the fitting out and equipping of this building. Submariners, whether active or retired, as well as veterans and civilians with a high interest in submarines are thus given an opportunity to participate in making this museum-library a truly outstanding national asset. Strong monetary support of this effort should insure the Association’s influence with the Navy and Connecticut Nautlius Committee in determining the character of this new museum- library. Donations, which are tax deductible, should be sent to “The Submarine Force Library and Museum Association,” Box 501, Submarine Base, Groton, Conn. 06349. Checks written to “The Submarine Force Library and Museum Association” should also have in the lower left hand corner the designation of Building Fund.
The museum-specialist at the present Sub Base museum, Dave Bishop, who is helping the Association, has “big plans” for this new museum. He also hopes to have the small subs near Dealey Center on the Base moved to the new site. John Stebbins, the architect for the museum, has additional ideas. “The preliminary design plans call for visitors to enter the museum through a room intended to give a sense of going underwater.” He adds, “We may have an audio tape of sonar pinging, the sound of whales communicating and shrimp clicking their feet.” (How about carpenter fish hammering away?) Stebbins sees the first exhibit as related to the physiological restraints man faces in going underwater. Another display would deal with the development of the submarine from the Turtle through the Trident and on into the future. Other displays would deal with a submarine’s armament, its fire control, the sort of life a submariner has on a submarine, etc. . . The realization of these ideas is, to a great extent, up to those who will contribute to the Building Fund.
Rear Admiral Dave Bell, USN (Ret.) is spearheading this effort and can be contacted at (203) 447-9857.