FRESH WATER SUBMARINES — THE HANITOWOC STORY
Rear Admiral W. T. Nelson, USN(Ret.) –Manitowoc, WI: Hoerner Printing 180 pp. Illus. 1986
“THE MANITOWOC STORY” is a fascinating one, unique in submarine history. It is a success story of wartime ingenuity overcoming almost insuperable difficulties to produce and deliver first-line combat submarines from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Pacific submarine forces of World War II. In his prologue to this excellent book Admiral Nelson says:
“In 1940 the Navy Department, through its Bureau of Ships, contracted with the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company for the construction of ten submarines of the GATO class of fleet submarines. This contract was later expanded to forty-one submarines, of which twenty-eight were completed before the termination of the contract as World War II drew to a successful close.
“How did the Navy Department happen to pick this r·elati vely small shipbuilding company, located so far from salt water and the ocean, to build submarines, the most difficult ship construction job known at that time? How successful was thjs company in building a type of ship that had not even been seen by company executives, engineers and workers? What was the quality of work on this difficult job, and how successful was the company in meeting the terms of the contract? How were the crews of these ~ubn1arines trained for their wartime duties at a spot so remote from normal submarine training f~<“ilit.ies? And, finally and most importantly, ho” “‘ere t.hese boats taken from the fresh water of Lake Michigan to salt water?
The answers to these questions are a testimonial to the competency, skill and ingenuity of American industry, as represented by this small Wisconsin company, and demonstrate how workers, management, industry and government working together respond to a challenge in a crisis.
“Due to wartime security restrictions, and also, perhaps, because success stories were plentiful in those war years, this story went largely unnoticed at the time and has never been told in its entirety. Much attention today focuses on horror stories involving Government contracts which result in huge cost over-runs, delivery delays and poor workmanship. Today the term “military-industrial complex” so often connotes conditions that are illegal or immoral. By examining the military-industrial relationship that existed between the Navy and the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company in the early 1940s, a better understanding of the nature, purposes and accomplishments of the relationship can perhaps be reached. An examination or this partnership and the reasons for its success might disclose facts useful in improving performance under contract in today’s military-industrial alliances.”
The Prologue gives the scope or the story Bill Nelson has to tell and he tells that story masterfully. In fact the prologue is really the outline of the book. The author examines each of the questions in sequence, and in detail only possible by one who was there at the time and intimately involved with those who brought this minor shipbuilding miracle to reality.
The book is factual, comprehensive and fastpaced. The principal characters are well described and the facts and numbers, the costs and construction times and the war records of the submarines built are all broken out for easy reading. The whole book is exceptionally well done but, for me, the chapter on the delivery of the ships down the Mississippi to New Orleans is the finest. I was privileged to serve with Bill Nelson when he commanded the HOWARD W. GILMORE. He is a superb shiphandler and an accomplished seaman. He obviously observed the entire trip down the river to New Orleans from the nKibitzer’s Benchn in the Pilot House. He established a fine rapport with the pilots and the tug master and his descriptions of the precarious situations which arose and the remarkable ability of the pilots and master to extricate themselves from the jaws of disaster are absolute jewels.
The book is a must, of course, for anyone who had anything to do with those fine boats in World War II. It also should open the eyes of modern submariners whose new construction experience may not have been as rewarding as Admiral Nelson found Manitowoc. Bill Nelson is obviously a great admirer of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company and of the late Charles Cameron ~Jest who was President of the Company during the program and to whom the book is dedicated. Perhaps time has mellowed some of the memories of those exciting days. However, the facts speak for themselves too clearly for sentiment to hide and they are most impressive in this thoroughly excellent book. What a pity it took forty years to get into print.
Captain Frank D. Walker, Jr.
The Submarine ALLIANCE; the Anatomy of the Ship
By John Lambert and David Hull: Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1986.
For the submarine enthusiast, this is a book that should become a collectors item. The author provides a detailed history and documentation of a major submarine design resulting from the British Navy’s ~fforts of World War II. The ALLIANCE is now a memorial exhibit at a museum in Gosport, Portm~out.h, England, and it should be op the tour schedule of anyone who might want to compare it with the NAUTILUS museum in New London, Connecticut.
The author’s purpose in this book is to present an example of British Naval power as one of a series of several other “Anatomies.” The detailed photographs and engineering drawings will give the serious researcher much authentic material for study and reflection. The narrative history of the “A” class submarine is a relatively brief one — telling of the evolution of the class during World War II. For those with a desire to relive their submarine qualification days of tracing every pipe and valve in and out of the hull, this book should be of interest. It is profusely adorned with engineering sketches of every significant piece of equipment on the submarine. This reviewer found the overwhelming quantity of detailed drawings just a bit of a distraction from an otherwise interesting story about this class of submarine.
The ALLIANCE was not completed until the very end of WW II, and thus did not see combat operations. However, it embodied many of the innovations resulting from developments prior to the end of WW II. The “Snort” was perhaps the most significant postwar modification to this class of submarine. Experimental submerged cruises in tropical and arctic waters were conducted to learn how effective the underwater breathing system was for long operational patrols.
Other modifications were made to the “A” class in general, as well as the ALLIANCE. These included removal of the guns and streamlining for increased speeds submerged. Having been constructed during a time of rapid changes in technology, these submarines were finally removed from service in the years following 1974. The only one to escape the “breakers’ torch” was the ALLIANCE which in 1979 became a permanent memorial.