On a sunny March Sunday, we toured USS TORSK, a Tench class fleet snorkel boat, now a memorial in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. TORSK is one of four main exhibits of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation. The sub is tied up alongside the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor, a well-struck 3-iron shot from the Harborplace shopping complex. Parking was convenient (if K Street pricey) underneath the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel on Pratt Street (one of many available lots) and admission to the submarine, U.S. Coast Guard cutter TANEY (WHEC 37), lightship CHESAPEAKE (WL V 538), and Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse was $5.50 for adults (call (410) 396-3453 for times).
TORSK was one of 26 Tench class boats completed near the end of World War II and she completed two war patrols under the command of Commander Bafford E. Lewellen, when she sank two cargo vessels and two escorts, including the last ship sunk in the war before the Japanese surrender. After the war TORSK underwent fleet snorkel conversion (she is the last surviving example of the type) and went onto serve with distinction, being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for operations during the Lebanon Crisis in 1958 and the Navy Commendation Medal for participation in the blockade of Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis. Having set a record with 11,884 career dives and following a brief period as a pierside training vessel, TORSK was decommissioned in 1971 and came to Baltimore as a memorial.1
Our tour began in the after torpedo room and proceeded forward through the maneuvering room, after and forward engine rooms, crew’s mess, crew berthing, control room, wardroom, chiefs, and officers’ berths, to the forward torpedo room. Most spaces off the main passageway were off-limits, such as the radio room, conning tower, wardroom, and head, but all were readily visible through the large Plexiglas partitions. The ship was uniformly in good shape, clean, and appeared well maintained. A World War II veteran submariner was patiently answering questions in the forward torpedo room, but the other eleven persons in the compartment had first call on his time, and I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with him. A Mark 27 torpedo was also on display in the forward torpedo room. I was struck by how spacious the boat seemed in comparison to the captured German Type IX U-boat U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It was also interesting to see how little some equipment had changed in 40 or 50 years. There are modest displays of the ship’s battle record and a few mementoes, but mainly the ship itself is the focus of attention. We exited more or less through the torpedo loading hatch in the forward torpedo room.
If you are in the Baltimore or Washington areas, take the time to tour one of the last surviving examples of World War II-era submarines.
DOLPHIN SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION APPLICATION
The DSF updated application is now available for distribution to potential applicants, high school counselors, and submarine-related commands.
The new form reflects DSF’s decision to change the requirement for an applicant’s sponsor to have served in the Submarine Force for a minimum of 8 years or a minimum of 10 years in submarine support.
As in the past, the deadline for completed applications and supporting documentation to arrive on-premises is April 15.
For further information, please contact Tomi Roeske at (757) 671-3200 or write to the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation at 5040 Virginia Beach Blvd ., Suite 104-A, Virginia Beach, VA 23462.
1 These details are taken from a brief history of the ship which (together with a diagram) is available to visitors. Further details may be found in Norman Friedman’s excellent illustrated design histories U.S. Submarines Through 1945 (Naval Institute Press, 1995) and U.S. Submarines Since 1945 (Naval Institute Press, 1994); the latter has an elevation of TORSK following her fleet snorkel conversion.