Mrs. Morrison, a freelance writer living in Hawaii, is the wife of a submariner and a frequent visitor to Bowfin Park.
USS BOWFIN extends into Pearl Harbor from its mooring between the old Ford Island ferry landing and the new Ford Island bridge. From her tranquil setting adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, she bears witness to the silent grave of the sunken USS ARIZONA, which marked the beginning of World War II for the United States, and to USS MISSOURI beyond, which signaled its end.
A Balao class fleet submarine, BOWFIN was launched on December 7, 1942, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger. During nine war patrols in the Pacific, she lived up to her name, sinking more than 40 enemy craft and meriting a Presidential Unit Citation and a Navy Unit Commendation. Later, the ship saw duty in the Korean conflict and as a Naval Reserve training ship in Seattle before the Navy struck her from the Register of Commissioned Ships in December 1971.
Through the efforts of Admiral Bernard Chick Clarey, CINCPACFLT, and Rear Admiral Paul Lacy, COMSUBPAC, BOWFIN was towed to Pearl Harbor and then to the U. S. Navy Inactive Ship Facility in Middle Loch. While the ship awaited a permanent berth, Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye was asked by a constituent to have BOWFIN sunk off Waikiki as an undersea habitat for reef fish. Senator Inouye’ s staff member, Rear Admiral Alvey Wright, USN(Ret.), suggested a better plan. He and the president of the Honolulu Council of the Navy League, Harold Estes, along with other members of both the military and civilian community, came together to form the non-profit Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association (PFSMA). Its mission was to realize the dream of restoring and preserving the World War II submarine, to create a lasting memorial to all submarines and their crews, and to educate the public about the contribution of these valiant submariners.
In August 1979, Under Secretary of the Navy, James Woolsey, signed the deed of gift transferring BOWFIN from the Navy to the PFSMA.
The ship was moved to Pier 39 at Honolulu Harbor. Restoration began, initially funded through private and corporate loans and continued through volunteer efforts. The ship opened to visitors in 1980.
A permanent location was eventually approved by the Navy, and BOWFIN was moved to its present berth at Pearl Harbor near the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.
At first, the PFSMA met under tents rigged alongside the submarine to plan and expand the organization’s vision. Through admission fees and funds raised from donations and loans, construction of on-site facilities began under the guidance of the PFMSA Board of Directors and Captain Harvey Gray, USN(Ret.), the newly named executive director. The Bank of Hawaii played a key role in providing loans to sustain the organization’s efforts. Other large corporations gave gifts or forgave debts, and many dedicated individuals provided financial support. The new Bowfin Park facilities were dedicated in September 1986. In this same year USS BOWFIN was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The park occupies nearly four acres of land bound on two sides by the harbor. The main attraction, USS BOWFIN, is medmoored, with a gangplank leading from its bow to the park’s covered lanai. Fully restored in 1987 when she was dry docked for the television mini-series, War and Remembrance, BOWFIN is now kept shipshape by the employees of the park. The deck is spotless and the brass is polished to a high sheen. The voice of CAPT Alexander Tyree, USN(Ret.), commander for the seventh, eighth, and ninth war patrols, takes visitors through the submarine, compartment by compartment on individually programmed headphones. Audio translations are available in Japanese, with written handouts in French, German, Spanish, and Hungarian. BOWFIN staff members are on hand to provide security and respond to visitors’ questions.
The 10,000 square-foot museum houses an extensive collection, including COMSUBPAC’s archived copies of more than 1200 original war patrol reports of Pacific fleet submarines. The centerpiece of the museum is a large model of USS BOWFIN donated to the museum by Sandy Gaston, a member of the Navy League of the United States and a long-time friend of the PFSMA’ s efforts to provide an outstanding submarine museum and memorial. The model is the most accurate of a fleet-type submarine, meticulously crafted to show the construction and interior in great detail.
The museum also contains an exhibit honoring the seven submarine Medal of Honor recipients of the World War II, and memorabilia of various World War II submarines and submariners. Models and equipment from nuclear submarines represent the submarine efforts of the Cold War.
Lockheed Missile and Space Company has provided the Poseidon mockup missile that was used for component fitup and procedural verification during the C-3 program. Broken into stages to pennit viewing of all components, this mockup missile gives the BOWFIN visitor a unique look at the strategic deterrent program. This is the only such missile on exhibit in a museum.
Historic photographs, World War II recruiting posters, and original Pacific fleet submarine battle flags line the walls, as well as paintings of submarines in action by well-known artists Tom Freeman, Arthur Beaumont, and Fred Harris. A library of submarine-related literature, photographs, and video documentaries offers opportunities for research, and a small theater continuously screens submarine footage, including episodes from the 1950’s series, Victory at Sea.
The third major component to the Bowfin complex is the Waterfront Memorial honoring the 52 submarines lost at sea during World War II. Dedicated in 1991, this double ring of ceramic and stone tablets set on the edge of the harbor commemorates these submarines and their crews, still on Eternal Patrol. Each plaque includes pictures of the ship it represents, a brief history of operations, and a list of all who were lost. The memorial is often the focus of ceremonies and receptions held on the lawn beside it, with the individual monuments bedecked with leis.
The conning tower of USS PARCHE, on the park grounds, gives visitors an opportunity to stand inside an original World War II configured conning tower and to operate the two periscopes. A monument dedicated to non-World War II submarine losses, Polaris and Regulus missiles, an Imperial Japanese kamikaze torpedo, a McCann submarine rescue chamber, and various torpedo and submarine weapons add to the park’s displays.
The park’s covered lanai is bordered on three sides by the ship, the administration building, and the museum. On the fourth side, a gift shop offers nautical and submarine-related books, clothing, and gifts. The lanai itself, set with tables and chairs, offers a pleasant place for visitors to relax or picnic, while viewing the submarine nearby and the historic harbor beyond. The lanai, with its view of the sunset over USS ARIZONA and USS MISSOURI, is a favorite setting for evening catered dinners and receptions.
Bowfin Park welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year. Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for children (four and older), and the museum is free for children under four. (Children under four are not allowed on the submarine for safety reasons.) A package that includes a trip to Ford Island to visit the USS MISSOURI is available for $18. Trams leave Bowfin Park about every 20 minutes for the trip across the bridge to the Missouri’s mooring.
Ticket sales, proceeds from the gift shop and food stand, donations, and the occasional rental of the facilities for private receptions and parties fully support Bowfin Park. There is no government financial support provided. These funds sustain the grounds and a staff of 53 who operate and maintain the facilities, including continuing restoration and maintenance work on the submarine.
Some of the proceeds go to fund the BOWFIN Scholarship, which annually distributes more than $20,000 to college-bound students. These scholarships are awarded to Hawaii area submariners, local retirees, and their dependents to promote advanced education. PFSMA partners with the Submarine Officers Wives Club Pearl Harbor in selecting and awarding these scholarships.
Through its Adventures in History Program, as part of PFSMA’s educational outreach, the staff sponsors evening lectures on a variety of topics relating to submarine history and oceanography of the Pacific Rim. It hosts groups of school children and Elderhostel tours, provides resource materials through the museum’s library and archives, and sponsors military change-of-command ceremonies and other military and community events. These events include submarine crew reunions from both World War II and the Cold War, which are integrated into the museum’s oral history project to record the recollections and experiences of this aging group of heroes.
BOWFIN’s latest project is an improved website, www.bowfin.org. The core addition is a Science of Submarines section that provides five examples of submarines from TURTLE to the latest Trident submarine, illustrating five different scientific principles. These examples demonstrate practical applications of every day science. Teachers can download information to use in the classroom. A virtual tour of BOWFIN is featured, as well as the new Kiddies Tour, which highlights the visit of the popular Flat Stanley, a character from children’s books. The website was developed in conjunction with the Maui High Performance Computing Center, operated by the University of New Mexico at Kihei, Maui, and now enables BOWFIN to become known to interested viewers and students around the world.
Bowfin Park, under the leadership of the present Executive Director, Captain Jerry Hofwolt, USN(Ret.), reflects the countless hours and tireless efforts of PFSMA members, staff, and volunteers over a twenty-year commitment to build a premier Pacific submarine museum-one that provides thousands of visitors an authentic look into the world of the Silent Service