The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the capture of its famed U-505 German Submarine and D-Day.
The U-505, captured June 4, 1944, was the only German U-boat captured by the Allies during World War II and is the only U-boat of its kind in the United States. The Museum will be hosting a wide variety of events surrounding the anniversary, including the final reunion of the U.S Navy Task Group 22.3 on the June 4.
I'm asking readers of this column to share their stories about the musem's U-505.
It can be anyone who has ancestors who may have been involved in World War II submarine warfare to folks of any age who were inspired by the U-505 exhibit on a school field trip or from a family visit, perhaps even joining the Navy later or going on to become school teachers or firefighters because of the heroism of the men who captured the submarine and risked their lives to defuse the booby traps on the interior of the vessel. Or even just regular folks who were moved, realizing that these sailors really saved so many lives that might have been lost by capturing and analyzing the hardware on the sub, the code books and the communications equipment.
The capture was such a dramatic event that I am sure the exhibit affected people on a very profound and personal level. Being able to walk through the sub was always a thrill during my childhood field trips to the museum, despite MSI almost never acquiring this piece of important history
According to the MSI web site, by 1946, the Navy had extracted all the information and technology it needed from the U-505. With no reason to keep the sub, the Navy planned to use her for target practice! It was Retired Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, the Museum of Science and Industry and the people of Chicago who arranged for the sub to call the Windy City home. A Chicago native, Gallery was looking for a permanent home for the U-505 in his hometown. As luck would have it, the Museum had long been searching for a submarine for its collection. In 1953, Gallery and Museum President Lenox Lohr convinced Under Secretary of the Navy Charles S. Thomas to give the sub to the Museum. The only catch was that the Navy refused to cover the cost of the move. In response, the Museum, the City of Chicago and private groups banded together to raise the $250,000 that would be necessary to repair, move and install the sub for exhibition.
The U-505 arrived in Chicago on June 26, 1954, only to face another major hurdle: an 800-foot overland trip from Lake Michigan to the Museum. The task required extensive planning to cross Lake Shore Drive without destroying the pavement and tying up traffic. The City closed Lake Shore Drive the night of September 2, 1954 to allow the sub to cross. It took another week for the sub to complete its journey from the road to the Museum. Originally housed outside of the museum, where it was visible to travelers, in 2004, the sub was added to the interior and covered for protection.