Friday, April 14, 2023

World War II, U.S. Submarines Traveled the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

In 1940, the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company (1902-1968) in Wisconsin was commissioned to construct submarines by the U.S. Navy for use in WWII. The company had never built a submarine before, completed the first sub 228 days ahead of schedule, and promptly was awarded additional contracts. Ultimately, Manitowoc constructed 28 submarines, saving the Government more than $5 million in contract costs.
Launching of USS ROBALO on May 9, 1943, at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

The Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company bought Bay Shipbuilding Company in 1968  and moved their operation to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

The subs were tested in Lake Michigan, a process referred to as "shakedown training," and were deemed fit for service. The question is how to get the subs from Lake Michigan to open water? 

The St. Lawrence Seaway is a system of 15 locks, canals, and channels in Canada and the United States that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes of North America. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened for seafaring traffic  on April 25, 1959.
WWII Submarine in floating dry dock at Lockport on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, c.1943.

The Sanitary and Ship Canal opened in 1900 to carry shipping traffic and to alleviate pollution entering Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. The subs had a draft of 15 feet, and the Chicago River and Sanitary Canal could handle that without a problem. Here's how the trip was accomplished:
USS Pogy (SS 266): Keel Laid – September 15, 1941; Launched – June 23, 1942; Commissioned – January 10, 1943. USS Pogy served ten war patrols in the Pacific Ocean in World War II, sinking a total of 16 Japanese ships. She earned eight Battle Stars and the Navy Unit Commendation.

The Periscopes and radar masks were removed in order to clear bridges. One railroad bridge remained too low to pass the subs at Western Avenue. The Navy paid for lift machinery to elevate the bridge so the submarines could clear. The submarines then traveled down the canal to Lockport, where they were loaded onto a floating dry dock (barge) for the remainder of the trip down the Illinois River, towed by the tugboat Minnesota through the 9-foot-deep Chain of Rocks Channel at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and down the Mississippi to New Orleans. There the periscopes and radar masts were reinstalled.

Locals stood along the canal's sides, watching the submarines travel on their way to war.


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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