MUSKEGON, Mich. — There’s not too many places in the United States where you can visit and board a real World War Two submarine. In fact, there are only 23 such museums around the country and only 14 of those are for World War Two subs. But we have such a sub right here in West Michigan on the docks in Muskegon.
The U.S.S. Silversides has been in Muskegon since 1987. Going inside this unique vehicle was quite the thrill. Of the 288 such subs deployed in the war, the Silversides came in third for the number of ships sunk and damaged. A typical war patrol included 65 enlisted men along with 10 officers. This sub did a total of 14 war patrols in the 1940s.
Korean War veteran and tour guide Don Hildebrandt sees more than 30,000 people on the Silversides tour each year. He knows the sub inside and out. As we walk the teak wood deck, he explains how teak doesn’t float. So in the event the sub is depth-charged and damaged their position wouldn’t be given away. This tour is very popular with kids of all ages and is a must for veterans.
The Silversides has two main torpedo rooms...one in front and another in back (or aft). It can hold 24 torpedoes, some of which are 21 feet long and weight some 3,000 pounds. The mess hall (or dining) area can seat about 24 sailors and it took three sittings three times a day to feed the entire crew. Two cooks and a baker were also on board.
Believe it or not, they still start the four 1500 horsepower diesel motors occasionally to keep them in continued running condition. The sailors in the engine room had to battle an average temperature of 110 degrees with the motors running. People can also spend the night and dine on the sub as a group for an additional fee if arranged in advance. This has been a favorite especially for groups like the Boy Scouts. Everyone that enters truly gets a new found respect for those that served. The small, cramped, tight enclosed areas, long narrow hallways, and solid metal structure bring you right back in time to 1943.
While you can enter and tour the actual submarine, you can also tour the brick and mortar Silversides museum that's almost attached to the sub. Get more information by going to their website here. Have fun and enjoy one of the best pieces of military equipment and history in West Michigan!