News about the Smithsonian Exhibit - September 2001
Shipmate Bob Barbee received this via e-mail from shipmate Bud Cunnally:

Reservists from The Sub Base Submarine Squadron Support Unit Detachment 101 Groton CT are preparing the Submarine Centennial Smithsonian exhibit.

Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Bud Cunnally and Chief Machinists Mate (SS) Larry Burns performed their December Naval Reserve Active Duty for Training (ADT) at The Design & Production Company Inc. (D&P) in Lorton Virginia. D&P is the firm that produced the world famous King Tut Exhibit and the Ellis Island display in New York Harbor. They are working on the "Fast Attack & Boomers, Submarines in the Cold War Exhibit". This remarkable display will be presented at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH) and will be officially opened on the 100th anniversary of the Submarine Service, on April 12th 2000.

The Naval Submarine League (NSL), headquartered in Annandale VA, first proposed celebrating the unparalleled contribution that the United States nuclear and conventional-powered submarines made to win the Cold War. With the full support of the Director, Undersea Warfare (N87), retired Admirals Kelso, Burkahalter, and Engen presented the idea for a commemorative exhibit honoring the Centennial to Dr. Spencer Crew, Director of the (NMAH), on 15 January 1998. Within three weeks, the Smithsonian granted conditional approval to proceed with this groundbreaking concept.

Captain John Shilling, USN (Ret), the exhibit coordinator, and his group from NSL traversed the entire country, visiting the naval bases at New London CT, Norfolk VA, and Bangor WA searching for the right artifacts for the exhibit. In the course of their visits, they went aboard USS SEAWOLF (SSN21), USS TREPANG (SSN 674), USS James K. POLK (SSBN 645) and USS MICHIGAN (SSBN 727), The team also visited General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, Newport News & Shipbuilding, The Naval Undersea Warfare, and Nautilus Museums. These visits, along with many meetings, papers, e-mails, phone calls and briefings, resulted in the design concept of the exhibit that is being created at D&P today.

With the help of the U. S. Navy, NSL was given access to the TREPANG that was to be decommissioned at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in the state of Washington. Visits to the ship while she was still in commission at Groton CT established a positive and cooperative attitude on the part of the ship's company. Likewise the personnel at Puget Sound were briefed and equipment removals were done with the utmost of care. The office of Director of Strategic Systems provided many artifacts, models and graphic materials to support this effort. The Maneuvering Station that will be on display was removed from the decommissioned USS SANDLANCE (SSN 660). The decommissioned USS Polk supplied several more significant artifacts. A listing of several of the larger items follows:

Watertight Door
Trash Disposal Unit
Torpedo Storage Skid
Bunks from the Crew's Berthing
Torpedo Loading Hatch
Mess Tables and Benches
Bridge Access Hatch
Chief's Commode
Ballast Control Panel
*Steam Control Panel
*Reactor Plant Control Panel
*Electric Plant Control Panel
Ship's Control Station
ESM Console
Sonar Room
Periscopes

*These three maneuvering room consoles that were removed from SANDLANCE required extensive declassification. This will be the very first time that the general public will get to see these highly classified panels. A General Dynamics, Electric Boat (EB) Tiger Team did the declassification work at the Submarine Base.

Although, the folks that removed the various pieces of equipment from the nuclear submarines did an admirable job and took care to not destroy any of it, the artifacts did not look as they did on an operating boat. The first contingent of Reservists consisted of Chief Cunnally, a former crewmember of USS Crevalle (SS-291), USS Tigrone (SS 419) and a plank owner of USS Greenling (SSN 614), USS Gato (SSN 615), USS Whale (SSN 638), and USS Sunfish (SSN 639). Chief Burns, who served aboard USS George Bancroft (SSBN 643) for five patrols and the USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657) for 2 patrols, joined him for the two weeks. It was this equipment, along with many other artifacts, which the two Squadron chiefs, in consort with additional reservists from the Washington area, separated, cataloged, cleaned, assembled, and prepared for display.

Chief Burns and Lieutenant Richard Douglas of the Washington unit, a former First Class Machinist Mate (SS) who served aboard several attack boats, took charge of the assembly of two periscopes. They deftly rigged a chain fall from the overhead of the building and cautiously mated several sections together to produce the attack and observation scopes.

Chief Cunnally and Senior Electronics Chief (SS) Fredrick Engle, who regularly drills with the Commander Submarines Atlantic, Battle Group Staff Detachment 306 reserve unit and is currently on active duty at Naval Operations N-87 (Submarine Warfare Division), worked extensively on the maneuvering room panels. Members of the EB Tiger team that had been restoring the artifacts at the Sub Base joined them in this endeavor. The results were amazing, as fresh paint was strategically placed on the boards, they took on a look of belonging to a submarine at sea and fully maintained by its crew. Although sanitized for protection of our underway-nuclear submarines, the visitors to the exhibit will get a true feeling, of the goings-on in the power plant of one of their United States Navy nuclear submarines.

An additional tiger team from the Newport News Shipbuilding Company joined the reservists and the EB team in producing the display. The team, in just one-week turned all the various parts that the reservists had separated and cataloged into a 12-man bunkroom and a 12-man crews mess.

The highlight of the first two-week effort was a rewarding visit from Admiral Frank L. "Skip" Bowman, Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion and several members of his staff. The Admiral inspected the work in progress and voiced his support for the exhibit. As one of the most experienced submariners in our Navy, he offered a number of very constructive suggestions to enhance the presentation of the various artifacts and the overall professional presentation of the display.

First Class Electricians Mate, Surface Warfare Qualified (SW) Cathy Jo Geels of American Fork UT, and First Class Machinist Mate (SS) William C. Craig of West Jordan UT, is the second contingent of Naval Reservists to lend their talents to the creation of the display while performing their annual two weeks of active duty. Petty Officer Geels, a crewmember of the submarine tender USS Dixon Reserve unit, is using her expertise to wire the lighting for the bunkroom, attack center and crew's mess that were removed from the decommissioned nuclear submarines. Petty Officer Craig, a former crew member of the Fast Attack USS Queenfish, is involved with bringing back to an underway condition many of the artifacts. He is also lending his technical advice and expertise as to what life was like in a boat while on patrol. Lieutenant (JG) Gary M. Kelch of the USS Emory S. Land, a submarine tender, in the Washington DC area, who is removing and restoring the diving panels, sonar station and attack center, joins them in this assignment. LT. Kelch served on board the USS Bergall (SSN 667).

The Centennial Advisory group made up of members from the NMAH, the U.S. Naval Historical Center, the Naval Museum and the NSL has set the scene for the telling of the Cold War Submarine Story:

Cold War History. A large segment of the viewers under 25 will have little or no understanding of the origins or issues in the Cold War. Videos of this period of time narrated by Walter Cronkite will tell the story.
U.S. and Soviet Submarines. Who were the players in this underwater duel that endured for more than 30 years? Where did they operate? Recorded stories and experiences by these sailors will be presented in there own words.
Submarine Weapons. Although none were fired in anger, the threat of the formidable array of missiles and torpedoes carried on board our ships (boats) was a deterrent to Soviet aggression.
Submarine Construction. The ability to design and produce our quiet and swift submarines at high construction rates was critical to Cold War victory. A section of pressure hull will give the visitor a vision of how well United States Submarines are constructed
Nuclear Propulsion. Our power plants-safe, silent, and reliable, were the dominant factor in every operation conducted by our subs. The maneuvering room will demonstrate how this was accomplished.
Life on Board. As Sundance asked Butch in the film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "Who are those guys?" The display will show visitors not only who those guys were, but will also portray how they lived in crowded spaces, with few comforts, for months on end but were always ready to carry out there missions.
The Missions. Although it was never asked in the movie, the key question would be, "What did those guys do?" The best selling book, Blind Man's Bluff will not be replayed. The exhibit will however present operational vignettes; using videos and still photos that have been recently declassified. This dramatic material from actual missions will be displayed in the Attack Center portion of the display.
The families. The girls they left behind were the anchors in the submarine sailors lives. The story of their experiences and sacrifices will be revealed. The trials and tribulations, the coping, and the mutual support of the families ashore will also be a part of the story.
Present and Future. As the visitors exit the exhibit, there will be information describing the Submarine Force today and a preview of the new technology. It continues with a description of new submarine development efforts aimed at maintaining our undersea superiority.

To further recreate the feeling of being inside a nuclear submarine on patrol, additional smaller items will be mounted with the larger pieces. They consist of battle lanterns, telephones, valves, switches, Emergency Breathing Apparatus manifolds, lighting, cable and pipe runs, etc. The MK 48 Torpedo and Tomahawk Missile shapes will help in portraying to the visitors, an understanding of these weapons and there use. The Shore side Families section will feature many personal artifacts such as old family grams, photos and other personal memorabilia.

Thanks to a vivid audio/visual experience the hardware will be brought to life and will make a dynamic impact on the visitors. Through the use of actual recorded shipboard sounds, periscope photography, sonar displays, lighting effects and recorded voices the Smithsonian will portray life on board various classes of submarines in a lively and thought-provoking manner.

On April 12th 2000 the FAST ATTACKS AND BOOMERS; SUBMARINES IN THE COLD WAR EXHIBITION will formally open with an evening reception hosted by the NMAH and the NSL, beginning a minimum run of three years. Captain John Shilling, Captain Peter Boyne, and Rear Admiral Hank McKinney of the Submarine League hope all can visit and relive with them some of the greatest moments of submariners and Cold War victories.

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