Docked at Pearl Harbor along the “Battleship Row,” the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is a fitting tribute to the 52 American submarines and more than 3,500 submariners lost in World War II.
The USS Bowfin was launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” the Bowfin went on to sink 44 enemy ships during nine successful war patrols. For her service, the Bowfin was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and a Navy Unit Commendation.
The Bowfin is one of only 15 U.S. World War II submarines that did not wind up as scrap metal or as target practice for another military ship. The Pacific Fleet Memorial Association was chartered in 1978 and acquired the Bowfin just one year later. In 1980, the submarine was brought to Pearl Harbor and docked next to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. Finally, on April 1, 1981, the Bowfin officially opened to the public as a “museum ship.”
In 1986, the Bowfin was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior.
Today, the 10,000-square-foot museum exhibits a variety of submarine-related artifacts, including weapon systems, battle flags, photographs, recruiting posters and detailed submarine models. Visitors can examine the inner workings of a Poseidon C-3 missile, the only one of its kind to be put on public display. Also on exhibit is a Purple Heart that was awarded to crewmember Reid Lee, the lone Bowfin casualty of war. (Lee suffered shrapnel wounds during a surface engagement during the Bowfin’s seventh patrol.
In addition, visitors can watch submarine-related videos in the 40-seat Mini-Theater. Included in the theater’s collection are more than 50 episodes of “The Silent Service,” a classic 1960s television series that based its stories on actual World War II patrol events.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last tour of the submarine begins at 4:30 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.