The typical German submarine was designed for a service life of four
years at sea...not fifty years of Chicago winters.
Captured at sea in 1944 by a U.S. Navy task force, then placed on display at
the Museum of Science and Industry in 1954, the U-505 really faced its most
brutal adversary on land, where the ravages of outdoor display slowly ate
away at the old hull. By 1997, it was determined that the boat would probably
become unsafe for display by 2004, were not drastic steps taken to provide it
with indoor shelter.
Thus, an ambitious relocation and restoration commenced, culiminating in a grand
opening of the new display this year. First the Museum planned for a new
underground drydock display and spent months reinforcing, welding, cleaning, and
preparing the craft for the big move.
Then, National Decorating was brought in to restore the craft's original appearance.
"We did the exterior preparation and the first coat during the summer of 2003,"
recalls Andy Hart. "The second finish coat was applied during the winter of 2005,
with Ron Wasiel as Foreman. The interior painting took place over the winter of 2004,
with Jim Williams as Foreman."
Curator Keith Gill sought a truly authentic color palette for the project. He studied
paint scrapings under a microscope to determine the original hues, and travelled to
Germany for field research on correct U-Boat color schemes...returning with both a
period German submarine paint manual and a 1920's fan deck that the Kriegsmarine
employed to specify its color choices. Due to his perseverance, the outer hull now
features its original two shades of gray camouflage, the interior basks in the warm
glow of a vanilla cream hue (not the incorrect U.S. Navy white), and all knobs and
control levers have their original color coding. All in all, ten shades were used.
Sherwin-Williams contributed its technical expertise by helping develop painting
specifications and providing specific products for the restoration. S-W Mastic
Aluminum was used to build up thinning steel in many areas, and the National
Decorating crew of 10 painters cleaned and primed the previously-applied enamel
epoxy coating prior to using over 100 gallons of DTM Acrylic on the exterior.
Inside, S-W Pro-Mar 200 Interior Alkyd was mixed to match desired colors by the
Hammond, Indiana, store. In the end, it proved to be a very effective partnership.
As the curator and painters set to work side-by-side, Gill would label all the piping,
valves, and machinery with S-W paint codes as the crew followed along with buckets
and brushes. It was a tight fit during this work, causing much speculation on how the
original 59-man crew managed to ever operate the boat.
"DAS BOOT" (THE BOAT)
There is nothing quite like it anywhere else...a genuine, intact World War II
German submarine sitting on display right here in the heart of Chicago.
Even today, it's a giant fish on land, over a city block long. You can walk right
up to it, study all the surrounding exhibits, even play with new interactive tools.
For a few dollars, you can also tour the boat's interior to gain a real sense of
life aboard one of the deadliest weapons of war ever invented.
It is a celebrated trophy of war, captured by the United States Navy during the
dark days of 1944, when certain victory over the Nazi menace of Adolf Hitler was
not a foregone conclusion.
Earlier in the war, such U-Boats wrought havoc upon Atlantic shipping...the
slender thread of supply that kept England from succombing to the horrid Fascist
juggernaut that had rolled across Europe beginning in 1939. First Poland, then
Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France all fell. To the south, Italy lay under the
heel of Mussolini, who partnered with Hitler in subjugating North Africa.
It was a war of attrition, and Hitler's strategy was to sink Allied shipping more
quickly than the transport ships could be built and goods shipped. Wolf packs of
U-Boats dominated the Atlantic shipping lanes, calling for new defensive tactics.
TURNING THE TIDE
Heavily-guarded convoys first helped even the odds, but going on the offense
proved the real answer. By tracking and sinking U-Boats before they could
sink our transports, the Allies finally gained an upper hand and the tide was turned
Against this historical backdrop, a keel was laid in 1940 for a new "untersee boot"
(submarine) that would be launched in 1941 as the U-505. Technically, she was a
Type IX-C long-range boat, built to operate for months at a time with tending for
fuel and food. Displacing 1120 tons, 252 feet in length, 31 feet in height, and
21 feet in the beam (width), the new boat was crewed by 59 men. It could range
11,400 nautical miles on the surface at 12 knots, and do 4 knots submerged for 63
nautical miles. She was really a surface ship, only submersible during combat and to hide.
Built with precision, advanced technology, heavy armament, and an arsenal of deadly
electric torpedoes, the U-505 made her maiden voyage from Kiel to Lorient on the
French coast for final outfitting and supplies, then went to sea along the coast of
West Africa to harass shipping. She sank several ships there and in the Carribean
before suffering bomb damage by a U.S. Navy aircraft. She limped back to Lorient
for repairs, but never regained her luck. A U.S. Navy task force captured her off
the coast of Africa, towed her to Bermuda, and interned the crew for the duration.
U-505 gave up many technological secrets, including its "Enigma" code machine.
The brilliant operation was conceived and commanded by Captain Daniel Gallery, USN.