To reef, or not to reef

The submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343), a Balao-class 311-foot “fleet boat” of the type that crushed the Japanese merchant fleet during WWII, commissioned on 28 June 1945– just narrowly too late for the war. However, her Naval service was rich, being converted to a GUPPY II snorkel boat in 1947 and later GUPPY III in 1962– one of only a handful to get the latter upgrade.

Decommissioned in 1973, the boat was still in pretty good shape when she was donated as at age 36 to become a museum ship at Patriot’s Point, South Carolina where she has been since 1981, near the WWII carrier USS Yorktown.

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

The Clamagore (SS-343) being brought to Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston, SC. 1981. Courtesy Tommy Trapp via Navsource

However, in the past 38 years, she has doubled the amount of time on her hull and decks with a bare minimum of upkeep and is long past her fighting prime. So much so that in the past several years, the push to preserve Clagamore has been primarily oriented to raising money to strip her of contaminants and sink her as a reef to be enjoyed by groupers and divers.

The sub is reportedly now at risk of capsizing due to deterioration of the hull

The cost is estimated to run $2.7 million, for which state lawmakers have been asked to chip in.

*Record scratch* *Freeze frame*

On the other hand, a group of subvets argues it will only take about $300,000 smackers to save, relocate and restore Clagamore— the last of the GUPPY III boats afloat– to a land berth communal with the H.L. HUNLEY museum in North Charleston, SC. To back up their point, they have filed a lawsuit against Patriot’s Point.

Grab the popcorn on this one.

3 comments

  • This is, of course, the big issue with museum ships. Everybody wants them saved and preserved, but almost nobody seems to understand what “preserve” actually means. On Michigan, we were stripping and paining the hull every year.Dry docking was a regular event, and most of what we did was preservation and maintenance. Almost none of which has been done for the Clagamore.
    The last time I was on Hornet (April 26, 2017), I was shocked at her poor condition overall. The island is almost unsafe in areas not directly on the tour. The flight deck is in bad shape. The hull needs some serious scrapping and painting, if not more.
    Obviously some ships get lots and lots of love and TLC. Midway, Missouri, Intrepid and a few others. But more are basically just abandoned in place, and left to rust while collecting a few dollars from each visitor. And even those that have lots of TLC are old enough that despite the efforts anything short of putting the ship on a land display (Texas and from what I hear North Carolina), they are all but doomed to rust away.
    There’s a lot of noise from those of us in the SubVets about saving Clagamore, but really, is it even a reasonable thing at this point? Ten, maybe five years ago, possibly, but today? I don’t think so. I don’t like reefing her, but who is going to pay for the repairs and then the maintenance to keep her? She has a lot of history to her, but it’s not history that sells tickets. So unless there’s a BIG donor, I don’t see any reasonable way to save her.
    It is sad. But it is a failure to properly plan to maintain and preserve history for the long term.

  • Pingback: Hermes, Clamagore, and Newcastle to be no more | laststandonzombieisland

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