USS Bowfin Museum

By Dan Shea

On 15 December 1941, eight days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Portsmouth Navy Yard was given the order to start construction of the new Balao class fleet submarines. The third boat of the class was to bear the name USS Bowfin (SS-287). Her keel was laid on 23 July 1942. Construction proceeded smoothly, and Bowfin was launched at Portsmouth (actually located in Kittery, Maine) on 7 December 1942, exactly one year after the Pearl Harbor attack. Because of this historic coincidence, and in hopes of future success against the enemy, she was appropriately dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

SAR had the opportunity to visit the USS Bowfin Museum on Oahu recently, and considering that our theme this December is remembering the War in the Pacific some fifty years ago, we wanted to share the location of several museums in the Pearl Harbor area. The USS Bowfin Museum presents a rare opportunity for us landlubbers to enter and see exactly what the living spaces were like for the brave men who fought under the sea.

Of special interest to SAR readers are the “small arms” that are located here. I was especially struck by two pieces- the Oerlikon MK 20mm machine gun on the boat itself, and the quad 40mm Bofors gun. The Oerlikon had that special dramatic presence that a drum fed 20mm with shoulder supports can evoke. Not particularly useful against a Destroyer, but against small boats and shore problems- quite efficient. Used in an Anti-Aircraft role, they served up until Vietnam. The Bofors, well, that had just been re-painted and was a wonderful sight. Everything appeared correct, so these were a good set to bring to SAR.

Once again, we at SAR leave you with the following wish- that if you get the opportunity to go to these museums, take a kid, and leave a twenty in the donation jar, to help bring these wonders to future generations. - Dan

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

A non-profit organization operated by the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association11 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii 96818-3145
Phone (808) 423-1341
Fax (808) 422-5201

Visit them on the web at: http://www.aloha.net/~bowfin/

* Located adjacent to the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center at Pearl Harbor

* Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., last tour of the submarine at 4:30 p.m.

* Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

* Children under the age of four are not permitted on the submarine for safety reasons, however are allowed to tour the museum and mini-theater at no charge.

* Submarine & Museum Adult tour is $8; child rate (ages 4 to 12) is $3

* Special $6 rate is available for military, senior citizens and Hawaii residents (with proper identification)
* Special school group or non-profit group rates are available with advance reservation. Call (808) 423-1341 or email them for more details at bowfin@aloha.net.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N3 (December 2000)
and was posted online on October 24, 2014


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