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Old 04-14-2010, 09:40 AM   #1
mookiemookie
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Default U-505 in Chicago

I just visited yesterday and it was quite impressive. I was lucky to have been there on a day that was fairly dead in terms of traffic. My tour group consisted of myself and 3 other people.

The boat itself is in great shape. They've done a LOT of restoration to it, and everything is very clean and painted. Nothing looks glaringly out of place, aside from the doorways cut in the side of the boat and the interior hatches they cut to facilitate tour groups walking through the boat. I was a little disappointed that they had the bow torpedo room closed off, but it was visible through the grating they had placed over the hatch. The tour guide gave a very basic, but accurate, introduction to the operation of a submarine, and how the crew lived on the boat.

I did have a couple of issues with some of the things stated during the tour - she said that it was the first German U-boat captured in WW2, however that was actually U-570, which was captured and put into service by the Royal Navy as the HMS Graph in 1941. They also overstated the importance of the capture of the enigma machine onboard, in my opinion. There was no mention of the capture of the enigma machine from U-110 by the British back in 1941. By the time the U.S. captured U-505 in 1944, the enigma cipher had already been broken, and the U-boat war was all but won. They made it sound like the U-505's capture was a major turning point in the war. Of course I didn't want to be "that guy" so I stayed quiet about these things.

The peripheral exhibits around the boat are very, very well presented. There's a lot of U-boat crew paraphernalia - canned bread, badges, cigarettes, maps, letters, binoculars, uniforms, flags, etc. All of this is very well labelled and accurately explained. The volunteers walking the floor were knowledgeable about the items presented. They had a T-5 Zaunköning that had been opened up and put under glass. It was amazing to see the inner workings of one of these weapons. They have a lot of displays and audio/visual presentations on the Battle of the Atlantic and the convoy system - all from a very American-centric viewpoint, but this is to be expected.

Since it was such an empty day at the museum, I spent some time talking to the tour guide after the tour. She seemed well versed on the major "bibles" of u-boat history and said that Das Boot and Steel Boats, Iron Hearts is required reading for guides. I asked her why she didn't mention Peter Zschech, the onetime captain of the U-505 who committed suicide on the boat. She laughed and said that they save that story for Halloween time.

All in all, I'd say it's most definitely worth a visit. The price for the museum admission is $15, and the onboard tour of the boat is an additional $8.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:08 PM   #2
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From what I read, the one you took is only about 15 minutes, correct?

I was looking at the museum's website last week and I saw they have a 2 hour special tour of the boat every other Sunday for a limited number of people. I think it is $50, but that includes admission to the museum. That's the one I want to try.

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Old 04-14-2010, 01:33 PM   #3
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I did have a couple of issues with some of the things stated during the tour - she said that it was the first German U-boat captured in WW2, however that was actually U-570, which was captured and put into service by the Royal Navy as the HMS Graph in 1941. They also overstated the importance of the capture of the enigma machine onboard, in my opinion. There was no mention of the capture of the enigma machine from U-110 by the British back in 1941. By the time the U.S. captured U-505 in 1944, the enigma cipher had already been broken, and the U-boat war was all but won. They made it sound like the U-505's capture was a major turning point in the war. Of course I didn't want to be "that guy" so I stayed quiet about these things.
That's why I don't like guided tours. Where's the pix?
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Old 04-14-2010, 01:41 PM   #4
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We would to go see it sometime, thanks for sharing
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Old 04-15-2010, 04:26 AM   #5
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I went about three years ago. Quite disappointed, the tour is too short and only goes on about the capture. They rush you through the boat and you just don't have time to take it all in. The lighting in the hall is very low so photography is difficult. Guides stick to their script and only take questions related to the capture. It could be so much better, but at least you get to see a Type IX in an excellent state of preservation.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:15 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by nikimcbee View Post
Where's the pix?
Yeah.....pics or it didn't happen!
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Old 04-15-2010, 10:17 AM   #7
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Unfortunately, they don't let you photograph inside the boat. Here's a few I got outside it. Forgive me, as I'm not much of a photographer:







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Old 04-15-2010, 12:01 PM   #8
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Unfortunately, they don't let you photograph inside the boat.

That is really a shame to hear. Bastards!

Thanks for the pictures you got though.

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Old 01-16-2011, 07:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by sharkbit View Post
That is really a shame to hear. Bastards!

Thanks for the pictures you got though.

It's worse than you think. They have the gall to say you can't photograph in the sub because "it's a war memorial" just before they run you through an "interactive experience" that's barely one step above a carnival ride. After the "No photos because this boat is a memorial to those who died," the tour starts with them turning off the lights and starting to play background noise so you can "feel what it was like to be on a U-boat." From that point, you're rushed through the submarine because the entire tour is time-based, and if you're not in the control room at the right moment the "experience" will continue without you. Finally, you get to the diesel engine room and they basically kick you out of the submarine to make room for the next tour group.

So.... yeah. In my opinion they have no right to say you can't take pictures inside when they've pretty much destroyed whatever dignity the submarine still had with their "U-boat experience." That I had to spend 8 dollars to get rushed through without a chance to actually explore the submarine was just the final insult.

Don't get me wrong, I liked seeing the U-505 and being on board, but the manner in which the tour was conducted left a bitter taste in my mouth. The last surviving intact Type IX should be treated better then a carnival attraction.
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:49 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Arael View Post
Don't get me wrong, I liked seeing the U-505 and being on board, but the manner in which the tour was conducted left a bitter taste in my mouth. The last surviving intact Type IX should be treated better then a carnival attraction.
To the victor go the spoils, it seems. I agree with you; better a memorial that permits people to actually explore the boat a bit, with time to actually think about what those guys did, and went through, rather than a hurried, seemingly exploitive blitz through the boat. The experience you described sounded more like an 8 buck huck - not a good way to treat the visitors who are, ultimately, the reason they even have for being open.

That is one thing I do love about Torsk - when the vols are in, the visitors who choose to listen can get some great experiences from some of the guys who've actually been there.
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Old 07-15-2011, 12:11 PM   #11
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I'll add a few of my pics as well. I got 4 pics of the front of the boat before the battery died. *sigh* And imageshack makes them much darker than they actually appear on my machine. Just click the thumbnails below.







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