A lake, even one of the Great Lakes, isn’t the first place you’d look for a submarine. So what’s a WWII submarine doing in a tiny town on the shore of Lake Michigan? I decided to find out.
The town of Manitowoc is roughly halfway up Wisconsin’s coast. It has an almost seaside feel to it, with a marina, jetty and an overall vibe that’s decidedly “coastal vacation town.” It wasn’t always that way. As the former home of Manitowoc Shipbuilding, not only were WWII landing craft built here, many of which were used in the invasion of Normandy, but also minesweepers, merchant craft, ferries and, surprisingly enough, submarines.
Twenty-eight Gato- and Balao-class submarines were born in Manitowoc during the war. It’s the only place in the US to launch submarines sideways into the water. Though the USS Cobia, a Gato-class, was built in Connecticut, it was given to the city as an example of the Gato class. Today it’s a museum so, you guessed it, I had a look around.