USS Silversides (SS 236)

Been very busy this weekend. Had a camp-out with my son’s Boy Scout unit, and on Saturday afternoon the troop took a tour of the World War II submarine USS Silversides (SS 236) in Muskegon, Michigan.

Here’s a view of the boat’s superstructure from the aft (all pictures can be clicked for a larger version):

uss silversides ss-236

The Silversides was a Gato-class fleet sub. Despite what the docent said, she was launched in August of 1941. She was commissioned on December 15 of that year (eight days after Pearl Harbor) and set out on the first of 14 war patrols the following April.

This is the second time Murdoc’s toured the boat. His favorite compartment remains the forward torpedo room. Here are the starboard tubes:

uss silversides ss-236 forward torpedo room

The third starboard tube is just visible at the bottom of the picture. Sections of decking would need to be pulled aside to allow access to the lower tubes. The Gato-class subs had six forward-firing tubes and four rear-firing tubes. The rear tubes contained electric torpedoes, while the (main) forward tubes fired hydrogen-powered fish.

Here’s the wet side of the control room:

uss silversides control room

Here is the “christmas tree” board which indicates the condition of the boat’s hatches and other things one wants to know before giving the order to dive:

uss silversides ss-236 christmas tree

Red lights? Consider postponing your dive until discussing things with the captain.

Speaking of submariner no-nos, here are some apparently important warning tags:

uss silversides ss-236

I’m skeptical that the sub would sink if I opened those. (Besides, I think it’s actually sitting on the bottom of the channel.) But I wasn’t going to test my theory.

Question: What is this thing? It’s on the port side of the conning tower facing aft.

uss silversides SS-235

Did WW2 subs have much in the way of countermeasures? The cover sure doesn’t seem to be what you’d expect to see on a countermeasures release system. But just now it occurs to me that this might be deckside storage for ammunition for the 4″ deck gun. Someone help Murdoc out.

Finally, here’s a shot of a Mk-15 Hedgehog anti-submarine launcher:

mk-15 hedgehog silversides

The Silversides, at Muskegon’s Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum, is a great way to spend an afternoon. In addition to the Silversides, they’ve got the Coast Guard cutter USCGC McClane (W 146) and the original conning tower from the Gato-class submarine USS Drum (SS 228) which had to be replaced after the Drum suffered severe damage from a Japanese depth-charge attack.


  1. First, very few Mk. 16 torpedos, if any, were used in WWII. Mk. 16s weren’t hydrogen-powered, they were hydrogen peroxide-powered. Same stuff that sank the Kursk a few years ago. I’ll bet that she used wet-heater Mk 14s in the bow tubes and electric Mk 18s (a copy of the German G7e) in the stern tubes. Second, in that that ‘what is this’ pic, you’re correct. That’s ready storage for rounds for the deck gun. The chamber was water-tight, so the gun crew could flip it open and start firing as soon as the deck was dry. After those 10 rounds were gone further reloads would be passed up from below, either through the hatch just below and to the left of the open hatch or through the hatch pointing to the starboard beam at the guy in the dark sweatshirt.

  2. Gah, I hate to be a multi-posting pain, but here’s a pic showing a gunner’s mate reaching for what appears to be the hatch just above the deck in your pic.

  3. I hope your scouts enjoyed the tour. My 91 year old father,Charles, served on the Silversides on her 4th patrol. He has original photos of the appendectomy that he took. Our family is hoping to get him back with his 3 grandsons for a firsthand tour. He was the radio and sonar operator, and later served the remaider of the war on the USS Haddock.