Galveston Naval Museum
On display for touring are the WWII Edsall-Class Destroyer the USS Stewart, and the USS Cavalla, a Gato Class Submarine. The tours are self-guided so go at your own pace and read as much or as little as you like. There are placards throughout giving detail of the captain’s quarters, mess areas, galley, bunking quarters, torpedo rooms in the submarine, and other areas of interest.
The USS Stewart was built at Brown Shipyard in Houston, TX in 1942. It has had a long history with its 201 Enlisted personnel and 8 Officers on board. The ship began as a training ship for student officers before it escorted President Roosevelt’s Yacht to rendezvous with the USS Iowa for his 1943 mission to Egypt and Tehran. Through heavy seas and icing conditions, the USS Stewart made 30 Atlantic crossings supporting convoy operations, with occasional enemy submarine and aircraft encounters, and never lost a single life. Only one unfortunate serious injury ever occurred aboard the ship. She was decommissioned in January 1947.
Touring the Vessels
You can start your tour on either of the two vessels, but on a particularly hot day I would start on the USS Stewart as the submarine does have some cooling inside and the destroyer does not. Your USS Stewart tour begins on the port side of the vessel with a tribute to the women of WWII. Without the help of what, until then, was believed to be an inferior class, the US would not have been able to maintain their war effort. Women would show the world they are more than capable of doing every job a man ever held, changing the political, economic, and social landscape forever.
As you ascend the stairs to the deck of the Destroyer, you’ll see depth charge racks along the port side which were launched using the MK-6 or “K” gun. There are more located on the starboard side as well. At the stern of the ship are two more rear drop depth charge racks. Depth charges were used to deter or destroy any submarines lurking in the area.
Both gun turrets on the bow and stern of the Destroyer are maneuverable so hop on and see if you can spot the enemy and defend the ship!
Here you will find everything that keeps the ship running, from the engines in the engine room to the cooks in the galley. Other areas of the ship to visit are the crew quarters, CPO quarters, pantry, ship office, radio room, chart room, and pilot room. Throughout the tour, you will see different areas for the crew to bunk. The crew’s quarters are spread throughout the ship, with some being in the Crew Mess. The tables on the Mess Deck folded so the crew could access their bunks.
USS Cavalla SS244
Built in 1943 and on her first patrol in the Philippine Sea sank the UN (Imperial Japanese Navy) aircraft carrier Shokaku on June 19, 1944. The Shokaku was one of the carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Cavalla made six war patrols in support of the Mariana and Western Caroline Island Operations, the Palau Invasion, and 3rd Fleet Operations against Japan. She also sank a destroyer, two merchant ships, and a sampan for a total of 34,180 tons.
Touring the Submarine
After ascending the stairs you will walk to the front of the submarine to begin the one-way tour. Be careful throughout the tour as the ceiling is low, metal items protrude through from all directions, and the hatches are small so take care when passing through.
You will start in the Forward Torpedo Room, making your way back through the Officer’s Quarters, above the Battery Space, through the Control Room, Galley, Crew’s Quarters and Lockers, Main Generator, Main Prop Control, and exiting through the Aft Torpedo Room. You may notice that throughout the submarine there are bunk beds in almost spot that can be placed, including both Forward Torpedo and Aft Torpedo rooms.
On your tour of the USS Cavalla, you will see the following post recounting the first mission:
On her maiden patrol the USS Cavalla SS-244 was ordered to relieve the submarine Flying Fish SS-229 on June 15, 1944 at the San Bernardino Strait. In route, Lieutenant Commander Herman J. Kossler received an abrupt change of orders: Imperial Japanese Navy, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s, massive attack force had been spotted by the Flying Fish steaming towards the Marianas. Admiral Lockwood instructed the Cavalla to lay in wait for the task force about 350 miles east of San Bernardino Strait. The Enemies were planning a major attack and their strategy to offset the growing American superiority was cunning and practical. Enemy carrier planes from nine carriers would attack the American fleet and fly on to land bases to rearm and refuel. Meanwhile, Enemy land-based aircraft from Guam, Tinian, and Saipan would strike from their surrounding positions and seek resupply on the carriers. This would produce a doubling of Enemy attack power.
Three hours after she reached her station, Cavalla detected four ships by radar. Captain Kossler began a high-speed “end around” to pass the ships and obtain a prime shooting position. After four hours of skirting the enemy ships, Cavalla closed in with the convoy. Kossler dived the boat and began plotting a firing solution. The convoy consisted of two tankers escorted by destroyers. Before Kossler was ready to shoot, one of the escorts swung onto an attack course with the Cavalla. Realizing he had been spotted, Kossler sought deep refuge. The destroyer lingered over the Cavalla until the rest of the convoy could escape. Upon surfacing, Kossler was greeted by an empty sea.
Kossler radioed Pearl Harbor that his intentions were to abandon the chase of the two tankers and wait for the warships. Admiral Lockwood deduced that the tankers were headed for a rendezvous with the capital ships to refuel them. He ordered Cavalla to resume tracking the tankers. Air activity was becoming an increasing problem for Cavalla. Enemy aircraft restricted Cavallas’ progress, forcing her to dive numerous times. After a long and trying day, the Cavalla’s radar screen came alive. On 19 June, at 0800 hours, the lone submarine Cavalla had crossed the path of fifteen plus battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.
Captain Kossler now faced a dilemma. Standing orders required he report the battle group’s size, speed, and course ahead of all other considerations. Kossler found himself in a favorable position for an approach to one of the cruisers. But he decided to stick to orders. While following the group and assessing their strength and make-up, Cavalla was detected by destroyers and driven down. The battle group released two destroyers to deal with Cavalla.
It was night before Cavalla was able to surface and send off a report of the sighting. Although the crew was disappointed and the captain heartsick, their report was of the greatest strategic significance to the worried American fleet. Now US naval planners knew exactly where the enemy strength lay. The task force had gotten away but Kossler wasn’t willing to give up the chase. Though beginning to get low on fuel, Cavalla continued to follow the tankers. After hours of high-speed surface running, it became apparent that the trail had grown cold. Kossler turned Cavalla around and headed back for the San Bernardino Strait.
Shortly after dawn, enemy air activity in Cavalla’s vicinity had increased to a fever pitch. Kossler radioed headquarters and reported the position. Shortly before noon on June 19, while surveying the swarming planes from periscope depth, Cavalla’s sound man reported heavy screws approaching. Rushing to meet the planes was a battle group of one carrier, two cruisers, and a destroyer. It was the enemy aircraft carrier Shokako, one of six carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor.
Kossler and his crew plotted a ninety-degree attack approach on their first target. Shokaku was at the center of countless aircraft circling and landing. Cavalla closed the range to 1200 yards. At 1118 hours, Kossler fired all six of his bow torpedoes. As the torpedoes streaked towards the carrier, a nearby destroyer spotted the wakes and wheeled to attack. Cavalla dove deep to evade retribution. Three of her torpedoes found their mark. The Shokako rocked with the explosions of her munitions and fuel reserves. In four hours the Shokako sank. Cavalla had taken out one of the largest vessels in the world. A heroin escape ensued after Cavalla’s success.
Enemy destroyers drove Cavalla under her designed 300 feet of seawater maximum depth. The Cavalla maneuvered away from a massive attack from two enemy destroyers in pursuit of Cavalla. The sound gear was knocked out of commission and the hull ventilation system was damaged. Kossler managed to allude enemy destroyers and three hours later after a 105 depth charges were dropped on his boat.
Kossler radioed Pearl Harbor:
“HIT SHOKAKU CLASS CARRIER WITH THREE OUT OF SIX TORPEDOES… RECEIVED 105 DEPTH CHARGES DURING THREE HOUR PERIOD … HEARD FOUR TERRIFIC EXPLOSIONS IN THE DIRECTION OF TARGET TWO AND ONE HALF HOURS AFTER ATTACK … BELIEVE THAT BABY SANK.”
Hours prior to Cavalla’s sinking of the Shokaku, the submarine USS Albacore SS-218 along concentrated air power by the US Navy’s Hellcat pilots sank enemy carrier Taiho. The Cavalla dealt the crippling blow causing the Imperial Navy to abandon their defense of the Marianas Islands and retreat. The Cavalla’s sinking of Shokaku changed the course of World War II in the Pacific Ocean.