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“Absolutely outstanding!”

The Submarine Force Museum
Ranked #1 of 26 things to do in Groton
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The home of the world's first nuclear submarine has several other exhibits on the history of submarines.
Reviewed October 16, 2013

There are two aspects to this museum, the exhibit inside the main building and the Nautilus atomic submarine docked outside. The indoor museum provides a history lesson into the evolution of submarine warfare and is fascinating. Touring the Nautilus atomic submarine was an awesome experience. It is hard to imagine being submerged for extended periods of time in extremely cramped quarters. Your visit here will give you a sense of what those men experienced. There are three levels inside the sub that require you to use very steep ladders and to step through small portals between various sections of the sub. If you have any physical limitations, touring the Nautilus may not be the thing for you. Be sure to check the website for times when the museum is open!

1  Thank BionicOne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 12, 2013

Since the history of Groton is tied to shipbuilding, and the building of submarines is tied to Groton because of the Electric Boat Divison of General Dynamics, there would be no more logical location for this submarine museum. The free museum is very well organized and well maintained.

During my visit, I spent about 3 hours here. I began with the grounds.

In front of the museum’s entrance are two circular frames that illustrate the circumferences of two submarines that represent examples of the evolution of the submarine. The smaller frame represents the USS Holland (SS-1) which was the U.S. Navy's first commissioned submarine, named for her Irish-American inventor, John Philip Holland. It was launched on May 17, 1897. The larger frame represents the USS Ohio (SSGN-726/ SSGN-726) which was the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarines. The contract to build her was awarded to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut on July 1, 1974. Her keel was laid down on April 10, 1976. USS Ohio was launched on April 7, 1979. In the summer of 1981, sea trials were held to test the equipment and systems, and the submarine was delivered to the U.S. Navy on 28 October 1981. On 11 November 1981, USS Ohio was commissioned.

On the front walk, there are midget submarines:
1) The Japanese "Type A" - were used during World War II, the Japanese "Type A" two-man mini-sub was carried by a mother ship, usually another submarine to its area of operation. Type A submarines were used during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and throughout the war, but were generally unsuccessful.
2) The SS X-1 - is a non-commissioned experimental submarine designed to both defend and penetrate shallow waters and enemy harbors where large conventional submarines could not go.
3) Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) - have operated with special operations teams since the days of WWII with Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), commonly known as "SEALS" (Sea-Air-Land) are used in a variety of clandestine operations. Carried in a special watertight tank piggybacked to a submarine, the SDV gives the SEAL team a greater range of stealth, mobility, and endurance.

Inside the museum's foyer, one sees the Jules Verne Mural which was taken from an illustration in the first edition of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" published in Paris in 1870. Overhead is a replica of Jules Verne's Nautilus as depicted in the 1954 Walt Disney movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

In the Main Hall off to the right is the Submarine Model Wall with models of every major type of U.S. submarine built from USS HOLLAND (SS-1), purchased in 1900, to the present Los Angeles, Ohio, and Seawolf class submarines. The models are built to scale so it is possible to compare the difference in size, shape and design.

On the left of the Main Hall are two small Attack Centers exhibit rooms. The first exhibit room is a representation of a Sturgeon class submarine attack center. In the second exhibit room is a recreation of a World War II submarine attack center. The attack center has three operational periscopes through which one can see the historic USS Nautilus, the Thames River, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Visitor of all ages will enjoy this part of the museum.

Also in the Main Hall are submarine warfare insignia---Dolphins---from navies around the world, submarine name boards, and early navigation equipment.

The Hall of Honor is about 2/3 of the way down the Main Hall on the left. I was particularly interested in in this part of the museum because two of the honorees were from New Hampshire, my state. One was from Dover, my city. He was Rear Admiral Richard Hetherington “Dick” O'Kane (February 2, 1911 – February 16, 1994), who was a United States Navy submarine commander in World War II, who received a Medal of Honor for his service on the Tang. Having also served on the near legendary Wahoo, as Executive Officer and Approach Officer, he participated directly in more successful attacks on Japanese shipping than any other fighting submarine officer during the war. In five war patrols, O'Kane and the Tang sank an officially recognized total of 24 Japanese ships---the second highest total for a single American submarine and the highest for a single commanding officer. This total was revised in 1980 from a review of Japanese war records corroborated by the Tang′s surviving logs and crewmembers to 31 ships totaling over 227,000 long tons (231,000 t) sunk. This established one of the Pacific War's top records for submarine achievement.

Bushnell's Turtle was a fascinating exhibit. David Bushnell of Old Saybrook, Connecticut designed and built the Turtle to attack British warships during the American Revolution. The attacks Turtle made in 1776 were unsuccessful, but did demonstrate the submarine's potential.

I saved the upstairs for later.

Next, I toured the Nautilus. The self-guided tour was with an audio wand with recordings. A staffer handed the wands out as visitors headed into the Nautilus. We walked through five different stations.
1) The Torpedo Room - It had 6 torpedo tubes and could carry 24 weapons. Directly aft in the torpedo room is a small berthing area with 10 bunks, toilets, shower, and sinks.
2) The Wardroom and Officer Staterooms -The Wardroom is where 11 officers would eat, have meetings, and socialize. Adjacent to the Wardroom area were small staterooms used by the ship’s officers. Each contained three bunks and desks.
3) The Attack Center - It contained all the equipment necessary to operate the submarine as a warship. On the left side of the corridor was the Line-of-Sight Diagram which was used to help calculate the range and direction of a target for aiming a torpedo. To the right of the Line-of-Sight Diagram was the Firing Panel” which was used to select which torpedo tube was fired from the Firing Key. Nearby was the "Conn" where the ship's two periscopes were located. Behind the Conn is the Navigation Center. From here the Quartermaster of the Watch would chart the ship's position
4) The Control Room was directly below the Attack Center. It contained all the instruments and controls for diving, surfacing and steering the ship. On the right side of the Control Room is the Radio Room where all the ship's communication equipment is located.
5) The Crew's Mess was where the enlisted men ate. Meals were served every six hours at watch turnover. Submarines had the best food in the military because of the difficult conditions onboard. Here one could smell the hot coffee 24 hours a day. There was also an ice cream machine and "Bug-Juice" Machine. The Crew's Mess was the largest area of the ship. It was also used for training, meetings, and entertainment such as watching movies or playing cards. Further down the corridor is the kitchen, known as the Galley. Next to the galley was the scullery where dishes were washed and other cleaning chores took place.
It took all of about ½ hour to walk through the ship.

Then, I went back to the museum building to tour the main exhibits, most of which were on the second floor.

The USS Gato (SS 212) was suspended from the overhead in the main exhibit area. The model was a 50 foot long, 1/6th scale, cutaway model. The model shows the interior and exterior of this submarine in exacting detail. The USS Gato was the primary class of submarine used by the United States during World War II.

Displays of submarine weaponry included a 20mm deck gun carried by submarines during World War II for use against small surface ships or to ward off attacks by enemy aircraft, plus Whitehead (1918), MK14 (1940), MK37 (1946) and MK48 (1971) torpedoes; a MK49 (1946) mine; a SUBROC missile; and a Polaris A-3 ballistic missile.

The Nautilus Room contained numerous artifacts, photographs, and drawings associated with the history of USS Nautilus (SSN 571). The display outlined the history of Nautilus from construction, to its journey under the North Pole, to decommissioning.

Next, I watched the long film in the main theater on the ground floor.

Then, I went into the Gift Shop where there was a wide range of merchandise that included books, caps, T-shirts, mugs, patches, pins, etc.

2  Thank Maurene_K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 10, 2013

The Submarine Force museum features a wonderful self guided (audio head sets provided) tour of our nations first nuclear submarine "the USS Nautilus." It was fascinating to say the least. The museum is very informative not only about the Nautilus but about the history of the submarine and the brave soldiers who served on them.

Thank Reedit3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 30, 2013

Lots to see and learn here. Touring the submarine was sort of fun and learned a lot. The fact that it was free was an added bonus.

Thank ladyme1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 12, 2013

We stopped by this museum on the advice of a local and found it interesting. They have the first nuclear sub on site that you can tour and learn about - very interesting to even those with no military background.

The musuem portion has nice exhibits also. Overall, an educational museum that will keep both kids and adults fascinated.

Thank Lisa H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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