Captured WW2 German U-Boat Drydocked Inside New $35 Million Dollar “Submarine Pen” Exhibit Hall, Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL

A deck full of American sailors prepare to tow the captured German submarine, U-505, back to port in Bermuda, June, 1944. After all intelligence had been gathered and removed, the U-Boat was moved to the United States where it is now permanently on display INSIDE the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL. (Photo: US Navy)

This last weekend, I was fortunate to pay a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL. The museum is filled with impressive exhibits to be sure, but without a doubt, its most outstanding display is a previously top-secret, captured WW2 German U-Boat known as the U-505. If you’ve never seen this amazing submarine in person, let me tell you, it is a sight to behold!

Superb lighting effects simulate moving water, as the sub sits high, dry and safe inside its own, climate-controlled “submarine pen” at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL. Where else can you get this “up close and personal” to an authentic, WW2 German U-Boat? Wow! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

If you’re unfamiliar with the story behind the U-505’s capture, according to Wikipedia…

The actual Enigma machines captured from the U-505 are also on display outside the sub. (Photo: Mark Otnes)
Click for close-up.

“The U-505 is a German Type IXC U-boat built for service in the Kriegsmarine during World War II. She was captured on June 4, 1944 by the United States Navy Task Group 22.3 (TG 22.3). Her codebooks, Enigma machine and other secret materials found on board assisted Allied code-breaking operations.

One of the U-505’s deck guns was brought down to floor-level for more convenient, up-close viewing. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click for close-up.

All but one of the U-505’s crew members were rescued by the Navy task group. The submarine was towed to Bermuda in secret, and her crew interned at a US prisoner of war camp where they were denied access to International Red Cross visits. The Navy classified the capture as top-secret and prevented its discovery by the Germans.

In 1954, U-505 was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry. She is one of six U-boats that were captured by Allied forces during World War II, and one of four German World War II U-boats that survive as museum ships. She is the only Type IXC in existence.”

The last time I toured the U-505 was over 15 years ago. At that time, the submarine was being displayed OUTSIDE, subjected to the harsh Lake Michigan weather. But in 2005 it was repainted, lifted and moved around the museum before being lowered into its new indoor “submarine pen.” Now, the old “Wolf Pack” member is permanently protected from the elements and enjoying a resurgence of popularity among museum-goers. Of course, building such a beautiful recreation of a WW2 U-Boat submarine pen doesn’t come cheap, and the U-505’s extravagant new home cost the museum over $35 million dollars to build. Gott im Himmel!

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make your way to Chicago anytime soon, please enjoy the following “photo tour” of the U-505 display, courtesy of your friends at The Joe Report…

The entry to the exhibit looks like the hull of a sub and is appropriately dark, lit only with “watery” lighting effects. The graphics and displays used throughout are superb and truly help communicate the U-Boat’s deadly purpose and place in history. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Once inside, you’re faced with the sight of a full-scale diorama depicting the devastating effects of a U-Boat attack. Sailors cling to floating debris as they look warily ahead. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Along the way to the sub, you can stop and “stand watch” on a bridge set and view authentic WW2 archival film of U-Boat attacks on Allied shipping in the Atlantic, complete with vibrating decks (floors) and other realistic effects. Cool! And you haven’t even gotten to the sub yet! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

When you reach the end of the entry tunnel, it suddenly opens up to reveal a cavernous exhibit hall designed to match the German “U-Boat Bunkers” of WW2. It’s startling how realistic the effect is. For a moment, you could swear that you’ve either stepped back in time, or onto a big-budget movie set. Absolutely beautiful! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Torpedoes…LOS!” As you walk around the U-Boat, you’ll notice it has just fired a torpedo from its starboard torpedo tube. LOOK OUT! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Walking around and viewing the U-505 from the outside is free, but taking the tour inside the boat incurs an additional fee. Note that the conning tower, deck gun and other items have been removed and placed down at pedestrian level for easier, up-close viewing. And dig those crazy, “wavy” water-reflection light effects. Super-realistic! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Yes, you’re able to get right up to the submarine and study its every fascinating detail. What is this cool-looking bolted hatch on the side of the hull and what was it used for? Questions were swimming through our heads! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Captured intact before its crew was able to detonate the 14 time bombs aboard, meant that everything about the U-505 is still in perfect condition, including its two gigantic propellers.(Photo: Mark Otnes)

After paying the additional fee for the inside guided tour, our group gathered at the bottom of the gangway while we listened to our entertaining “Kreigsmarine Kapitan” describe specifics of the U-505. He even sported the correct “at sea” full-bearded appearance so common to German submariners. The additional fee was well worth it. C’mon, you’ve come this far, you gotta go in there! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Inside, our tour guide told us that while no film had been shot on board the U-505, filmmakers had used it extensively as reference when building their sets for movies such as “Das Boot” and “U-571.” But THIS…is the real deal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

During times of attack, hatches such as this one were closed to prevent water flooding from one compartment to the next. Your personal survival depended on which side you were ordered to remain when the hatch was sealed! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This room may look spacious, but to serve on a submarine, you had to be short and small. Tall Kreigsmariners need not apply. OUCH. Mein noggin! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Gauges, of course, were all marked in German. Can you read these? (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Want to get the crew’s attention? Just step up to this communication cone and blow your boatswain’s pipe! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The ship’s telegraph of the U-505 looks like any other, except it’s all labeled in German. Dummkopf! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Before leaving, I reached out to touch the old boat one more time. Unlike the Mona Lisa or the Crown Jewels, the U-505 is definitely a “hands-on” museum exhibit. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: The U-505 is a “must see” for military history and submarine buffs. We say… Don’t miss it! And if you’d like to learn more about the U-505, its combat history and eventual capture by the U.S. Navy, go HERE. If you’d like to view a time-lapse video of the sub’s amazing move from its outdoor “mooring” to its new indoor submarine pen, go HERE. Enjoy!


10 thoughts on “Captured WW2 German U-Boat Drydocked Inside New $35 Million Dollar “Submarine Pen” Exhibit Hall, Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL

  1. J F Benedetto says:

    As Admiral Gallery recounted in his book “U-505” (which is one terrific read, btw) this submarine was the first enemy warship captured by the US Navy since 1815–! In fact, we got the sub purely because Gallery sat down one day and asked himself “How could we capture an enemy sub, rather than just send her to the bottom?” The U-505 saw some pretty hard action during her time. I’m glad the museum is taking such great care of her.

  2. Andrew Garrison says:

    I remember taking the tour through U-505 some 20 years ago. I’m delighted to see she is now inside and has what looks like her own hall. Need to get up there and see it again someday.

  3. Dean says:

    Nice to see her in full regalia once again! Dive! Dive!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wish the Bismark was still around. Was a GREAT ship. Bigger and better than the American Battle Ships.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes they had many “better” things than the Americans, but they also had an asshole, drug-addict for a leader.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was in the U505 when I was 16 years old. I became a teacher and told a lot of my students about the time I was on a German U-boat. I’ve never forgotten that experience and I never will. It appeals not only to Navy fans but to young people as well. It didn’t cost anything to go on it at that time—I think—but it was well worth the time. I am now retired and we were talking about this boat the other day. Very glad I was able to see this part of history.

    Ken Nay

  6. George says:

    First-class reading. Makes you wonder what they went through to live/work inside a sub. Brave people; that goes for every person that goes to sea in one of those things.

  7. Bill Patterson says:

    As much as I respect our American cousins, and I have worked with them when I was in the Royal Navy in the 1980s, Hollywood would have us all believe that America won the war single-handedly. The RN captured the 1st enigma.

  8. Richard says:

    Bill, real American historians know the Brits captured the first Enigma…been teaching history for 34 years…and thank you for your service

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