USS CAVALLA SS-244
Texas is a place of many interesting and contrasting features. The Lone Star State enjoys a mythical reputation around the world as the home of the cowboy and the Alamo. Texas is also renown as the operational center of the National Aeronautical Space Administration, NASA, the pioneers of man’s first lunar landings. We have Judge Roy Bean and the mighty battleship Texas; the Dallas Cowboys and Dwight Eisenhower. And Texas is the resting place of the USS Cavalla. Many residents of the Galveston-Houston area are only vaguely aware that one of the U.S. Navy’s most storied fighting ships is on public display in their backyard. Cavalla achieved more in her first war patrol than the battleship Texas did in 40 years of service. Yet, in comparison to the Texas, Cavalla is unrecognized and overlooked.
This document includes ideas and suggestions to promote and sustain the USS Cavalla as a memorial and tourist attraction.
We want more people to come to the park and tour the Cavalla, more money to cover the costs of the park, and more children to know what Cavalla represents.
- Admission price – Increase the price of admission from the current $2 to $4~5. Although a low admission price would appear to favor greater attendance, remember that Seawolf Park is a long drive from the city; I contend few people will make the drive and turn around after seeing the $4~5 fee for touring the sub and destroyer. In addition, today’s economy justifies this price increase: a movie ticket costs $6.50 and Astroworld charges $32. Four or five dollars to tour a World War II submarine and destroyer is not out of line.
- Modern signs and labels – Inside Cavalla, each compartment should have a new, full color placard describing the name and function of the compartment. The signs should be enclosed in plexiglas and secured. Any equipment that merits attention should have a small engraved plastic label. The old signs and Dynolabels currently in Cavalla must go.
- Display room – In addition to new information about the components of the boat, Cavalla needs some large, illustrated posters describing her history. The cavernous after battery compartment (crew’s quarters) would serve as an excellent display room. Scenes from Cavalla’s history would include a depiction of her attack on Admiral Ozawa’s task force which resulted in the sinking of the IJN carrier Shokaku, the daring night attack on the destroyer Shimotsuki, her rescue of the British submarine Terrapin, her conversion from World War II configuration to the current SSK design, her Cold War missions in the GIUK Gap, and her overall layout. A CD player could play a loop of Capt. Zeke Zellmer and other crew members’ descriptions of life aboard Cavalla. A sturdy, vandal-proof display case could exhibit artifacts and momentoes from the war era. Photographs of Cavalla in her different guises and photographs of various crew members could be blown up and arranged around the compartment. In summary, when a person enters the after battery, he should see more than an empty compartment and pass though with a shrug. There is a wealth of untapped educational potential in Cavalla.
- Education – A sign should be displayed at the entrance with a caption something along the lines of, "Kids! Pass a Cavalla test and win a prize!" Basically, we want to encourage children to learn about the history of Cavalla, which is essentially their history as well. A questionnaire is passed out to willing 16 year-old and younger participants. The answers to the quiz will be included in the presentational material in the display room previously mentioned. When they return from the boat, if they have successfully completed the quiz, they are given an inexpensive souvenir, perhaps a plastic keychain or pen with the Seawolf Park/USS Cavalla picture/logo, or a small pair of plastic submariner’s dolphins. Again, increased promotion should compensate for the cost of the souvenir. And our children will learn.
- Free bumper sticker – The cost of admission should include a free Seawolf Park bumper sticker. The higher admission price should easily cover the cost of this gift, and the tourist would then be promoting Seawolf Park in his home area through the bumper sticker. A catchy phrase or design is a must, possibly incorporating a popular saying: "I took a dive at Seawolf Park"; "Dive! Dive!" (and a large picture of a submarine with Seawolf Park, Galveston, Texas); "A submarine in Texas? Seawolf Park, Galveston, Texas"….
- Souvenirs – Seawolf Park needs to stock souvenirs. They will generate some revenue and increase promotion and awareness of the park. Previously mentioned items include bumper stickers, keychains, and pens. Mandatory items include postcards, T-shirts, coffee mugs, souvenir book, ball caps.
- Cavalla Preservation Fund – Establish and promote a preservation fund. Categorize patrons by donation level and display their names on small brass plaques on a mahogany board. Set up the board in the after battery compartment.
- Volunteer Days – You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked me about volunteering their time and energy to preserve Cavalla. Establish a Cavalla Volunteer League, schedule work days (i.e., once a month, once a quarter), assign tasks such as clean-up, tour guides, small repairs. This is one asset that should be utilized.
- Grants/subsidies – Explore opportunities to receive funding from external sources.
Seawolf Park is isolated and distant from the heart of the city. Yet, it is also tranquil and serene, a conducive atmosphere for a war memorial. Increased awareness of Seawolf Park and Cavalla is essential to increased attendance and sufficient funds to keep up the memorials and park.
- Newspaper – Periodically, a small advertisement with an illustration should appear in the Houston Chronicle and other area papers. In addition, Seawolf Park and Cavalla should be included in the entertainment round-up in the Sunday entertainment section every week, as are Moody Gardens and Astroworld (SFOT). Seawolf Park needs to be reinforced as a staple of the tourist attractions in the Gulf Coast area.
- Airports – Determine if it is feasible to buy advertising space in wall displays at the Intercontinental and Hobby airports. Many tourists and business travelers can be influenced to include the park in their plans by catching them as they come off the plane. It works on me. And get that billboard back up at 51st and Broadway.
- Pamphlets – A four color tourist pamphlet with pictures of the park, Cavalla, and a map illustration of the route to Seawolf Park is needed. These should be added to the racks of similar pamphlets at local hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions such as the Air Museum and battleship Texas. Similarly, any tourist brochures of Galveston should include a picture and description of Cavalla/Stewart/Seawolf Park.
- Postcards – Every souvenir shop in Galveston should include at least one color postcard of Cavalla and Seawolf Park in its racks.
- Ferry – Advertisements on the ferry boats. They pass by Seawolf Park, so the occupants could see the park and the advertisement/notice at the same time, promoting interest and attendance.
- Get Garth Brooks to sing a song about Cavalla – Just kidding (maybe).
- Road signs - Work with the Texas Dept. of Highways to get a sign up on I-45 at Texas 275. How are tourists going to visit the boat if they don't know where to find it?
- Corporate sponsor – If there are no restrictions by the Navy, sell a little corporate advertising at Seawolf Park. To entice clients, remind them that this would serve as a donation.
- Newspaper story – Publish a detailed story of Cavalla and her role in the war. Submit it for a Memorial Day, Independence Day, or June 19 (anniversary of Shokaku sinking) publication date. The Parks Board should release additional stories periodically. Cavalla also took part in the Cuban Missile Crisis and was closely associated with the USS Thresher incident.
- USS CAVALLA Website – Maintain an informative website with historical and contemporary photos, operational history, crew interviews, and park details.
- Cavalla book – I have sufficient material to create a book on Cavalla. I have over 60 historical photographs, the six war patrol reports, interviews of varying lengths, crew rosters, and other material. At some point, I will take this to publication. Proceeds from sales in Seawolf Park and the Galveston area would be directed back to the Cavalla Preservation fund.
Cavalla is much more than a war memorial—she’s a time machine, an artifact, a concrete piece of history. Although it may never be desirable or feasible to restore her in every detail, careful attention to key areas will allow for the preservation of this 1944 submarine for future generations.
- Superstructure – The exterior of the boat has lost some integrity due to corrosion. This includes the deck cowling which is being removed at present (see next item), area around the aft torpedo tubes, the deck and conning tower railing, and a few spots on the hull. A little body work is in order.
- Walkway – I’m still looking for the person responsible for the concrete walkway. At present, the walkway is being removed and the supports and plumbing beneath the superstructure are beyond salvage. This is okay. Cavalla was one of the Navy’s workhorses for 25 years. There is nothing original about her and this distinguishes her and liberates us from having to proceed with a purely authentic restoration effort. A new foundation with new supports for a new walkway (wood planking!) should be fabricated with an eye on expense and longevity, not authenticity, simply because a new superstructure will cover everything. Only an expert will know the difference, and the vast majority of tourists won’t care. When the Statue of Liberty in New York was overhauled, many parts were removed and modified, braces and structures cut and welded, yet she still stands tall and proud. So it should be for Cavalla.
- Clean up the interior – The boat needs a thorough cleaning. Volunteers would do well here. Some components could be selected for polishing and repainting to serve as highlights.
- Broken glass – Numerous gauges have broken glass. Cavalla survived the Japanese anti-sub forces only to be slowly disfigured by Americans. Conduct an inventory of gauges and replace the glass of those broken, preferably with safety glass or plexiglas.
- Video surveillance – The exhibit desperately needs some form of vandal deterrence. Video cameras (sham or real) and warning signs must be prominently displayed to inhibit the idiots among us.
- Restore the periscope – Possibly an expensive repair, the periscope is none-the-less the centerpiece of a submarine exhibit. This should get top priority.
- Open officer’s country – Remove the gates from the CO’ cabin, the officer’s cabins, and the Petty Officer’s bunks. Set up a display with uniforms and pictures.
- Safety – Ensure all aspects of the exhibits are safe. Any fans or air movers should feature hand guards.
In conclusion, I would like to express my eagerness and enthusiasm for this valuable project. As a young boy, my father took me to Seawolf Park and on board the Cavalla. The power and history Cavalla exuded left a deep impression on me. I can trace my love of history and learning directly back to the submarine in Seawolf Park.
It is no cliché to say we owe our prosperity and freedom to great thinkers and brave soldiers. The men of the USS Cavalla played a significant role in winning World War II at great sacrifice and peril to themselves. We have been charged with honoring and promoting their deeds. The measure of honor we reserve for ourselves can be directly related to the success of our efforts.
Thank you for allowing me to present my concerns and suggestions on the status of the USS CAVALLA, Texas’ only memorial submarine.
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