Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sardines in a Can

11/24/2010: Corrections made regarding the typewriter/cipher. Thanks, Bill (KA8VIT)!

During the Labor Day weekend, Bug and I visited the USS Cod, a Gato class submarine docked in Lake Erie between Burke Lakefront Airport and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was commissioned on June 21, 1943 and was deployed to the Pacific, seeing action during World War II. Decommissioned in 1954, she was used as a training vessel in Cleveland until 1971.

USS Cod Sign

The Cod is a unique monument as it is the sole US World War II submarine that has a preserved hull where ingress and egress still take place via ladders through her top hatches just as the submariners did, as opposed to cut-out entrances on its side.

USS Cod Life Buoy
USS Cod in rough waters

To celebrate the Labor Day holiday, there was a group of World War II re-enactors who bivouacked in front of the USS Cod.

USS Cod Bivouac Reenact

The vehicles reminded me a lot being on the set of MASH.

USS Cod Trucks

Travel was done mostly above water, so the Cod sailed at up to 24 mph powered by diesel engines that were built in Cleveland by General Motors. On her deck is a 5 inch gun behind the Conning Tower, and two 40 mm guns. Submerged, the Cod traveled at up to 9 mph on battery power. This speed could be maintained for only an hour until the batteries were drained. At 2 mph, she could travel underwater for 2 days before she would need to emerge and switch to diesel engines to recharge the batteries.

USS Cod 5 in Deck Gun
5 inch deck gun

Walking along the deck was a little nerve racking because we were walking on slats and grating. Water was everywhere since it had been raining off and on through the night and morning. Gusts were high, so the submarine was rocking erratically.

USS Cod 5 in Deck Gun Barrel
Barrel of the 5 inch deck gun

While we were peering through the deck gun observing groves that appeared like rifling, an FA18F Super Hornet screeched by. The Cleveland National Air Show was taking place next door at Burke Lakefront Airport. For a moment, all who were on deck drew their attention away from the Cod and watched the jet rumble into the distance, afterburners twinkling amidst the stormy grey skies.

Air Show Navy FA18F
Super Hornet buzzing over our heads

A few minutes after we clumsily teetered down the 2-level forward hatch, a man in dungarees slipped in behind us. He neatly tucked half of his white hat under his belt and greeted us as we spun around the room wide-eyed looking at all the valves, switches, and gauges. The seaman casually talked about the sub. Before we realized it, our personal tour of the entire submarine began.

USS Cod Forward Torpedo Tube
Forward torpedo room

Surrounded by metal closed off from the world, the clinking of the water against the Cod's skin was a little unnerving the first few minutes.

Moving from room to room, I wondered if many submariners received head wounds their first month stationed in one. I cannot imagine anyone over 5' tall not banging their forehead walking through each doorway or slamming their head on a sharp corner of a suspended metal box or a valve. The width of the doorways was just a few inches broader than my shoulders.

USS Cod Control Room Steering
Control Room wheel

Red lights were used so a person's vision could more quickly acclimate to viewing objects under the night sky through a periscope.

In such tight quarters, food was stored anywhere it would not get in the way of operations, which meant everywhere high and low. Through a hatch below the mess, we saw the engines and cans scattered in each nook.

USS Cod Control Room Food
Submarine food cupboard

While I love gauges, this was 468327 too many. Everywhere I looked in the Control Room, I saw gauges. To a trained person, I am sure this room isn't cluttered. To me, it was overwhelming.

USS Cod Control Gauges
Control Room gauges everywhere

Above the Control Room is a hatch into the Conning Tower where the sonar and radar are located, periscopes are used, and the torpedoes fired. We were only allowed to climb halfway up the ladder.

USS Cod Control Hatch Conning
Control Room hatch to the Conning Tower

Back in the Control Room, our guide mentioned something about the compass when we talked about magnetism in a steel shell. I have read that a regular compass still works in a submarine, but I have also read somewhere about the existence of gyroscopic compasses were needed. I don't know what to believe. Regardless, the compass looked pretty cool in its special case.

USS Cod Control Compass
Compass in the Control Room

I have seen pictures of a navigation table in the Conning Tower. We can't walk around in the Conning Tower so I don't know if this was displayed in the Control Room to show people what the navigation table looks like or if there were two tables. I'll have to find out on a subsequent trip.

USS Cod Control Nav Table
Control Room navigation table

The Radio Room is adjacent to the Control Room. The cipher, which encoded and decoded messages, was kept locked in this room. Having seen pictures of ciphers online, they look like black manual typewriters with a taller body and several slots on top that look like daisy wheels. The cipher was thrown overboard to prevent its use when capture was suspected. -- Thank you for the correction, Bill (KA8VIT)

USS Cod Radio Room
Radio Room

With a crew of 56, submariners worked in shifts so there was a need for only 36 bunks. The passage was snug. Walking normally, my shoulders rubbed against the sides of the beds. Along the walls, were the crewmen's lockers.

USS Cod Crews Quarters
Crews quarters

Hand cranked laundry, 2 sinks, and 2 showers were in the same recess. There was very little privacy.

USS Cod Laundry Room
Crew laundry room

The toilet was in a different recess, thankfully. The officers' head was niftier looking with a bunch of valves to manipulate the pressure to push the waste out into the ocean when submerged. As one can imagine, if the pressure isn't adjusted correctly, the unfortunate sailor had a mess to deal with.

USS Cod Crewmen Toilet
The head

There are several rooms that housed the engines and batteries on the floor we were on and below. Like any job, it is probably easier when you have been doing the task for a while and know what you're looking at.

I was pleased that it wasn't very warm and humid inside the sub. Fans blew everywhere we went, more so in the Control Room. There was a permanent smell of metal and grease.

USS Cod Engine Room
One of two engine rooms

I was surprised that the Maneuvering Room controls (power and speed) were not in the Control Room. I have always thought that a ship's movement was controlled in one room. The assumption was probably formed from watching Star Trek and other space shows.

A lathe was also situated in the Maneuvering Room so spare parts could be made in a pinch.

USS Cod Maneuvering Controls
Maneuvering Room controls

The After Torpedo Room feels more claustrophobic than the Forward Torpedo Room because the ceiling was probably a little lower.

USS Cod After Torpedo Room
After Torpedo Room

The hatch to get out is a quick exit compared to the entry hatch. It was nice to feel the breeze on my face. Submariners were (are?) paid more and had more shore leave compared to the other soldiers. It still seems like an unfair trade.

USS Cod After Hatch
Hatch to the outside in the After Torpedo Room

On permanent exhibit outside of the Cod is a bronze propeller, a memorial to the submariners who have died (I presume during World War II), as well as a stone memorial honoring the men who died in Pearl Harbor.

USS Cod WWII Memorial
Bronze propeller memorial

A few minutes after I took the picture of the memorial, the Blue Angels drove by in a motorcade. They look like NASA astronauts, young faces with beaming smiles in bright blue suits with patches.

We found out later in the evening that the Blue Angels performance was canceled due to the weather. The high winds were a bit treacherous for us on the ground, let alone flying precision maneuvers.

Having missed some opportunities to photograph a few rooms as well as having a few questions, a return visit to the USS Cod is in our future - if not in the next week, then next year since the memorial is closed from October through April.

- Cassaendra


1034 N Marginal Rd
Cleveland, OH 44114
Tel: (216) 566-8770

4 deep thoughts:

Tipa 20 September, 2010 16:12  

Absolutely fascinating!

Cassaendra 21 September, 2010 19:05  

Hi Tipa,

I didn't do the tour justice. It was a great tour and still amazes me that so many people were packed into these!

Anonymous 23 November, 2010 15:35  

I am a current radio operator on the COD.

You are mistaken about the radio room.

The EMC Mark II cipher machine is kept in a locked cabinet barley visble on the left side of your radio room photo.

The black typewriter looking thing in the center of the photo is in fact a typewriter.... a MILL to be exact.

What is a MILL ? It is a typewriter with no lowercase letters.

In Morse code there is no upper and lowercase. A letter is a letter so no lowercase letter were needed and they were thus easier and cheaper to produce.

You can see more of the COD by visiting my web site at and by searching for KA8VIT.

73 - Bill KA8VIT

Cassaendra 23 November, 2010 23:22  


Thank you very much for the information!

Of course, who better to know than someone who works with that piece of equipment!

Thank you!

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