A Travelling Military Aficionado’s Dream: Part Four

The final vessel to be toured at Battleship Cove was a World War II submarine, the USS Lionfish. One of my dreams is to someday travel on a submarine- I guess I really should think about joining the navy in order to achieve that- so touring the Lionfish was very exciting for me. Submarines are not for everyone, being spartan and undeniably claustrophobic, but I love them!

First, a bit of history: part of the United States Navy’s Balao-class, the Lionfish was laid down in late 1942 and commissioned in 1944. She served in Japanese waters, and fired several torpedoes against enemy vessels. At 311 feet long and displacing 2,400 tons submerged, the Lionfish is a decent-sized vessel for the WWII era; although her size does not translate to a generous interior!

USS Lionfish

The sleek and narrow USS Lionfish

Lionfish Bow

The bow of the Lionfish

Lionfish Starboard

The starboard side of the Lionfish,with the inclined bow visible

The Lionfish might have seemed immense when I was standing on its deck, but below it was the opposite. I think that submarines have an obligation, so to speak, to appear cramped, dark, and utilitarian; and in these areas the Lionfish did not disappoint! My dad taught me and my brother how to step through the hatches like a pro- by grabbing the metal lip over the hatch and swinging oneself through- and it was great fun to travel through the compartments, imagining we were real submariners!

Lionfish Hatch

The tiny hatches and narrow halls in the belly of the sub

Lionfish Torpedoes

The ideal place for a bunk- over a couple of live torpedoes!

Lionfish Tubes

Four torpedo tubes for firing the 21-inch torpedoes

Lionfish Torpedo

Twenty-four of these massive torpedoes are interspersed around the Lionfish

Lionfish Mess

Not even the officers’ mess has an abundance of space

Lionfish Compartment

Imagine spending weeks on end in a space akin to a windowless airlinerLionfish Control Room

Engine room, housing diesel engines that powered electrical generators

It took less time than I expected to tour the whole of the submarine, but it was a fun experience. It was difficult at times to navigate the constricted compartments with even a few other tourists there, so it must have been incredibly hectic with eighty or so submariners bustling around!

Back on the deck, I took time to examine the deck guns and fin. The deck was well-armed with a 5-inch gun, 40 mm Bofors, and a 20 mm Oerlikon cannon; and the fin carries periscopes and radar antennae.

Lionfish Gun

The 5-inch deck gun

Lionfish Sail

The top of the Lionfish’s fin

Lionfish Deck Gun

Another view of the aft-facing 5-inch gun

Lionfish Stern

The pointed stern of the Lionfish

Lionfish Stern Above



A better look at the stern

The USS Lionfish is a wonderfully well-preserved and interesting submarine. Although not a whole lot is actually labelled inside it, it was an enjoyable experience to just look around and take everything in. Battleship Cove really is a fantastic museum, and its complement of a former Soviet missile corvette, destroyer, battleship, and submarine is diverse and absolutely fascinating. I’m so grateful I got to spend a day at Battleship Cove- it’s something which taught me a lot and which I look back on happily.


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