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7 Fascinating Facts About the U-505 Submarine Exhibit in Chicago

March 22, 2024 By CityPASS

In the heart of Chicago lies a remarkable piece of World War II history: the U-505 submarine, prominently displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry. This extraordinary exhibit is not just a testament to technological prowess and military strategy, but it also serves as a portal to an era marked by global conflict and remarkable bravery. As the sole German submarine in the United States, the U-505 offers an unparalleled glimpse into the past, inviting visitors of all backgrounds to explore the intersection of history and science in an engaging, tangible way.

Touring the U-505 Submarine exhibit space resembles stepping into a living history book. Every inch of this historic vessel resonates with stories of naval warfare, groundbreaking technology, and the everyday lives of the sailors who manned this formidable war machine. As we unveil the top seven fascinating facts about the U-505, get ready to be captivated by this legendary submarine's incredible tales and hidden mysteries.

Where Can You See the U-505 Submarine Exhibit?

The capture of the U-505, now a National Historic Landmark, is an epic tale of daring naval strategy. In 1944, an American boarding party covertly approached and seized the German U-boat, marking a pivotal moment in the Battle of the Atlantic. Visitors can explore the interior of the U-505, gaining insight into the experiences of both the German crew and the American ships that pursued and ultimately captured this formidable vessel.

Today, this captured U-boat is proudly displayed as a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in the heart of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. This historic museum, one of the largest science museums in the world, is conveniently located on the northern edge of Jackson Park, near Lake Michigan. For those planning a visit, the museum is easily accessible by public transportation, car, or even on foot for local explorers.

Top 7 Fascinating Facts About the U-505 Submarine

The U-505, a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, was commissioned in 1941 and embarked on a series of wartime patrols during World War II. This submarine, infamous for its wartime operations in the Atlantic, faced numerous confrontations and missions before its ultimate capture by U.S. forces, marking a significant chapter in naval history. Here are seven interesting facts about the vessel:

1. It Is the Only German Submarine in the United States

The U-505 holds a special place in American naval history as the only German submarine in the United States. This rarity makes it a must-see for both history buffs and casual visitors. The U-505's journey from the depths of the Atlantic to its current resting place is a tale of intrigue and strategic prowess, reflecting a pivotal moment in naval history.

2. The U-505 Was Used To Gather Intel by the U.S. Navy

After its capture, the U-505 served a new purpose far from the battlegrounds of World War II. U.S. Navy engineers and intelligence officers carefully studied the vessel to learn more about U-boats. This second chapter in the U-505's life offered American naval forces a unique opportunity to understand German submarine technology and tactics, an invaluable asset during the war.

3. The World's Only Sub Preserved in Its Original Condition

A walk through the U-505 is a step back in time. It is the world's only submarine preserved in its wartime condition. This incredible feat of preservation allows visitors to experience the submarine as it was during its days of operation. The care taken to maintain its original state, from the control room to the living quarters, is a testament to the museum's commitment to authenticity and historical accuracy.

4. First Enemy Vessel Captured by the U.S. Navy Since 1812

style="font-size:12pt;">The capture of the U-505 in June 1944 was a historic event, marking the first time the U.S. Navy had seized an enemy vessel since the War of 1812. This daring and strategic maneuver was a significant morale booster for the Allied forces and provided valuable intelligence, including codebooks, radio frequencies used by German forces, and encryption devices.

5. The U-505 Was Donated to the MSI in 1954

In September 1954, the U-505 found a permanent home at the Museum of Science and Industry, thanks in part to a generous donation by Chicago residents that helped cover the costs of transporting and installing it. This transition from a tool of war to an educational exhibit was not without challenges. The submarine's journey to the museum was an engineering feat in itself, involving complex logistics to transport and install this massive vessel in its current location.

6. It Weighs Three Times the Statue of Liberty

To grasp the sheer size of the U-505, consider this: it weighs three times as much as the Statue of Liberty. This comparison highlights the immense scale of the submarine, offering a tangible sense of its presence and the engineering prowess required for its construction and operation.

7. There Were 59 Sailors at the Time of the Vessel's Capture

Life aboard the U-505 was not for the faint of heart. At the time of its capture, 59 sailors were crammed into the tight quarters of this submarine. The galley and the limited number of bunks (only 35) paint a vivid picture of the daily challenges faced by these men. This glimpse into their living conditions offers a poignant perspective on the realities of war and the human aspect of naval history.

Experience the U-505 Submarine History With CityPASS® Tickets

Embarking on a journey through history has never been easier with Chicago CityPASS® tickets. Dive into the interactive exhibits of the U-505 Submarine and explore the many wonders of the Museum of Science and Industry. Your CityPASS® tickets are your gateway to an unforgettable experience, revealing the secrets of one of the most intriguing exhibits in Chicago. Don't miss the chance to witness this remarkable piece of history firsthand!

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Header image ©Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

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