Don’t give up the sub!
Patriots Point officials may be ready to scuttle the historic submarine Clamagore, but former Navy submariners aren’t yet ready to give up the ship.
The U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc., in conjunction with the USS Clamagore SS-343 Veterans Association, are preparing a campaign to help raise the $3 million needed to help restore the World War II-era vessel. They should have the full support of the naval museum.
The goal of the veteran groups is to get modest donations from submariners around the world — those who have served and those on active duty. That includes those in Britain and Russia, both of which have long maintained submarine fleets.
Local resident Thomas Lufkin, who is orchestrating the Web-based effort, estimates that it could quickly raise up to $1 million — a figure that would demonstrate substantial support for preserving the Clamagore. In addition, veteran submariners are willing to offer their skills to help restore the vessel on site.
So far, the museum has shown little enthusiasm for mounting an effort to save the Clamagore, which could need extensive repairs in as little as six months. Clearly, the experience with the USS Laffey taught the museum board a bitter lesson.
The museum still owes $8.7 million for repairs on the Laffey, which nearly sank at its mooring because of long-delayed repairs. Patriots Point suffered the additional embarrassment of not being able to afford to move the Laffey back to the museum for months after the repairs were completed.
The advance notice about the museum’s plans for the Clamagore is designed to avoid any repetition of that debacle. Unless money can be raised elsewhere, and fairly soon, the old submarine is probably destined to become a fishing reef and deep-sea diving attraction somewhere off the coast of Florida.
While the museum’s wariness about undertaking another rescue is understandable, it exudes an air of defeatism.
If those veterans organizations can make initial headway, state officials should be willing to pitch in. After all, Patriots Point is a state museum — actually, the most popular in South Carolina.
Mr. Lufkin supports the idea of bringing the Clamagore ashore, saying it would make for a more impressive display, and would reduce the long-term costs of repairs.
According to a consultant’s report on file at Patriots Point, bringing the Clamagore ashore would cost at least an additional $2 million. Mr. Lufkin challenges that estimate, saying that the cost could be defrayed, in part, by donated labor.
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who has been closely involved with the museum, said the museum can’t expect any state grants for the Clamagore. He adds, however, that he would be willing to support another state loan if the museum can make the case that Clamagore improvements will add to the museum’s bottom line.
So far, the museum has jettisoned two vessels in efforts to batten down the financial hatches. But the Clamagore, like the Yorktown and the Laffey, is worth keeping.
The Clamagore, commissioned in the last year of World War II, never saw combat. Nevertheless, touring the vessel gives visitors an idea of how confining and demanding submarine warfare must have been during that conflict. It is the last submarine of its type in existence.
“It’s the only one of its kind,” Mr. Lufkin says. “It’s a real piece of history.”
Obviously, the museum shouldn’t be expected to jeopardize its financial equilibrium with a repeat of the Laffey disaster. But submarine veterans should be given a chance to succeed, as they raise the call to rescue the Clamagore.
If those advocates can make headway in the near term, museum officials should reconsider plans to scuttle the Clamagore.