Heed audit council on historic sub

  • Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013 12:01 a.m.
The historic submarine Clamagore, threatened with being jettisoned off the coast of Florida, could be restored with existing reserve funds and retained at the Patriots Point naval museum. Buy this photo

The historic submarine Clamagore, threatened with being jettisoned off the coast of Florida, could be restored with existing reserve funds and retained at the Patriots Point naval museum. So concluded the state Legislative Audit Council in a recent review of museum operations. The Patriots Point Development Authority should listen up.

The LAC urged the preservation of the Cold War-era sub as part of its comprehensive review of operations at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. It noted that the submarine is the “second biggest attraction” at Patriots Point, adding, “Since this is the last submarine of its kind, the agency should consider preserving her as part of our nation’s naval history.”

It was launched at the end of World War II and was in service until 1975. The Clamagore, like the other two vessels at the museum, is a National Historic Landmark.

And the LAC pointed out that Patriots Point actually has enough money in its capital reserve fund to pay the $3.5 million to restore the Clamagore.

The destroyer Laffey, in contrast, cost $12 million to restore.

So far, Patriots Point officials are still taking the position that the Clamagore is expendable. Unless the money comes from elsewhere, the Clamagore will be taken off the coast of Florida and sunk as an attraction to skin divers.

That would be a regrettable and irretrievable loss to the naval museum.

The LAC notes that the Clamagore contains massive batteries on board that retain considerable value for recycling. Their sale could help defray some small portion of the restoration. Meanwhile, advocates for the Clamagore have an online campaign to raise money for the project, though at $35,000 it has fallen short of expectations.

Patriots Point is one of the few places in the nation with a monument to the heroes of the Cold War. That is a unique recognition of the nation’s valiant 45-year struggle to contain communism. It was a battle of nerves and will in which the Clamagore and the men who served on her played an early and significant part. The submarine shows the daunting conditions under which they served.

Thomas Lufkin, a former submariner and leading advocate for the Clamagore’s preservation, is concerned that Patriots Point is committed to deep-sixing the submarine. He hopes another location can be found for the sub. North Charleston, for example, could provide a good home on shore, in conjunction with the Confederate submarine Hunley, which will have its own museum there.

The LAC report makes it clear, however, that the Clamagore is an important part of the Mount Pleasant-based naval and maritime museum.

Further, the museum actually has the resources to complete the needed repairs on the Clamagore — resources that weren’t available when the Laffey almost went under.

The LAC makes a solid case for the Clam- agore. Patriots Point officials should reconsider the planned disposal of the submarine and join the campaign to save it.

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