Commemorating the First World War Centennial in Kansas

U-Boat on Lake Michigan?

Many years ago, I was at a party in Oak Park, Illinois, conversing with well-educated persons, and I was told that the U-boat in the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry was captured on Lake Michigan.

Now, even at the time I knew that this wasn’t true. I would have called it an ‘Urban Legend’ if the term had been invented yet.

The sub on display is the WW2 craft U-505, captured in the North Atlantic during that war, acquired in the 1950’s and brought to Chicago through the lakes and the Welland Canal.

However, I later learned that indeed there was a U-boat on the Great Lakes, the WW1 craft UC-97, which today lies on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Click here for the whole story, from the US Navy History website.

http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/06/26/uc-97-forgotten-wwi-history-in-an-unexpected-place-lake-michigan/

There’s more to the history of subs on Lake Michigan. During WW2 28 US Navy subs were built at Manitowoc, Wisconsin and dive-tested in Lake Michigan. How the Navy got them to the ocean for Western Pacific service is a tale for another time (hint: they didn’t use the Welland Canal).

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.

1 Comment

  1. Dennis Skupinski

    Mr. Patton:
    There is a video on UC-97 at ww1cc.irg/Michigan under the video menu item. It should be July 2013 of Michigan’s WW1 Centennial News Report.
    Mr. Taras was not as cooperative with me as he was with you.

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