USS Drum The submarine USS Drum (SS-228) is a museum ship located at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Mobile County. The vessel served in World War II on 13 patrols in the Pacific Ocean and is officially credited with sinking 15 Japanese ships totaling more than 80,000 tons, for which it earned 12 battle stars. It later served as a training vessel in Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years. After it was retired from service, the vessel was donated and towed to USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, arriving in May 1969. It is one of only a dozen or so World War II-era U.S. submarines preserved as museums and is the oldest in the nation.
The Drum is a Gato-class submarine, named for the lead ship in the classification. Like others in its class, the Drum displaced 1,526 tons on the surface and 2,424 tons underwater, was 311 feet and 8 inches long, measured 27 feet 4 inches at its beam (widest point), and had 15 feet 3 inches of draft, the measure of the portion of vessel that remained underwater when it was surfaced. Its top speed was about 24 miles per hour on the surface and about 10 mile per hour when submerged. It was designed to operate at a depth of up to 300 feet. The vessel was crewed by 60 sailors: six officers and 54 enlisted men, although some sources say it had a total of 79 crewmembers. The Drum featured ten 21-inch torpedo tubes: six facing forward and four facing aft, or to the rear, and was initially armed with one 3-inch deck gun, two .50-caliber machine guns, and two .30-caliber machine guns. These weapons were upgraded several times during the war and its damaged conning tower replaced. Four diesel engines powered four electrical generators, producing 5,400 horsepower for the two propellers. It carried more than 94,000 gallons of fuel that enabled it to travel up to 11,000 miles over 75 days, depending on conditions, and ran on batteries underwater.
USS Drum Torpedo Room The Gato-class submarine was a common model used by the U.S. Navy for attacking Japanese warships, but they also targeted merchant ships, the lifeline of the island nation defended by chains of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, many of the Drum‘s patrols took it to island chains that the Japanese were trying to resupply and strengthen as American forces attacked them to use as naval and aircraft bases. World War II historians note the lack of publicity that the U.S. submarine service was accorded, enduring a high percentage of casualties compared to other branches, as they were often sunk with all crew members lost. But, submarines greatly helped the war effort by sinking nearly 30 percent of the approximately 680 total Japanese warships sunk and 60 percent of the approximately 2,110 Japanese merchant vessels sunk to cut off vital supplies to Japan and its bases, for which the Gato-class proved instrumental. (Selma, Dallas County, native Howard Gilmore was in command of the Gato-class USS Growler (SS-215) when he sacrificed himself in early February 1943 to save his ship and became the first submariner to be awarded the Medal of Honor.)
USS Drum Control Room Construction on the Drum began in September 1940 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, New Hampshire, and was completed in May 1941. The Drum launched on May 12 and was commissioned on November 1 that year and first led by Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. “Bob” Rice. The crew trained and performed sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys and off both coasts of Panama.
The Drum arrived at Pearl Harbor at the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, on April 1, 1942. From Pearl Harbor, the Drum was tasked with taking medical supplies to Corregidor Island in the Philippines, but the mission was canceled after American and Filipino forces there surrendered that month and the ship returned to base. It left on April 17 for its first patrol, in Japanese waters. At sea until June 12, the Drum sank a naval vessel, at least two merchant cargo ships and likely a third off the coast of Honshu. From July 10 until September 2, the Drum sailed through the Marshall and Caroline Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago, but sank no ships, and ended its voyage at Midway Island. From there, the Drum was ordered to the east coast of Japan, where it sank three merchant ships and damaged a fourth, returning to Pearl Harbor for maintenance on November 8.
Sinking Enemy Vessel At the end of November 1942, the Drum again sailed to Japanese home waters, with Lt. Cmdr. Bernard F. McMahon as the skipper. Two weeks later, the Drum torpedoed the Japanese aircraft carrier Ryoho near the island of Hachijo Jima, forcing the carrier to remain out of action for several months. The Drum then laid mines in the Bungo Strait between the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu and again returned to Pearl Harbor on January 24, where the vessel underwent an overhaul that included upgrading its 3-inch deck gun with a 4-inch gun and upgrading smaller caliber weapons.
In March 1943, the Drum departed Pearl Harbor for Brisbane, Australia, on patrol through the Admiralty and Solomon Islands and the major Japanese strongholds at Rabaul on the island of New Britain and Truk Atoll. The Drum sank two vessels, arriving at Brisbane on May 13. The ship returned to sea again to patrol in the Bismarck Archipelago, from June 7, returning to Brisbane on July 26, having sunk one troop transport. The Drum went on patrol in the same region from mid-August into October and sank a cargo vessel. The Drum arrived in Brisbane on October 6 and then underwent normal maintenance and a repainting.
USS Drum “Kill” List In early November 1943, the Drum returned to sea, with Lt. Cmdr. Delbert F. Williamson at the helm, and patrolled in the Solomon Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Caroline Islands. The ship sank a passenger cargo ship that had been converted to an armed submarine tender and was soon subjected to a particularly effective depth charge attack that cracked a portion of the conning tower and forced an early end to its mission. The Drum arrived at Pearl Harbor on December 5 and was then sent to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California for the replacement of the conning tower. The Drum was back in service in Pearl Harbor on March 29, 1944. At sea from April 9 until May 31, the Drum mostly patrolled around the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and others in the chain to provide intelligence for upcoming operations there. It encountered very few vessels worthy of attacking but many enemy aircraft and sailed into Majuro in the Marshall Islands, the location of a large concentration of U.S. Navy vessels at the time. With Lt. Cmdr. Maurice H. Rindskopf in command, the Drum left Majuro on June 24 to patrol the Caroline and Palau Islands. The crew came under machine gun fire from a Japanese aircraft but suffered no damage or casualties and celebrated the next day, July 4th, by shelling a small Japanese installation on Fais Island. It later sank a 25-ton sampan with its deck guns and took two prisoners aboard, but the vessel was not part of the official tally. It encountered many enemy planes and was positioned during several bombing operations to save downed American pilots, returning to Pearl Harbor on August 14.
After several weeks of maintenance and training with new models of torpedoes, the Drum departed Pearl Harbor on September 9 on what would be its most successful patrol in terms of number of ships sunk and damaged since its third patrol in late 1942. Sailing through the Marianas, it patrolled off the east coast of the Philippines and between the islands of Taiwan and Luzon around the time of several naval and air battles that greatly reduced the strength of the remaining Japanese fleet. (The USS Birmingham was severely damaged during the Battle of Leyte Gulf around this time.) The Drum sank three ships and likely damaged two others and ended this patrol in Majuro on November 8. A new commander, Lt. Cmdr. Frank M. Eddy, took over the last two patrols from December 1944 until April 1945, but encountered few ships. The first began in Majuro and ended in Guam and the last ended in Pearl Harbor. The Drum then sailed to San Francisco and was upgraded with two 5-inch deck guns and improvements to its radar. A fourteenth patrol had begun out of Midway Island in late July, but Japan announced in mid-August that it would surrender, so the Drum is credited with 13 patrols.
USS Drum in Connecticut While on patrol, the Drum gathered information on potential targets, ship movements, and ocean conditions. It often sighted other U.S. Navy ships, including submarines, and aircraft and traded recognition signals to avoid mishaps, and occasionally looked for downed airmen. It frequently met up with support ships to take on fresh water, fuel, and provisions and perform maintenance and training, such as with armaments and radar, and service its torpedoes. In the first years of the war, the U.S. Navy experienced numerous torpedo malfunctions, and the Drum was no exception, with torpedoes exploding prematurely or not at all or inexplicably missing targets.
The vessel and crew also came under numerous attacks from Japanese escort ships dropping depth charges and Japanese aircraft dropping bombs and firing with machine guns, requiring the Drum to submerge quickly. In such situations, the crew might stay submerged for long periods of time. Though air conditioned, the environment was much warmer and smelled of diesel fuel compared to the surface when fresh air could be circulated in the submarine.
The Drum arrived in New London, Connecticut, in November 1945 and was decommissioned on February 16, 1946. From 1947 until 1968, it mostly served as an immobile training vessel at the U.S. Naval Gun Factory (present-day Washington Navy Yard) in Washington, D.C., on the Anacostia River. It was donated in April 1969 to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park and opened to the public on July 4. In January 1986, the Drum was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It remained in the water until 2001 when it was moved to land by building, flooding, and then draining a small canal.