Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods


Capture of the U-505 and the German Enigma Machine

aft torpedo room

Follow me through one last article to read about the ultimate capture of the U-505 and the capture of the German Enigma Machine.

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Too Short of a Tour

It was hard to ignore the cameraman just outside the U-505 submarine exhibit entrance. He was no doubt offering what I knew to be souvenir photo op’s. But Heidi and I headed down the ramp and to a doorway cut into the port side of the sub. Here was where the tour was to begin.

Less easy to ignore were the other dozen bodies crammed into a space on the sub that would otherwise have comfortably accommodated about eight.

The tour lasted only about 15 minutes, and another tour group was pretty much right behind us. Also, we were told that we were not to ask any questions on the tour. I assumed that was because the whole tour was choreographed. Likely necessary so that the descriptions by the tour guide could be matched to background sounds that were piped in. They were designed to make one feel as if he/she were actually on a real sub.

Though the tour was overcrowded, too short, and time-constrained, it was nonetheless interesting. It was reason enough just to actually be inside a German U-boat. That part is worth the additional charge necessary beyond admission to the museum that is charged just to get to the boat.

Cramped Quarters

We were surprised at the cramped quarters and tiny kitchen area (I’m not sure if someone could prepare meals for 6 there on what appeared to be nothing more than two hot-plates – let alone 59 hungry submariners!).

Not only was the U-Boat much smaller than its American counterparts, but the inside also seemed even more austere. We were, however, amazed at the amount and quality of woodwork, which seemed to give the boat a very comfortable atmosphere. Is that even possible on a machine such as this?

U-505 German submarine


Aft Torpedo Room & Capture of a German Enigma Machine

A look at the aft torpedo room – where one of only two internal hatches had been left intact (to allow for easier passage between compartments) – was followed by our exit from the boat on what was a much-too-short tour. But outside was a wealth of artifacts and additional information to read.

Standing next to the U-505, I could almost feel the tension that must have existed. Tension not only while the boat was on patrol, but during her capture toward what ultimately became the final months of the War. Because without the capture of the boat and a German Enigma machine, along with a mountain of secret documents, the War could have dragged on for many more months, perhaps years.

torpedo room and bunks

As we exited the exhibit, we entered a small room with a video and plenty of pictures that showed how the sub was moved to its new location. There was another room that housed one of the anchors from the boat, as well as a listing of contributors and contributions allowing the sub to be placed into its new home. It was immediately obvious that no expense was spared in what had to have been a Herculean effort to relocate the U-505.

35-Million Dollar Project

My feelings of wonderment, nostalgia, awe, and respect – for both sides of the conflict, as well as for the efforts of those who got the sub moved and re-conditioned – were suddenly sucked away as we were confronted by first a gift shop, and then by the walls full of pictures (obviously for sale) of those who had been photographed prior to touring the sub. I know all this is simply marketing strategy, but I don’t like the feeling that I will need to buy something to remember my visit to the U-505.

For anyone at all interested in history in general, or in the history of WW II, the sub is a must-see. This is for many reasons. And it was incredible to view the engineering marvel of moving a 252-foot long, 37-foot wide, 700-ton vessel almost a half-mile from her original “berth” on the south side of the Museum to the new exhibit hall. This was a 35-million-dollar project.

More than 24 million people have visited her since she was first brought to the Chicago shores of Lake Michigan back in 1954, and up to two million a year can enjoy her in her new digs. And if by chance you have read or may be interested in reading the book I mentioned earlier (Shadow Divers), then you will really want to take a tour of the U-505. I’d like to tell you more about the book, but I’m afraid that I would ruin at least part of the true story that begins in 1990. Good reading!

R. Karl

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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl