Cavalla was a Gato class fleet sub, designed and built in the summer of 1943 by the Electric Boat Company and launched on November 14, 1943. She was commissioned on Feb. 29, 1944, the first “leap year” boat built by E.B.
From 1944-1946, Cavalla was an attack submarine, sinking over 34,000 tons of enemy shipping including the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier, Shokaku during the Battle of the Philippine Seas. After the war, she was decommissioned and placed in the Navy Reserve Fleet, New London CT. Decommissioned again after a tour with Submarine Squadron 8, the Electric Boat Company converted her into a hunter-killer submarine (SSK-244) on September 3, 1952. Cavalla was recommissioned and served with Submarine Squadron 10/Submarine Development group 2 to experiment with new sonar equipment.
USS Cavalla (SS-244) was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions on her first patrol near the Philippines from May 31 to Aug 3, 1944 under the command of Lt. Cdr. Herman J. Kossler (1911-1988). She was also awarded four Battle Stars for operations in the Pacific. The USS Cavalla is best know as the "Avenger of Pearl Harbor" and earned the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation for sinking the Japanese Aircraft Carrier, Shokaku, a vessel which attacked Pearl Harbor.
The Cavalla was decommissioned in 1946, but was brought back to service in 1951 and assigned to Submarine Squadron 10 in New London, CT. To meet the Cold War Soviet threat, she underwent conversion in 1952 to a new class of American sub–the SSK (hunter/killer) with a new bow and sonar. In 1963, she was again reclassified. This time to AGSS-244 as an Auxiliary Submarine with a continued experimentation mission. On 30 December, 1969, Cavalla was decommissioned for the final time and struck from the Naval Register List.
On 21 Jan 1971, USS Cavalla became a museum ship at Seawolf Park, in Galveston, Texas. In 1971, the U.S. Navy transferred possession of Cavalla to the Texas Submarine Veterans of WWII as a memorial to the lost submarine USS Seawolf.
Berthed at Seawolf Park, many visitors refer to her as the “Seawolf”, mistaking the name of the memorial park for that of the submarine on exhibit there. Saved from the scrap yard, Cavalla continues to be a “Lucky Lady.”
The USS Cavalla is on the National Register of Historic Places.
We are now on the deck of the USS Cavalla, a WWII GATO-Class submarine—“The Lucky Lady.” She was nicknamed “Lucky Lady” because her commissioning date was moved one day to be the only WWII submarine commissioned on February 29th—Leap Year Day, 1944. The crew knew that would bring her luck. It did, She’s still here!
A submarine is a double-hull ship. Inside the main pressure hull are the compartments that contain most of the equipment and living spaces. Wrapped around that inner hull are a series of tanks that form the outer hull which supports the SUPERSTRUCTURE and the BRIDGE & SAIL. Cavalla’s BRIDGE inside the sub’s sail sits on and is a part of the CONNING TOWER MODULE.
The DIVING PLANES allow little changes to a neutral trim and are used to put an up or down angle on the submarine. The combination of actions of engine thrust, buoyancy, and up/down planes allow the boat to fly through the water like an aircraft through the air.
FORWARD TORPEDO ROOM: This compartment was renovated after WWII as the Navy experimented with newer Sonar and hydro-phonic technology equipment. During WWII, this room was home to 10 torpedoes (or “fish”) in the racks and six in the tubes. There were 6 forward and 4 aft torpedo tubes. As you can see 2 of the tubes here were removed for experimental equipment. The firing tubes are made of brass and bronze. You will notice above the tubes there are a bunch of levers and vents. This is to control the compressed air that was used when firing the torpedoes. Each torpedo has an indicator panel. This panel is also in the conning tower which is basically the brain of the sub. The torpedoes are fired electronically by the conning tower but it can be fired manually here, if needed. Aboard a submarine there are many backup systems and everything has a manual lever that can be used in case of an emergency.
The Mark 14 torpedo: Length: 20.5 feet Diameter: 21-inch Weight: 3280 lbs Range: 4-7 miles
Speed: 30-45 knots for 4 miles or 50 knots for 2 miles. Warhead: 640lbs
OFFICER’S COUNTRY (Forward Battery Compartment) includes the Pantry, Wardroom, Captain and officer’s quarters, and the Admin Office. Under Officer’s Country lay the bank of batteries that run the submarine while underwater.
Main operations center of the Cavalla, the CONTROL ROOM. In this room are the controls for the high and low pressure air systems used for blowing water from ballast tanks; the systems that dive and trim the boat; the radio room around the corner, and an emergency steering station.
This is the Aft Battery. It houses the Galley, the Crew’s Mess and the Crew’s Quarters.
Below this deck are spaces for refrigerated and non-perishable food storage; the munitions
locker; and the after battery group. THE GALLEY is where all the meals are made, 3 meals a day plus snacks and coffee available 24 hrs. There is not much room here, but the cooks knew how to make a great meal!
Can goods and boxes would be stored in any available space; behind the engines, along pipes, etc. and the crew would walk on them until they ate themselves down to the real deck. A submarine’s crew literally ran on its stomach!
FORWARD ENGINE ROOM water distillers could turn 750 gallons of salt water into fresh water daily. Most of the fresh water was used to recharge the batteries. Then for cooking, and some for personal hygiene. AFT ENGINE ROOM lube and fuel oil purifiers; as oil was used, sea water replaced it to keep the tanks filled and the water and oil stayed separate, oil on top. To ensure separation, the liquid went through a centrifuge, spun the different weighted liquids and sent the oil back into a clean oil tank and back to the engines.
The Cavalla housed 4 General Motors 1600 Horsepower diesel engines and General Electric motor generators. After it was converted to an experimental submarine, one of the engines was removed to make room for new sonar equipment. Below the deck were an 8-cylinder auxiliary engine and electrical generator that delivered 300 kilowatts of electrical power to the sub.
The MANEUVERING ROOM housed the equipment to direct and control the electrical power for propulsion, from either the batteries or engines.
The Caged area was the MAIN POWER CUBICLE, that acted like power transformers. At the AFT end of this compartment is the POWER CONTROL STATION. Two Electricians Mates sat here to operate the Port side motors and the Starboard side motors. The levers controlled the power and direction to the four main propulsion motors located in the MOTOR ROOM below this deck. These motors drove the propellers.
Rust never sleeps! USS Cavalla was berthed at Seawolf park in 1971. Since then, a full blown restoration effort has occurred every other decade. In 1998 after years of neglect Cavalla was in danger of being removed from Seawolf Park and pulled by the US Navy. Concerned submarine and history buffs met with the Galveston Park Board to identify some funds for basic restorations that would encompass her most pressing needs. A Cavalla website began raising money for restoration through volunteer donations. The local SUBVETS vowed to become active and aggressive. They organized a "Save the Cavalla" Rally; articles were written, pleas were made which caught the eye of local philanthropist George Strake. The Cavalla Historical Foundation was formed and “Field Days” attracted volunteers from Dallas, Minnesota, California, and Louisiana. The Sea Cadets junior naval league volunteered time and service. Volunteers raised over $30,000 and brought Cavalla back up to standards.
Then in 2008, Hurricane Ike surged through Seawolf Park, raising both ships and causing extensive damage to both vessels. To support the USS Stewart, the Edsall-Class Destroyer Escort Veterans Association has stepped up providing some restoration support for the ship.
The Cavalla did not have the same support at the time until some local submariners took it upon themselves to clean her up; restoring the torpedo rooms, refurbishing lathes, polishing piping, etc. Others joined in, along with support from the TA&M Maritime cadet corps, and have helped restore much of the Cavalla to it’s 1971 berthing days.