It’s a near-forgotten part of Chicago history, but two veterans are raising money for a memorial dedicated to Chicago’s role in WWII’s submarine warfare. Steve Benicke and Frank Voznak, both submarine veterans, are telling the story of the Chicago River and victory in the South Pacific.
“We’re going to be erecting a memorial to the 28 submarines that were built in Manitowoc, Wis., during WWII,” says Benicke.
Manitowoc Shipping, just south of Green Bay, Wisc., turned out more than two dozen submarines during the course of the war. The Wisconsin Maritime Museum houses the few photos showing the Michigan-made subs being tested in Lake Michigan.
“They tested them on the Great Lakes,” says Voznak. “It was practical, feasible.”
Built long before the Saint Lawrence Seaway even began construction, the 310-foot long submarines had to come through Chicago in order to make their way to the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico before heading to battle in the South Pacific. It wasn’t an easy journey. The submarines journeyed from Lockport to the Chicago Sanitary Canal which they followed to the Illinois River and finally were transported on barges down the Mississippi. When they reached the gulf, they were sent off to the war where they were integral to many victories at sea.
“The figure is something like 500,000 tons of enemy shipping that they sunk,” says Benicke.
Not all of the submarines, or their crews, returned from war. Benicke, Voznak and other WWII submarinees are raising money to build a memorial in honor of all the submarines and submarine sailors who served in the war.
“Four of them were lost in combat with all hands,” says Voznak. “It’s dedicated to all submarine sailors, them in particular.”
Voznak and Benicke hope to have the memorial erected in the next year. For more information on the memorial and how you can donate, visitwww.crashdivebase.com.