When thinking about Galveston Island you probably imagine beaches and amusements like Moody Gardens or Pleasure Pier but in between the palm trees and sea grass is a WWII memorial named Seawolf Park.
Armed with only minimal knowledge about the park, my friend and I made our way to a local coffee shop to meet up with Dr. Kerry Crooks to learn about the attraction. When beginning my exploration of Seawolf Park, Dr. Crooks was referred to me as one of the foremost authorities because he is a past president of the Cavalla Historical Foundation and serves on their Advisory Council. While sipping coffee I learned that Seawolf Park is the home of WWII submarine the USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart. As our chat progressed I listened to stories about what it was like serving aboard a submarine from the friendly veteran as he painted mental pictures of cleaning the inside of torpedo tubes and releasing pressure from different hatches- tasks that even the mere thought of were panic-inducing.
As you can imagine, speaking to a subject matter expert of naval history at Seawolf Park is both enlightening and a little overwhelming. After talking for a little while we decided to head to the park to get some hands-on learning. I can confidently say that this was my first time stepping aboard a submarine and as we descended inside the USS Cavalla I could tell this was going to be something to remember. When we entered the sub the first thing Dr. Crooks did was nonchalantly settle down on top of a torpedo as we looked around. Dr. Crooks proceeded to tell us all about the purpose of the room and how the torpedoes were loaded into the bays all the while I couldn’t help but smile at how comfortable he looked amidst the weaponry and everything else the sub had to offer. This air of comfortability was a sharp contrast to my ducking and diving around everything tucked into every nook of the sub all while trying my best to keep up. As we made our way through the various compartments there was plenty to read about, but even more to experience firsthand— like climbing through bulkheads, turning dials, and even watching a public service video from a different era. The passion, knowledge, and joy that Dr. Crooks had for educating us about the USS Cavalla was clear as day and exemplified why he has dedicated his time to preserving these national treasures so countless others can experience them for years to come.
Next up, my friend and I headed across the way to explore the USS Stewart. Unlike the compact USS Cavalla, the USS Stewart had multiple floors with rooms upon rooms to discover. We went around the whole upper deck taking in the different gun positions as well as stopping from time to time to see dolphins playing in the surf alongside the ship. With every staircase we climbed we found something new and interesting to look at including an ice cream machine to boost morale during war times and a surgical lamp installed in the officer’s area that would double as a second operating table if needed.
Although not every visitor may have the opportunity to speak at length with Dr. Crooks, something anyone can do is take a public tour to explore the ships at their own pace taking in the history and excitement. Visitors can also see the remains of the tanker S.S. Selma, the largest concrete ship, located northwest of the park's beautiful fishing pier. At $10 per adult, $5 for kids and seniors, and a military discount this destination is a budget and family-friendly option for hands-on learning about America's history.
More information about Seawolf Park can be found here.