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Secrets of Seawolf Park

Updated 109 days ago

This unique attraction gives you the opportunity to explore two historic World War II undersea vessels – the USS Cavalla and the USS Stewart – on a self-guided tour or with a knowledgeable guide. The USS Cavalla is best known for sinking the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku, a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Stewart is the only Edsall-class destroyer escort preserved in the United States.


 

1. USS Cavalla, a Gato-class submarine, was commissioned on leap year day February 29, 1944 - making her the only WWII submarine with that distinction. 

2.  USS Stewart frequented high winds and rough seas in the North Atlantic.  While the ship rocked and rolled, crew members would yell out "Ride ‘em cowboy!" because the ship was built in Texas.

3. Cavalla sank Shokaku, then the deadliest Imperial Japanese warship, with her first torpedos fired in anger - on Cavalla’s first patrol. This was the only submarine to actually "avenge" the attack on Pearl Harbor.

4. Cavalla may have been the last submarine attacked in the war when a Japanese aircraft did not get the ceasefire message and bombed her. There was no significant damage.

5. Cavalla was one of the US Navy’s ships asked to “witness” the surrender and end of the war in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945. Cavalla served in the US Navy right up to the last day of the 1960s. 

6. The “sail” of the USS Tautog, a US nuclear attack submarine is on display at Seawolf Park. It may be the most famous sail of the Cold War as it impacted a Soviet attack submarine and caused that submarine to be put out of action. This sail symbolizes how dangerous the undersea cat and mouse game was during the Cold War. 

7. The USS Stewart is named after Rear Admiral Charles Stewart, the captain of both the USS Constellation and USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”). A six-foot model of the USS Constellation is at the American Undersea Warfare Center museum gift shop at Seawolf Park. 

8. The USS Stewart was the second warship named after Captain Stewart to serve in WWII. The first, a destroyer, was sunk during the early days of the war, and was refloated by the Japanese Navy and served there until recaptured after the war. It never regained its original name as that had been given to the destroyer escort now at Seawolf Park. 

9. USS Stewart is Texas’ own, home-built warship. It was built by the shipbuilders in Houston, then outfitted here in Galveston before heading to war. She served in the Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific during the war, even serving as President Roosevelt’s escort on the first leg of his journey to the Tehran Conference meeting with Churchill and Stalin. 

10. USS Stewart, oddly enough, is powered by submarine-style Fairbanks-Morse engines, which gave her outstanding performance and made her an extremely capable escort ship - against submarines. 

11. USS Cavalla is powered by GM engines, and GE power motors, making her a Navy ship run by “generals.”

12. A “Conning Tower” on a WWII submarine is not the “sail” fairing covering the bridge and periscope, but a separate water-tight compartment that sits above the pressure hull of the sub (within that sail). The Conning Tower of the USS Carp is displayed at the American Undersea Warfare Center at Seawolf Park. It has the appearance of a diving bell. 

13. Victoria Crooks and Asher Spalding were recognized by the Galveston Historical Foundation for their craftsmanship work on restoring the ships of Seawolf Park. Both were local college students at the time. Each year, some 6,000 hours of volunteer work is done on the ships, mostly by college students and military/naval veterans. 

14. Although USS Cavalla and USS Stewart served mainly on opposite sides of the world from each other during the war, they did once sail together - when both floated up during Hurricane Ike.

15. The 1940s beauty pageant promo photograph in the captain’s room on USS Cavalla is of Kathleen V. Aagaard, then a 19-year-old student at Penn State. Later the mother of a submariner and Texas resident, she lives with her retired military commander husband by the sea. 

16. USS Cavalla served as the backdrop to the recent Smithsonian Channel special “Combat Ships: War Beneath the Waves” and current Cavalla Historical Foundation Chairman, Capt. Gary Bell, who trained on Cavalla, was interviewed in the show - onboard Cavalla. The ships have served as backgrounds for several video productions. 

17. Cavalla served in the US Navy right up to the last day of the 1960s. 

 

Article written by Clayton Kolavo

Clayton Kolavo is the newest member of the Galveston.com & Company family. Clayton oversees planning, implementation, and evaluation of public relations and marketing activities, including promotions, video production, blogs, and social media. Serves as Director of Galveston.com TV and Galveston Restaurant Week, as well as media liaison between the firm and local tourism partners.

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