Slater Museum adds submarine exhibit

Contributed news from Slater Historical Association
Bill Schaudt and his camera.

A new exhibit, "Life on a World War 2 Submarine," is now on view at the Slater Area Historical Association’s Heritage Hall Museum.

In 2020 the historical association was the grateful recipient of a group of photos and memorabilia from Karen Schaudt, the daughter of longtime Slater resident Bill Schaudt. Bill was the official photographer on a World War II submarine and SAHA immediately realized the rich trove of photos needed to be seen by the public.

The new exhibit displays Bill’s story, the history of the sub on which he served, and the history of the submarine during the war, but most of all, anecdotes, photos and facts about the life of 70 men on a submarine 300 feet long and 27 feet wide.

Submariners at their posts on patrol.

Twenty percent of the submariners who served were killed during the war. The United States Navy lost 52 submarines, 20% of its fleet. Included in the exhibit is the history of the USS Flier, which hit a mine and sunk in 30 seconds. Fifteen men were thrown into the sea, but only eight made it to a remote island and were finally rescued. Or the story of Captain John Cromwell who chose to go down with his sub because he had served in the intelligence branch and said “he knew too much” to be captured.

There are photographs of the men at their posts, sunning on deck, relaxing in their cramped quarters. Space was so tight that bunks were placed in every available space. Bunks were even quartered over the torpedoes in the torpedo compartment.

Submariners at their posts, looking for the Japanese.

Bill Schaudt’s family tells us of Bill’s own tight escape. Bill came down with appendicitis and was transferred off his sub for medical treatment. Later the sub was sunk and all hands lost. Viewing the faces of all the young men in the exhibit photos one can only wonder at each of their stories.

The exhibit is available for viewing by appointment during the pandemic. A reception for the exhibit is planned when it will be possible. Call 515-480-9789 or 515-228-3293 to schedule a visit. Groups of five or less are welcome and masks are required. Heritage Hall Museum is located at 318 First Ave., Slater.

Submariners on duty.