The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Review--Part One: Two Exhibits at the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL: Reflections on the U-505 and Apollo 8

Review of: Two Exhibits at the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL:
Reflections on the U-505 and Apollo 8
By Tim Krenz

Part I--Terror Beneath the Ocean

I recently toured the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, IL. As a major metropolitan museum in the Midwest, 6 hours from the St. Croix Valley, the offerings of the museum were far too many to visit and absorb on a Sunday morning and afternoon. The amount of interesting technological prowess developed by humankind located within the museum, and the educational value to see it, staggered my grown-up facade into a teeming teenage, as though I just discovered Stevenson’s Treasurer Island or Hemingway’s A Movable Feast in the ignored boxes of a high school store room.

Such an upward journey came to me at Chicago’s museum in January 2012, following a museum treasure map toward rich inventions, and supping on the deeper meanings in things within their place in time. Without bogging down into too much irrelevant “wherefores by why-ems” the way it happened, my trip to the Chicago museum’s two most personally compelling items contrast in this multiple article. I hope to create a desire in the reader to explore for themselves the stories of the German submarine U-505 and the United States spacecraft, Apollo 8. Even more, I encourage others to visit exhibits The larger stories should stand more self-evident, as I proceed.

I did a full walk-through tour, for an extra $8 added to the general admission fee of $15, of the German navy’s World War II U-boat, No. 505, captured in1944 by the United States Navy in the Atlantic Ocean. The inside of the U-boat possessed the aura and feel of history, something tactile, and offers an ability to touch the sense of a rare time, when men fought desperately, and in this case, in the world where German U-boat crewman--a known elite--defended an aggressive, false, and murderous ideology known as National Socialism (a.k.a. Nazism). The piped-in audio effects of a German crew’s experience with the noises of patrol and combat--pipes, engines, orders, sonar pings and silent running to escape--unnerved the touring mind, realizing they would last for up to 90-days on patrol without stopping. For 35,000 of a total 40,000 German sailors in the U-boat service during the Second World War, the noises and quest for life-saving quiet would last much shorter, punctuated by depth charges, and last only until death on the surface or beneath the ocean.

Some sensations remain absent to the accidental observer of history. My friend and I could not smell the horrible stench of unwashed bodies (no showers, to conserve drinking water); or the smell of old food, and one head (toilet) for 54 officers and men. Nor did we feel the constant heat of an operating submarine, as related by the well-informed tour guide. She said the temperate in the bow of the undersea boat reached a cool 95 degrees (F). The stern compartments, next to the diesel and the electric engine rooms might only get to 120-125 degrees (F). In the control room, of note, I could at least smell some thing of significance, perhaps the veneer on the polished wood, the paint on the walls, or the odor of rubber 0-rings, or perhaps the aero-recall of diesel and lubricants from 505’s last, long-ago patrol.

This Type IX submarine (by class), was brought to Chicago in 1954, and only in 2004 brought indoors to its terminal resting home 5 stories below ground, in its own wing of the Museum of Science and Industry. A critical piece of an important, and still relevant, history remains available to all who can visit. It is a massive remnant of a significant chapter from the 20th Century’s most defining moment--the defeat of German militarism, which gave rise to the conditions of history as it has come to the modern day.

In the biggest, most destructive, and most important war in recorded history, U-boats as hunters of merchant shipping supplying the life-line to Great Britain, and other theaters of war in Europe, Africa, and Western Asia, fought significant engagements with the hunters of anti-submarine forces in the first, and most important campaign, of the Allied counter-offensive against the Nazi regime. The heroes of the Allied navies, air forces, armies, and merchant marines who fought, suffered, and died securing that life-line for others to move forward to victory over the evil of Nazism quite often remain obscured to the reading and viewing of that defining history. As a relic of technical achievement used for war, the inside of the of the U-505 shows more than today’s younger and slightly older generations what we might never realize: Why things happened as they did and were as they were, in the details, in wrong-headed science used for aggressive war. We cannot remain pacified to suffer history as a burden. We as a modern people, on the other hand, must absorb those meanings today, and in the flesh enrich that understanding. The present understanding, if only for how we have come to this place and this time, is future history.

Part II of this series will review the Apollo 8 command module, also on display at the museum, and, in part, how space technology was and can be used for peace, as opposed to the U-505’s use for war.