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San Francisco’s USS Pampanito: A dose of history

There are so many fun things to do in San Francisco, but if you’re in or near the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, you’re sure to want to check out the USS Pampanito (SS-383) submarine. Not only is this Balao-class sub a stunning sight to see, it’s also a floating museum and memorial for the Navy’s silent service submarines.

A part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, this is just one of many incredible landmarks that you just can’t miss – and there are a number of reasons why you may want to spend a few hours learning more about this underwater craft (and perhaps even other interesting sites located in this part of the city).

The history of San Francisco’s USS Pampanito

This vessel was first launched into service in 1934, on July the 12th. It was sent to Pearl Harbor and 10 years later (after seeing plenty of action during the Second World War) the submarine returned, where it was then decommissioned at Mare Island at the end of December 1945.

Over the years, it embarked on 6 different war patrols in the Pacific Ocean – damaging 4 Japanese ships and sinking 6 others. During this time, the USS Pampanito received 6 World War 2 battle stars. While it was severely damaged on its first patrol it wasn’t enough to put the ship out of use, and with some repairs it was ready for action again.

After being decommissioned, the craft sat unused for 15 years until it was reintroduced as a Naval training vessel at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. In 1976, it became a memorial and museum, although it was only opened to the public in March 1982.

In 2018, it celebrated its 75th anniversary – but despite its age, it still holds thousands of visitors every year.

What can you do here?

You’re sure to want to go on the self-guided audio tour of the ship, which begins on the Main Deck Aft. You’ll get to see everything along the way; from the radio room, to the torpedo room. There are a variety of exhibits dotted around for you to check out too, with the audio and former onboard personnel providing information and interesting facts about them.

When taking in the beauty of this vessel, you may notice that there is a broom flying from the ship’s mast. This is to commemorate the fact that the USS Pampanito made a clean sweep of the sea’s enemies.

There are many parts of the vessel that are still functional, like the engines and one of the torpedo tubes. There’s even an ice-cream maker on board, just in case you feel like having a cool and tasty treat as you look around.

Several educational programs are run here, both for children and adults. One of which includes an overnight stay, using the submarine’s 48 bunk beds.

You could learn so much while exploring this historic vessel – and after you’ve finished taking in the beauty of the attraction itself, you might want to peruse some of the other activities and sites in this part of San Francisco.

Other things to do in the bay area

There’s plenty to love about the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, as there’s just so much to see and do.

The USS Pampanito isn’t the only incredible ship located here. Another that you’re sure to want to check out is the 1891-built scow schooner ALMA; a vessel that’s the last of its kind and well worth a visit. The Hyde Street Pier’s fleet of ships are also impressive and deserve a mention – and every first Saturday of the month, there are sea sing-a-longs aboard these vessels.

You may also want to pay a visit to the Hyde Street Pier Small Boat Shop, where you can see boat repairs and the processes of traditional boat building for yourself. If you want to enjoy some fantastic views instead, why not take a walk along the Aquatic Park Pier? The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park Visitor Center is also worth checking out – and since this historic building tends to stand out quite a bit, it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

These are just a few examples of what’s on offer in and around the area for those who want to enjoy a fun-filled day out. From the traveling exhibits at the Maritime Museum, to the great bars and restaurants that are open here; you’re sure to find that you could easily spend a whole day exploring this part of San Francisco.

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