LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A pair of veterans is trying to bring a World War II submarine to Louisville.
Gatton and his friend, Army veteran Lewis Palmer, are raising funds to restore the submarine with the ultimate goal of docking it on the Ohio River. They hope it will one day form the centerpiece of a World War II-focused Louisville Naval Museum.
The decidedly non-coastal city might seem like a strange choice for a naval museum, but Gatton says he takes inspiration from the Muskogee War Memorial Park in Oklahoma. That’s home to another World War II submarine, the USS Batfish.
Brent Trout, executive director of the Oklahoma park, said it is self-sufficient, with about $2 million a year in revenue.
"It continues to go up every year," Trout said. "We have anywhere between 30,000 to 40,000 visitors a year."
The USS Ling was previously part of the New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, but the museum closed in 2013 due to flooding and damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Gatton and Lewis heard about the submarine’s search for a new home in January, and they have about a year to make it float so that it can be towed away. The duo went to see the vessel for the first time in September, finding it full of river water and covered in mud.
The Navy still owns the submarine but is not contributing to its restoration. However, Gatton said several sailors from a naval base in Connecticut have volunteered their time. Since their initial visit it has been pumped dry, patched and pressure washed.
It’s a start, but they still have a long way to go. Gatton dreams that one day the submarine will anchor a museum that is like a step back in time to the 1940s, with tour guides dressed in period clothing, and cars and buildings that look like they’re from the WWII era.