If you’re looking for a unique, meaningful way to celebrate Memorial Day, you’ll want to fit in a visit this weekend to the USS Silversides, a WW II submarine. Docked in the Muskegon Lake Channel, the sub is a short drive from many of West Michigan’s popular lakeshore holiday destinations.
The Sunday before Memorial Day they hold the annual Lost Boat Ceremony at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum. Hundreds of veterans, their families and the general public attend this solemn occasion each year. We were in attendance in 2015, and it is impossible to keep from tearing up during the moving ceremony.
A memorial wreath in laid on the water. Then they do a Tolling of the Boats where the name of each of the 52 submarines lost in WW II is read, along with the names of the men lost with them. It concludes with a 21-gun salute. If you’re at all patriotic, or just human for that matter, you need to bring plenty of tissues.
As with any day you visit Silversides, you’ll be able to tour inside the sub, as well as the museum, which tells the story of the Silversides and the men who served on her. However, on the day of the Lost Boat Ceremony, you’ll also be able to watch and listen as the submarine’s engines are started, something they rarely do.
The USS Silversides’ war patrol began in June of 1942. A decorated sub, she received 12 Battle Stars and one Presidential Unit Citation for her WW II service. She sank 23 ships, the third-most of any allied sub. And she sank the second-most tonnage of any sub. Today, she’s the most successful combat sub still in existence.
We were all fascinated by seeing the inside of a WW II submarine, but it especially captured my boys’ imaginations, bringing to life all the movies and stories they’ve seen and read. We marveled at the close quarters, wondering how anyone could stand to be crammed into such a small space with so many people, under the water for hours and days, not knowing when a torpedo might come barreling at you.
During our visit, men who served on submarines during the war were down inside the sub to tell stories and answer questions. It was an incredible honor to talk to them. Our family has always held the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces in high regard, but this visit to Silversides gave us an even deeper appreciation for the sacrifices they make for us each day.
Know Before You Go to the USS Silversides
Location: 1346 Bluff St, Muskegon, MI 49441
Lost Boat Ceremony: See the website for current year’s information.
TIGHT SPACES: It’s cramped. If you’re claustrophobic, you may want to skip the tour. Also, it’s a tricky climb up and down a ladder to enter and exit. Children may need assistance, and some people may not physically be able to navigate the ladder.
Sleep in a submarine: You can make arrangements for your group to spend the night in USS Silversides. See the website for more information.