‘Manitowoc 28’ Honored with Joliet Memorial

Members of the USS Chicago Base pose with the new memorial on the site of Joliet's existing Veteran's Memorial on Bluff Street.
Members of the USS Chicago Base pose with the new memorial on the site of Joliet's existing Veteran's Memorial on Bluff Street.

By Nick Reiher

What a sight it must have been.
From 1942 to 1944, residents along the Illinois waterway system – including those in Joliet – got a chance to see submarines on their way to see action in the Pacific Theater.
Twenty-eight “freshwater” submarines built at Manitowoc Shipbuilding in Wisconsin made the trip down Lake Michigan on special floats, to the Chicago River, the Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Des Plaines River, the Illinois River and finally, the Mississippi, stopping in New Orleans to be fitted with the remainder of their equipment before heading to the Pacific.
Twenty-five of the 28 were built in time to see battle during the war, according to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc https://www.wisconsinmaritime.org/submarines/); together, they sank 132 Japanese ships. Four would be lost: the USS Robalo, the USS Golet, the USS Kete and the USS Lagarto.
Although submarines as a whole accounted for only 2 percent of America’s fighting forces in the Pacific, they were able to inflict damage on 50 percent of the Japanese fleet, said John Cannon, Commander of the USS Chicago Base, a group of U.S. submarine veterans.
Cannon said that was offset by the loss of 52 submarines and 3,000 officers and men on those ships. Those were among the veterans honored at the June 14 dedication of the Joliet WWII Veterans Memorial on North Bluff Street, only a couple hundreds yards from where those Manitowoc submarines passed, carried on a special float in the Des Plaines River.
On the front side of the monument are replicas of Navy Submarine Dolphins and the USS Chicago Base Logo, followed by a description of the Manitowoc Submarines Story. The opposite side lists the names of the 28 submarines that were built by the Manitowoc Ship Building Company.
The veterans who fought in those submarines came from all over, Cannon said, but they shared virtuous attributes, among them courage, pride, determination, selflessness and dedication to duty.
“We thank God for each and every one,” he told those gathered at the dedication.
Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy noted the appropriate time for the dedication – Flag Day. He also was pleased the city could provide a fitting location for the memorial, designed by David Harris and crafted by Reeves & Baskerville Funeral Homes, with donations from many local groups and businesses, as well as a grant from the state.
As well as being a fitting memorial to the Manitowoc 28 and all U.S. submariners, D’Arcy said the monument also will be a reminder of Joliet’s part in the war effort.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. said he was proud of his membership in the International Machinist and Aerospace Workers Union and the legacy those members crafted during World War II in Manitowoc.
“They were not soldiers; they were everyday Americans,” he said. “The war was won not only on battlefields, but in factories all across America.”
A veteran himself, Thomas Morgan, Military & Veteran Outreach aide to for U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, said the striking memorial is a welcome addition to Joliet’s existing Veteran’s Memorial at Bluff and Jefferson streets.
“Let it be a place of solace for veterans and a source of inspiration for generations to come.”
The Joliet Area Historical Museum will host a program on World War II Submarines and the Manitowoc Submarine Expedition on Wednesday, June 21, at 5 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the auditorium of the museum, 204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet.

A member of the USS Chicago Base, a group of U.S. submarine veterans that sponsored the new “Manitowoc 28” memorial, views the new monument.

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