USS Clamagore submarine will be destroyed and recycled, museum says

The submarine, which opened as an exhibit more than four decades ago, closed to the public in December due to “safety concerns caused by a leak in a main ballast tank,” the museum said in a news release. Ballast tanks are used to control the buoyancy of a vessel.

The submarine has undergone repairs for more than a decade due to “extensive corrosion,” the museum added. One 2019 assessment found it would cost “upwards of $9 million” to fully restore and repair the vessel, the museum said.

There are also environmental concerns — including the presence of PCBs and lead batteries — with keeping the submarine at Patriots Point, said executive director Dr. Rorie Cartier.

“Leaving this submarine in the Charleston Harbor could cause serious environmental problems with the landfall of a major hurricane,” Cartier said. The museum is located in Mt. Pleasant, less than 10 miles from Charleston.

The USS Clamagore is the only submarine of its design that is preserved in the US, according to the museum’s website.

Commissioned in June 1945, the boat operated in the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean until 1962. The submarine is best known for its service off of Florida’s Key West coast, where it became known as the “Gray Ghost of the Florida Coast,” according to the museum. It was decommissioned in 1975 and opened as a museum about six years later.

It’s the smallest of the three military vessels kept on display at the museum.

But the museum “cannot financially sustain the maintenance” of all three, Cartier said. “The USS Yorktown and USS Laffey also need repair, and we are fighting a never-ending battle against the corrosion that comes from being submerged in saltwater,” Cartier said.

Some key parts of the submarine will be removed and preserved for a smaller exhibit, the museum said. Other parts will be sold and reused or recycled. The full dismantling project will take months and cost around $2 million, according to the museum.

“The vast majority of the steel will be used to make new products, lowering the demand for mined iron ore and reducing energy costs in the steelmaking process,” it said.

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