USS Pampanito

We can’t quite believe that this little gem is relatively undiscovered and missed by a large amount of people who visit San Francisco.

Tucked away discreetly at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf, this is your chance to board and explore and actual submarine that saw real military action back in World War Two. How cool is that!? I guess unlike its slightly (ok a little more than slightly) larger sister attraction the USS Midway, which is way down the California coast in San Diego, the Pampanito isn’t quite as easy to spot. And while it may be less easy to spot, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit.

Quick Info:

Address: Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: +1 (415) 775 1943

Price: Adults $12, Under 12’s $6, Audio Headset for Tour $3

Opening Hours: Jun-Sep: 9am-8pm, Oct-May: Mon-Thu & Sun 9am-6pm, Fri-Sat 9am-8pm

The USS Pampanito was built in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, New Hampshire back in 1943 and is a 311ft Submarine and cost 6 million dollars. A rather large sum of money back in the 1940’s! The Pampanito was very successful in her day and took part in 6 war patrols in the Second World War around the Pacific.

Access to the Pampanito costs a very reasonable $12 (an extra 3 bucks gets you the audio headset which is a must) and gives you a real insight into what life was like on board a World War Two submarine. You may not know this but being in a Submarine was actually more dangerous than being on a ship back in World War Two. You would think that being hidden under water would help but apparently submarines had the highest number of men lost in the US Military, a staggering 24% failing to return. Imagine those poor men getting into what is essentially a small, dark, cramped metal tube before submerging to the depths with a load of torpedos not knowing if you were ever going to see the light of day again. Another fact you may not realise is that to this day, all submariners in the US military are volunteers. Unbelievable when you take into account the risk, especially back then. These were and are very brave men! Anyway, we’re not here to do this tour for you so enough spoilers!

The audio tour on the Pampanito is self guided, starting with a quick look around the upper deck before moving down into the rear torpedo room. You are then able to move on through the submarine and into the maneuvering room, engine rooms, galley, control room, officer’s quarters and then on to the incredibly cramped forward torpedo room. It’s crazy to think that the crew members would have actually slept right next to their torpedos! With the audio tour, you are able to listen to sound effects and  it is also narrated by a former commander. His detailed descriptions perfectly convey the general feel of fear, claustrophobia and immense boredom that submariners faced while on a submarine such as the USS Pampanito. Other Veterans are also a part of the recording and offer their fascinating personal accounts too. All in all, well worth a visit next time you’re in San Francisco!