Last updated: September 21, 2023
American World War II Heritage City
Located in northeastern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan, Manitowoc served a vital role in World War II. The city's manufacturing base produced hundreds of items used in the war effort, most notably twenty-eight submarines, for the US Navy.
The Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, headed by Charles West, petitioned the Navy to build destroyers but was asked instead to build submarines - the most sophisticated technological platforms at the time. Due to the availability of skilled craftsmen in the area the company was able to produce a total of twenty-eight Gato and Balao Class submarines between 1941-1945. The first Manitowoc built submarine, USS Peto, was launched on April 30, 1942. Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company received the coveted Minuteman "Bullseye" banner for having 100% of workers participate.
Manitowoc raised a substantial amount of money for the war effort through war bond rallies, shows and events held in the city. For example, in February 1944 a touring stage show called "It's the McCoy'' played at the Capitol Theatre in Manitowoc. The one-night show raised over one million dollars in war bond sales, second only to Milwaukee.
After the war, submarine veterans founded the Wisconsin Maritime Museum to honor "the fine work done by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, and its employees" during WWII and created the Manitowoc Submariners Memorial Association. Two years later in 1970, the USS Cobia (SS 245) arrived in Manitowoc to serve as a memorial to the all of the submarines built in the city. The USS Cobia itself is a National Historic Landmark and an International Submariners Memorial.
In addition to featuring Wisconsin's maritime heritage, the museum has an exhibit on the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company and Burger Boat. There are also plaques along the city’s Riverwalk between the museum and the USS Cobia that highlight each of the Manitowoc Submarines and their commissioning crews. Also along the Riverwalk is the Gerald R. Pilger Memorial Quarterdeck. Pilger worked in the shipyard building subs before joining the US Navy and serving on the USS Jallao, which was built in Manitowoc.