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Museum of Science & Industry by Ann Treacy
December 28, 2008, 1:18 am
Filed under: Chicago

When I was a kid I loved the Museum of Science & Industry. It is great. We went the day after Thanksgiving. We were there when it opened – and we ran to the new toy department. So we had all of the great machines to ourselves. Everyone got a chance to drive the car or be the skier going down the slope.

As soon as it got busy we had to hightail it to the U Boat exhibit, which is what we came to see. Most of the adults have read The Shadow Divers, which is the best book ever even though it’s about submarines.

So we took the tour, which is very cool. The U-Boats were super powerful until the US figured out the code that the Germans were using to communicate with the U-boats. Then they became underwater death traps.

The tour of the U-boat walks you though it’s capture. Although the U-boat is huge, I think they said a city block long, it’s tiny inside. I think they said about 50 soldiers lived on the submarine – and all of them smoked. I can’t even imagine what it smelled like back them.

It was cool to kind of experience the capture. Once the U-boat was spotted it dove deeper into the water – kind of like a free fall and the men had to be silent since noise carries so much farther in the water. It was a cat and mouse chase until the Americans actually took over. Apparently they just stormed the U-boat and were then able to get the Enigma (decoder) machine and tomes of code notes. They didn’t admit to capturing the U-boat because they didn’t want the Germans to know that they had the cheat sheet to their codes. So the men on board were in a POW camp in America.

It was interesting to see the war propaganda. They didn’t just promote shopping as your patriotic duty back then – and that was good to see. They had an amazing visual that showed how many men were killed by U-boats over the years.

It’s also kind of amazing to see how they got the boat to Chicago, where it sat outside for decades and then into the Museum of Science and Industry.

We visited some other rooms in the Museum – like the Christmas trees and some Main Street setup – but the U-boat was the coolest part by far.

The Chicago museum is a little like the museum we visited in London. It’s very cool – but so busy that you can’t handle being there for very long.


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