USS Cobia is a major exhibit at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, requiring thousands of man-hours of maintenance and restoration. Beginning in 1970, the Museum began performing routine maintenance on Cobia consistent with available personnel and financial resources.
In 1990, Cobia underwent an inspection by Russell Booth, a recognized authority on the restoration of historic submarines. Booth's report contained recommendations for the long-term preservation and rehabilitation of Cobia. The first part of this plan was successfully completed in 1996 with dry-docking of Cobia at Sturgeon Bay. Hull restoration that took place during the dry-docking project later allowed the Wisconsin Maritime Museum to focus its efforts on the rehabilitation of the submarine's interior spaces using the techniques required on board historic museum vessels.
Since 1997, a process has been underway to return the submarine to its appearance and condition at the height of World War II submarine development in 1945. In 1998, the Museum was awarded a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program (STEP). This grant helped underwrite interior restoration that included installation of World War II era flooring, bunks, metal trim, and crew lockers.
Often, the best way to preserve machinery is to restore and operate it. For example, engines and electrical equipment may deteriorate from long periods of inactivity. After many years of meticulous research, cleaning and repair, many of the submarine's systems have come on-line. Two specific volunteer-led projects that have been completed are the installation of a DC power drive on board the submarine and the rebuilding of main engines #1 and #2. Other recent successes include the restoration of Cobia's SJ-1 radar, thought to be the oldest operational radar in the world, and the return of the World War II radio shack to operational status.
Cobia volunteers of all kinds make a significant contribution to both the preservation and the rehabilitation of the submarine. Cobia is fortunate to have a truly outstanding and talented volunteer support group. These dedicated individuals have brought to bare valuable skills in the long-term preservation of the vessel. Over the years, special projects have been initiated and led by Sub Vets, Inc., U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, and many of individuals interested in preserving this living memorial to the submarine service.
Cobia has also benefited from the expertise of Naval Reserve units that regularly drill on board the submarine. The Museum has allowed Cobia to serve as a training platform for Naval Reservists, who perform training activities on Cobia and practice specialties ranging from internal communications to diesel engine systems. The work performed by these skilled reservists, in the conduct of their drill training, has helped to complete a variety of complex technical projects.
To accommodate the continued restoration plans and long-term preservation of Cobia, a dedicated restoration area has been completed within the newly-expanded Museum. In the Cobia Restoration Shop, staff and volunteers have access to metalworking and machine tools for repair work and parts manufacture. Staff and volunteers can easily transport equipment and materials from the Cobia Shop to the submarine. Visit us any time during the year to see the results of this on-going restoration work and many other submarine related events occurring at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.
To support the ongoing restoration of Cobia, we require certain artifacts, supplies, and equipment. To maintain the historical fabric and interpretation of Cobia, all artifacts should be from the WWII era or as close as possible.