Why Is the Bowfin Submarine at Pearl Harbor?

May 16, 2021
by Chris 

When you take a closer look at the different exhibits and memorials at Pearl Harbor, you find that some of them have no physical connection to the December 7, 1941 attack. For instance, USS Missouri (BB-63) hadn’t even been built at the time of the attack. Another example is USS Bowfin (SS-287), the submarine that’s located to the right of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

While Bowfin hadn't even been laid down at the time of the attack, her presence today at Pearl Harbor does make sense. While USS Arizona (BB-39) symbolizes the beginning of the War in the Pacific, and the Mighty Mo represents its end, USS Bowfin symbolizes the resolve of the United States to beat back the imperialist forces that launched the attack.

Full side view of the USS Bowfin Submarine docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
USS Bowfin Submarine at Pearl Harbor

Though the USS Bowfin wasn’t commissioned into service until May of 1943, she was officially launched on December 7, 1942. Exactly one year prior, the United States had suffered the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. When she was launched, on the first anniversary of the assault that drew the United States into World War II, Bowfin was dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

The Pearl Harbor Avenger at War

After being commissioned into service on May 1, 1943, USS Bowfin immediately went to war. She saw heavy action throughout the Pacific Theater, taking part in nine wartime patrols. During the course of her service, Bowfin was responsible for sinking over 40 enemy vessels.

After the war ended, Bowfin returned to the east coast of the US, where she was decommissioned for the first time in February, 1947. She would be recommissioned twice more before finally being removed from service on December 1, 1971, when she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register.

The USS Bowfin returns from patrol while its crew stands on deck.
USS Bowfin returning from patrol

Bowfin Submarine at Pearl Harbor

Since 1981, the Pearl Harbor Avenger has been berthed at Pearl Harbor, adjacent to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. In addition to the imposing submarine, which is open to the public for tours, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park also includes several outdoor exhibits related to submarine warfare. There is also a serene waterfront memorial dedicated to the American submarines and crew who perished during the War in the Pacific.

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