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Volunteers, museum staffers continue restoration of submarine
By DANIEL CONNOLLY
Monday, June 26, 2006 7:49 PM CDT
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The USS Razorback is slowly beginning to resemble a working submarine, thanks to the efforts of volunteers and staffers who have given the old craft touches including a new electrical system to new photos illustrating life on board.
And work is far from done for the sub, which went on display to the public last year on the north shore of the Arkansas River, said Greg Zonner, executive director of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. "Oh, this is an never-ending project," he said.
Zonner said the museum has spent about $30,000 so far this year on projects large and small. He showed off some of them during a tour for journalists Monday.
Leading visitors down a metal ladder into the aft torpedo room, he pointed out that the interior of the submarine is lit with the ship's 1950s-era fluorescent lights. It's part of a larger effort to start running electrical and ventilation systems through the ship's own systems instead of powering new appliances with electricity piped in directly from outside, Zonner said.
"Now we just need to get the air conditioning working," he said.
The United States used the sub in the Vietnam War before selling it to Turkey in 1970. The Turks renamed it the TGC Muratreis and used it for patrols until 2002, when North Little Rock acquired it.
Today the ship is an American-Turkish hodgepodge, with flags from both nations fluttering from its bridge and labels in English and Turkish on switches and controls in its cramped interior. Zonner says that when the labels wear out, museum staff are replacing them with labels in both languages to maintain the sub's unusual flavor.
Zonner, 55, who served on nuclear submarines in the 1970s, crouched to fit his 6-foot frame through a hatch and moved further into the ship to show new toilets that staffers have installed.
He pointed out a new display meant to show the personal effects sailors kept in personal storage space under their mattresses on the ship: a Swisher Sweets cigar box, neatly folded uniforms, a shaving brush and cup, playing cards, and books including a 1943 Navy training manual open to a page on knots.
Other little touches are meant to illustrate life on board. A black-and-white photo shows sailors sitting back-to-back in the ship's tiny galley. Photos in the captain's cramped quarters show the last American and the last Turkish captain to pilot the vessel.
Another room features World War II-era radio equipment donated by a submarine veteran from Connecticut, Zonner said. Donations have helped cover much of the cost of restoration and are expected to pay for the repainting of the sub's black exterior this summer.
Visitors will find a display of red and green lights that shows which hatches are open on the ship _ but they won't find the signature mark of a submarine, the periscope used to scan the surface from underwater. That room's not ready.
"Our next goal is to get that room done so that people can start going up there," Zonner said.
A service of the Associated Press(AP)
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