Exploring a Submarine Museum in the Desert

Exploring a Submarine Museum in the Desert
By Guest Blogger Roberta (Bobbie) Kitt0

USS Pampanito, a Balao-class diesel-electric submarine earned six battle stars for World War II service.

When you’re  at your next vacation destination, pick up the local throw away paper. Check out what’s happening nearby.  You’ll be surprised at what’s out there.

My editor asked me to find some unique spots to visit in Laughlin, NV. Since I live in Laughlin, I thought, “How hard can it be to complete this assignment?” So I did what I usually do when I am out and about traveling; I grabbed a local throw away paper.

Looking at my local paper’s “Points of Interest,” I noticed there were points of interest I didn’t even know existed in my own back yard like the Submarine Museum. Who knew?

My first thought was I live in a desert, must be a typo. I showed the article to my husband and after I called to make sure the article was real and that the memorial was open to the public, we drove the 21 miles from Laughlin, NV. to Golden Valley, AZ the next day.

The museum/memorial is located on the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 2555 grounds. It is a memorial to all past submariners and especially those who died in World War II.

Inside and outside are plaques of all the units that have served and are currently serving our country. This display of submarine history has something for everyone to view.  The history buffs will enjoy all the old photos from the World War II era and the kids will enjoy being able to get up close and personal with a real torpedo. The good thing about the exhibits are they are not hidden behind huge plates of glass so you can view them up close.

Don Johnson, who was a submariner himself, had been thinking about building this memorial for several years. Around 2012 he and his Fleet Reserve Association approached Post 2555 with the plans for this memorial.  Together they spent two years raising money for it doing everything from raffles to horseshoe contests and everything in between. Finally, the money was raised and construction began.  Don and his son Dale built this building together.

The memorial itself is located behind the VFW main building.  It is about the size of a three car garage. Inside are many pictures of submarines, people and places all related to events of World War II and beyond. All around the walls inside and on the outside are unit emblems of the various submarines.

Whenever anyone visits the memorial and tells Don Johnson or the current post commander that an emblem is missing, Don will make one himself as he has all the others.  It is his goal to have all of the men and women who served or are serving now in our armed services represented.  If someone wants the plaque on the wall that represents their unit, off the wall it comes and a new one is made by Don to replace it.

Don felt his museum needed a torpedo, so he called around and found a place that had 10 of them.  They gladly donated to Post 2555 the one sitting just outside the front entrance to the memorial. The only catch was Don and his wife had to haul the treasure on a flatbed trailer from Hawthorne, Nevada to Golden Valley, Arizona where he lovingly restored it as you see it today.

Outside the memorial are emblems from all branches of the service.  Inside the main building is more history on display. The plaques tell the watery tale of how many boats and ships they sank and how many downed flyers they saved.

I could not find a website for this attraction, but there are several online videos available.  Before you visit you might want to search YouTube for the submarine museum Golden Valley, Az. The two videos explain how and why the museum was built.

In the end, what will strike the people who visit this memorial is the love that went into building. The effort that has gone into keeping it for future generations to see showcase what real patriotism and heroism are.

Since this museum is in the desert, be mindful of time of year you visit since there is much to see around the grounds.

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SUBMARINE MUSEUM / About 21 miles from downtown Laughlin

Located at the Golden Valley VFW Post 2555, one block NW of Colorado St. and Highway 68 in Golden Valley, AZ; free; donations accepted; info call 520-440-619. There is a restaurant on the grounds.

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Guest Blogger Roberta (Bobbie) Kitt0

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