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Navy Repossesses Submarine-Museum

July 23, 1987 GMT

GROTON, Conn. (AP) _ The U.S. Navy is repossessing a decommissioned World War II submarine that has been a tourist attraction for 10 years, saying its private operator neglected it.

Navy officials in Washington said the contract with the non-profit Submarine Memorial Association ended Thursday.

Frank Scheetz of Groton, president of the association, said the Navy gave just two days’ notice that it was repossessing the USS Croaker, but a dispute over the handling of repairs to the sub had been going on for months.

The submarine was built at Electric Boat in Groton in 1943, was commissioned in April 1944 and made six patrols of the Pacific Ocean during World War II, sinking 11 enemy ships.

The Croaker was decommissioned in 1968 and returned to Groton in May 1977, when it was dedicated as a museum. The submarine was on permanent loan to the association, which was responsible for maintenance and repairs.

In a letter to the association last fall, the Navy said the Croaker’s condition must be improved so as not to ″cast discredit on the Navy.″

Scheetz said visitors to the Croaker had declined since the opening of the USS Nautilus museum in 1986 and that it had become more difficult to finance repairs to the ship. While visiting the Nautilus is free, admission to the Croaker was $3.

The issue reached a head over whether the association would replace the Croaker’s aging wooden deck with fiberglass or teak. The association and the Navy also disagreed over whether to allow the University of Connecticut’s Marine Sciences Institute to convert the Croaker into a laboratory during the winter when few tourists visit.

William Scott, congressional affairs officer with the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, said Navy inspectors had found many deficiencies in the maintenance of the ship.

″Our inspections revealed that the ship was deteriorating at such a rate that it was becoming unsafe,″ Scott said.