Bandy Center WWII Exhibit to Feature Warship Models
December was still six months away but it felt like Christmas for Dr. John Fowler last week when three handmade models of World War II warships were delivered to the Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia.
“They’re fantastic,” Fowler said of the models. “They’ll be the centerpiece of our ‘World War II in Georgia’ exhibit” which will open, he hopes, later this summer in Dalton.
The largest of the three models is a type VIIC German U-boat or submarine which was known to patrol off the eastern coast of the United States. “Vessels like her were a threat to American shipping and represented a very real danger off the coast of Georgia,” Fowler said. Modelmaker Steve Vallis, who transported the model ships from his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, spent eight weeks constructing the replica of U-202 which is in 1/72 scale.
“There were about 1,100 German subs, about 600 Type VIIs like this one,” Vallis said. “The 1942-vintage boat was about 200 feet long and would dive to 200-300 meters underwater.” Life on a U-boat was not easy – the crew of 44 was typically at sea three months at a stretch, sharing two bathrooms and a micro-kitchen with a three-burner stove and tiny refrigerator. German U-boat sailors had about a 25 percent chance of surviving their naval careers, he said.
The second model in the exhibit is a 1/350 scale recreation of the USS Atlanta, a light cruiser which carried a crew of 600 American sailors. The Atlanta, Fowler said, was so named because that particular class of ships was named for American cities. The Atlanta was launched shortly before Pearl Harbor and was lost in 1942 in a night shootout with a Japanese fleet in the Guadalcanal Campaign. The actual ship was about 400 feet long. This was the most famous ship to be associated with Georgia during World War II, he said. A second Atlanta was later built during the war.
The final model is a replica of the SS James Oglethorpe. This “Liberty Ship” was the first vessel launched at Southeastern Shipbuilding in Savannah, Georgia, on November 20, 1942. Liberty Ships, according to Fowler, were a class of cargo ship mass produced to carry supplies and troops around the globe. The vessels were built quickly and cheaply, he said. The James Oglethorpe did not survive its first crossing. On March 11, 1943, she sailed from New York City with the 40 ship convoy designated Halifax 229. Five days later, German U-boats attacked the convoy. The heavily loaded Oglethorpe was damaged by a torpedo fired by U-91 and sank the following day.
The model ships will be the centerpiece of the “World War II in Georgia” exhibit which will also feature items such as non-firing replica firearms, reproduction uniforms that patrons can try on, and other models such as armored vehicles and aircraft from Georgia based units. To provide historical context, text panels will describe the many ways in which the war touched the lives of Georgians.
There will be recordings of Georgia veterans and digital frames featuring archival photographs of those who actually served in the war as well as civilians who contributed to the cause from the homefront.
Fowler hopes to launch the exhibit in August and expects it to travel to schools and community sites throughout the state. He has great praise for the Bandy Center’s assistant director, Heather Shores, student workers, interns and volunteers who have contributed many hours to the project. “Our goal is to have the finest exhibit possible on Georgia during World War II,” said Fowler.
For more information about the “World War II in Georgia” exhibit, or any programs of the Bandy Center, those interested can visit www.bandyheritagecenter.org or call the Bandy Center at 706-272-4452.