Submarine veteran spends long hours restoring the USS Drum

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 12:19 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - One nuclear submarine veteran has spent years restoring the USS Drum at Battleship Memorial Park.

The USS Drum is the oldest World War II submarine in existence.

It all started 22 years ago when Tom Bowser was driving through Mobile and spotted the USS Drum on a billboard.

He decided to stop by Battleship Memorial Park, and that’s where his friendship with Lesley Waters took off.

Lesley, a Battleship park Maintenance employee, has worked on the Drum for several years. Tom decided he wanted to help.

“When I first got here they had just taken the boat out of the water, the stern was gone, the bottom six feet of the bow was gone, it was full of rust holes on the side, it was solid rust,” said Bowser.

Lesley and Tom became a powerful duo. They continue to restore the sub all by themselves.

“So I started raising a little bit of money and me and Lesley first we started restoring the inside,” said Waters, “and then we started rebuilding the outside after I got some donations and then we rebuilt the stern and then sandblasted and painted the side, then worked our way around the boat.”

Tom said the USS Drum is a reminder to visitors of the 52 submarines and over 4,000 submariners who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We honor the lost submarines. We want to keep the memory alive and a lot of the families and everything,” said Bowser.

The USS Drum made a remarkable official 13 war patrols in WWII from April 17, 1942, through April 2, 1945.

Donations from sub vets from all over the country and local businesses have been a huge help with repairing the Drum, but Tom said he and Lesley still have a ways to go.

“We’re getting along pretty good, we’re almost done with most of the structural work, we got quite a bit more to go, but we’re getting there.”

Tom said he jokes about hoping someone will walk up to him with a million-dollar donation.

If you would like to help, you can do one of the following:

  • Visit the USS Drum (SS-228)
  • Tell others about USS Drum (SS-228)
  • Volunteer
  • Make a monetary donation

If you would like to volunteer, contact Tom Bowser at