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3D-printed submarine honors underwater brotherhood of Minnesota Navy veterans

MINNEAPOLIS — People who serve in the military become brothers and sisters — even after their service time is over. That holds especially true for submarine veterans who can spend months together under water.

John Lauritsen shows us how a group of Navy veterans built a submarine of their own to honor their brotherhood.

“We would go under water and stay under for two and-a-half months. Ten weeks we would never come up,” said Steve Marquis, a Navy veteran.

It’s a band of brothers that develops well below the surface of the sea.

“A lot of people say, how can you stand that claustrophobic feeling? It wasn’t bad. It was good duty. I would do it again,” said Ken Tibesar, a Navy veteran.

There’s honor, pride and a lot of good-natured ribbing. John Barnes was on a diesel-boat submarine during Vietnam.

“Roughing it a lot more than the palaces the other boys will be on,” Barnes said.

When Barnes and his fellow Navy veterans left active duty, they realized they missed it. So he got the idea to build a submarine of his own — one that would be more effective on land than sea.

“It took me six months. It was quite an ordeal because my garage isn’t that big,” Barnes said.



He built a much smaller version of the USS Minneapolis- St. Paul out of plywood, fence nails, and glue. It was used in parades. The only problem was, people thought it was something else.

“One time I went to visit my wife at the golf course and somebody saw me driving in and they ran into the clubhouse saying- somebody is coming in with a bomb! And everybody left. My wife was saying no, no, it’s a submarine,” Barnes said.

It was like that for a while until Barnes and his fellow veterans got a donation to build a new sub. That’s when they teamed up with MNFX, a 3D printing company in Minneapolis.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun too,” said Todd Haslehorst, a designer with MNFX.

Haselhorst and his crew accepted this mission by learning everything they could about submarines.

“Sometimes we say that pizza fuels our company, because we are always here late hours and stuff,” Haselhorst said.

And they worked around the clock on this. Beginning in January, they built a section at a time. For this sub, it’s epoxy-acrylic panels and the decks are laser cut. One part of the sub took an entire day to print.

“It’s going to be pretty big and pretty nice-looking,” Haselhorst said.



When Barnes and his fellow veterans checked in on the progress, they were awe-struck.

“We come up here, and we are like kids in a candy store,” Barnes said.

When the new sub left port this spring, there was no doubt what people were seeing. Now, parades have a different feel.

“People rise, and they put their hand over their heart,” Barnes said.

By the reaction of Barnes and his crew, you can tell its mission accomplished.

“This is just beautiful. I thought mine was great for what I was able to do, but these guys have really gone overboard,” Barnes said.

“Once you become a submarine sailor, you are a submarine sailor for life. And that camaraderie we have with our group — it’s there all the time,” Marquis said.

The Navy veterans are part of the United States Submarine Veterans Incorporated, and their goal is to remember lost submarine sailors from wars and conflicts.

The new sub is called the USS Billfish. Named after the man who donated money to have it built. 

Source: CBS Minnesota

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