Elaine (Rusch) Krause has spent a lot of time working on submarines.
During World War II, she was a welder at the Manitowoc submarine yards.
“How I got into welding, I don’t know,” Krause said.
She thinks it was through the encouragement of relatives, who also worked at the shipyard.
She trained at Appleton Vocational School and went to live with relatives while she was employed in Manitowoc.
Krause recalls working on at least three different submarines, including the Cobia and the Jallao.
“I only weighed 105 pounds and was a strong farm girl,” she said, “so they put me in places other people couldn’t go.”
Most of the welders were men, she recalled.
When she started the job, Krause was 17, so she was required to attend vocational school one day a week. She also could not collect full wages until she was 18.
Krause worked in the yard for two years (from the spring of 1943 until sometime in 1944), “until they didn’t build anymore,” she recalled.
Krause was a member of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Girls Softball Team, which won a league championship. As a reward, the team was treated to a ship ride from Manitowoc to Ludington, Mich.
“They told us ‘the brighter the moon, the rougher the water would be,'” she said. “It was a full moon. Our pitcher was sick all the way there and all the way back.”
After the welding job, she worked at a factory making walkie-talkie batteries. She said the piece-work was hard on her eyes.
Her next job was welding at the Hawley Factory, which was located on Hawley Road in Milwaukee.
“We didn’t know what we were making for 10 years,” Krause said. “It was all classified stuff.”
“We later learned we were making parts for the atomic bomb,” she said.
During this time, Krause kept $10 of her wages and sent the rest of the money home to her father.
In 1969, her father informed her he owned the farm.
“I helped pay for the farm,” she said.
All those years working in the shipyard, Krause never saw a fully-built submarine.
“We never got to see the finished product or the launching,” she said.
It wasn’t until 2005, when she finally stepped inside a fully-constructed submarine at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
“The space was unbelievable,” Krause said.
She had visited Manitowoc to donate her welding uniform, which is now on display in the maritime museum. Realizing she had never been on an actual submarine, her family took her onboard the USS Cobia.
Decommissioned in 1970, the Cobia has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and restored to its original 1945 configuration.
The World War II fleet submarine is now part of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, though it was not built in Manitowoc. Launched on Nov. 28, 1943, the GATO-class fleet submarine is similar to the 28 subs built in Manitowoc during World War II.
Born in 1926 in New London, Krause’s family moved to a farm in the town of Dayton when she was 3 months old.
She attended school through the eighth grade. She could not go to high school, because her mother was sick and the children were needed to help with farm work.
As a farm girl, she learned to work hard.
“I did everything but plow. I never plowed,” Krause said. “We milked six cows by hand, filled silo, cut corn and shocked corn.”
“We used to do butchering and make stuff. We used just about every part of the chicken,” she said. “Now, people don’t even want to hear about doing this.”
She married Martin Krause in 1945. He died in March 2012.
The Krauses raised three children. Today, there are eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Now at age 87, she lives at Living Oaks, an assisted living facility in Iola.
“I have had a wonderful life,” Krause said. “And I never regretted any of it.”