I went on vacation last week down in Charleston for Thanksgiving, and since I was on my own for a few days before the rest of my family showed up, I decided to go check out the museum ships at Patriot's Point. I also decided to take a bunch of pictures.
They have three ships there, the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10), the Alan M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), and the Balao-class diesel submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343). I was able to go on all three. There's also a replica of a Vietnam support base with some helicopters. Unfortunately, my phone died, so I was unable to get pictures of the Laffey or the Clamagore.
My main impression of the destroyer was of how small it actually was. It may be because I had just gotten off of the carrier, where I spent several hours wandering below deck through many compartments and rooms, but I toured the destroyer in about 30 minutes. You could really get the sense that the destroyer's crew would be made up of a tight knit group of people. You'd know everyone with in a few days of being at sea. There was also an exhibit in the rear 5-inch gun turret about the ship's proudest and darkest moment, when it came under attach by no less than 50 Japanese kamikazes in one day off the coast of Okinawa on April 16th, 1945. The Laffey was hit by 4 bombs, 6 kamikazes, and strafing runs, with a loss of 32 men and 71 wounded, but it did not go down.
And if you thought the destroyer was small, the submarine was tiny. If you have never been in a WWII era submarine, you should check one out. It was essentially a straight line through the ship. It takes a special breed to volunteer for duty aboard one of those (all submariners are volunteers in the USN). The crew would sleep basically wherever they could stick a bunk, like among the torpedoes. Walking through, I could not figure out how they got 80 men in that ship at one time. Unfortunately, the ship is starting to deteriorate, and if repairs cannot be made, it may be sunk as an artificial reef.
From the pilot briefing room on the Yorktown
Anyways, on to the Yorktown. It was amazing how much of the ship is open to wander around. I spent probably 4 hours walking through the self guided tours, as well as making my own way. This is also the only museum ship that features every major carrier fixed wing aircraft of the 20th century. I've tried to think of a notable, historic, or decorated carrier aircraft that wasn't there, and I can't. Maybe you can. In the hanger bay they had an AD-4N Skyraider, an F-9J Cougar, a TBM Avenger, an F6F Hellcat, an F4U Corsair, an F4F Wildcat, an SBD Dauntless, a Stearman N-2 Kaydet, and a B-25 Mitchell. They also had a replica of the Wright Flyer because of course.
F4U Corsair - I think this is technically a Goodyear built FG-1D
I then made my way up to the flight deck via an escalator, which I was surprised they had. The escalator was used to carry pilots up to their planes that were ready to go.
Anyways, the flight deck. There was some pretty cool stuff here. Every notable carrier jet was there, and some of the more obscure stuff. You could walk right up to them. Most of them did not have engines, and you could actually see right through them. There was an A-6E Intruder, an A-7E Corsair II, an A-4C Skyhawk, an S-2E Tracker, an S-3B Viking, an EA-3B Skywarrior, an E-1B Tracer, an H-3 Sea King, an F-8K Crusader, an F-4J Phantom II, an F/A-18A Hornet, and my favorite, the F-14A Tomcat. The only major carrier airframe that I could think of that was not there was the E-2 Hawkeye, but that's understandable as it is still an integral part of any carrier air wing. Here are some pictures.
A-7E Corsair II
F-14A Tomcat, with America in the background.
F/A-18A Hornet with H-3 Sea King
E-1B Tracer - this is the first purpose built AWACS plane of the US Navy, and was built off of the same platform as the S-2 Tracker up above.
F-4J Phantom II
If you're ever in Charleston, and you have some free time, I highly suggest you check this place out. It's really quite fascinating and a nice way to spend an afternoon.
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