Friday, January 29, 2016

Warships at Patriot’s Point – South Carolina

Patriot’s Point is located right across the Cooper River from historic old Charleston.  This major tourist attraction based on the mid-twentieth century is all about American History…primarily from World War II through the Viet Nam War.

Since it involved American history, bravery, patriotism combined with ships and aircraft, it was "a can’t miss" on our to do list!

We took this impressive view of Patriot’s Point from our tour boat coming back from a much different military scene, Fort Sumter and the Civil War.  The Ravenel Bridge (I-626) across the Cooper River from Charleston to Mount Peasant is in the background.  A large marina butts right up against the WWII era warships…

Sad Factoid:

·       As of August 2015, a total of 21 persons have committed suicide by jumping off the Ravenel Bridge in the 10 years since it opened for traffic.

 This is is the Aircraft Carrier USS Yorktown, (CV10), also known as “The Fighting Lady”.  She was the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy.  The Yorktown was commissioned in April 1943, decommissioned in 1947, re-commissioned in 1953 and finally retired in 1970.  She served in both World War II and, after a reconfiguration, also Viet Nam!  The Yorktown’s flight deck is almost as long as 3 football fields and its 196 feet wide. 

As you approach the USS Yorktown on the pier, her size becomes readily apparent! 

The Yorktown was the 4th US Navy ship to bear this name.  The 1st was commissioned in 1839 and it was a 16-gun sloop-of-war.  It sunk in 1850.  The second Yorktown was the lead Yorktown-class gunboat commissioned in 1889 and sold in 1921.  The Fighting Lady’s immediate predecessor was the USS Yorktown (CV-5), the lead Yorktown-class aircraft carrier.  That ship had been commissioned in 1937 and it was sunk at the Battle of Midway in 1942.  A total of 141 sailors died on the Yorktown in that battle…

Once you walk out on the flight deck, you really begin to understand the size and scope of this ship.  Then you think about aircraft landing and taking off from this little ‘runway’ and it’s a bit mind boggling!  The deck was expanded in the mid-1950s to increase her capabilities to handle jet aircraft…

It’s hard to conceive but the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is due to be commissioned in March of this year, has a flight deck that measures 1,092 feet long and 256 feet wide.  Fully loaded the Ford will weigh 100,000 tons or so…whereas the Yorktown, modified to handle jet aircraft, weighed in at only 40,600 tons fully loaded.

Bonnie’s husband Bill ‘modeled’ one of the 4 twin 3-inch (76 mm) 50 caliber guns that were used to defend the Yorktown from enemy aircraft when she was deployed later in her career in an anti-submarine warfare role.  During WWII, if I read the information correctly, she had 62 guns of various calibers deployed throughout the ship to ward off incoming aircraft… 

This is the bridge of the Yorktown… By today’s standards, it’s a primitive looking set up!  I can’t imagine standing on the bridge and seeing enemy aircraft swarming in to try to sink the ship and its crew.  You would have to hope that your aircraft and gunnery crews could knock them out of the sky but you’d feel a bit vulnerable, that’s for sure.

Comfy looking sleeping accommodations aren’t they?!  Consider this… During World War II the USS Yorktown carried a crew of 380 officer and 3,088 enlisted men!  They must have been packed in like sardines…

The Yorktown was 1 of 24 Essex Class aircraft carriers built for the US Navy during World War II.  Three other carriers of this class have been preserved as museums: the USS Intrepid in New York City; the USS Hornet in Alameda California, and; the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Texas.


·       My brother Robert actually served on the USS Kearsarge, one of the Essex class carriers, during the Viet Nam war.  

Several other vignettes like this are set up throughout the Yorktown.  This obviously is the dentist’s office. 

There are a total of 5 self-guided and well signed tours for visitor to the USS Yorktown.  These include the Living and Working; Engine/Fire Room; Flight Deck/Bridge; WWII Carrier Rooms, and; Wardroom and Brig.  There are also many displays on the hangar deck… A fair amount of climbing and steep stairs are involved in some these tour routes.

This is the ship’s bakery.  Imagine how much food had to be stored on the ship and then the number of meals that had to be prepared daily!  Since ship operations go on for 24 hours a day, someone needs to be fed almost any time of the day…about 10,500 meals per day.

Bill and Bonnie at the controls… Love those old gauges don’t you?

If you were injured in battle or working elsewhere on the ship, this is where you’d be stitched up or undergo surgery. 

Bill, Bonnie and Laurie were checking out the Pilot’s Ready Room.  This is where the pilots would be briefed on their adversaries and their missions.


·       The USS Yorktown was originally designated to be named the USS Bon Homme Richard but her name was changed to the Yorktown in honor of the sinking of her predecessor, the USS Yorktown (CV-5) at the Battle of Midway.

How about this radio room and communications center!  When you think about it, most crew members were working in areas of the ship where they couldn’t see what was going on.  During an attack by enemy planes this had to be really tough on the crew.   


·       Late in her career, the USS Yorktown served as a recovery ship for the Apollo 8 space mission.

·       The Yorktown was also used in the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, which recreated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) is berthed alongside the USS Yorktown.  The Laffey is an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer and she was the 2nd ship of the United States Navy to be named for Bartlett Laffey.  Seaman Laffey was awarded the Medal of Honor for his stand against Confederate forces in 1864 at Yazoo City Mississippi during the Civil War. 

The USS Laffey earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" for her exploits during the D-Day invasion in Europe and the battle of Okinawa when she successfully withstood a determined assault by flights of bombers and the most unrelenting kamikaze air attacks in history.

In 1975, the USS Laffey became the last of the Sumner class of destroyers to be decommissioned by the US Navy.  There were a total of 58 ships built in this class of destroyer.  This is the only one remaining as a museum ship.  A total of 29 Sumner Class destroyers were sold to other nations following decommissioning from the US Navy.

This ship was commissioned in 1944 and it immediately headed for Europe in support of D-Day operations.  She is 376 feet long and she had a crew of 336 officers and enlisted men.

I believe that this is a Mk 28 Mod 2 5"/38 caliber mount.  This big gun was designed to fire at both surface targets and incoming aircraft.  During WWII, this ship had 3 of these dual units plus 23 other guns of various calibers as well as depth charge launchers and 10 torpedo tubes.

 This is an inside view of the turret where the gun crew worked to defend the ship or participate in a protective barrage in support of troop landings.  With a well-trained crew, a firing rate of 22 rounds per minute per barrel was possible for short periods.  The resulting screen of exploding 53 – 55 pound shells could help provide an effective cover against attacking aircraft.

(I would have climbed in and had a better look, but it would have taken an EMS crew to pull me back out again)

The 3rd vessel on display at Patriot’s Point is the Submarine USS Clamagore.  (SS-343) To be honest, I’m too claustrophobic and old to be climbing around inside a submarine, so we skipped that part of the tour… This submarine is almost 312 feet long and she would have had a crew of about 80 very brave officers and enlisted men.

Built in 1945 for the United States Navy, the Clamagore was still in training when World War II ended.  FYI…She was named for the clamagore or blue parrotfish.  She was 1 of 120 Balao Class submarines that were built and she was later converted to a GUPPY class submarine.  The USS Clamagore is the only surviving member of this latter class of vessel.  One other Balao class survivor, the former USS Tusk was still afloat for the Taiwanese Navy as of the spring of 2015.

More on the other exhibits at Patriot’s Point will follow at a later date.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit and a trip into American history!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. There is no doubt these were on your bucket list. Very impressive ships indeed. How fun that your tour included a look inside. As Americans we have a lot to be proud of.

  2. WOW, Dave, you really know your stuff about these places that you visit! We've stepped onto the ship, but have never seen it as extensively as you. It was years ago and so I really appreciate seeing what's inside and reading about the ship's history.