Located at Patriot’s Point in Charleston’s harbor, the U.S.S. Yorktown is a popular area attraction. Besides being a great visit, it also has some significance to us as my father served on this aircraft carrier in 1958 – 1959 when it traveled to Japan. It was fun to wander through the ship and imagine my dad sitting in this officer boardroom, getting his hair cut in the barbershop, eating in the mess hall, sleeping in the officer quarters or landing his helicopter on the flight deck. In the picture above, one of my favorite views was the long bridge walk to the carrier with many American flags positioned along the way.
The Yorktown was the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy, commissioned on April 15, 1943. The carrier is best known for her role in the Pacific during World War II. In 1968 the ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts, the first men to orbit the moon. In 1970 the Yorktown was decommissioned and dedicated as a museum at Charleston in 1975.
There are several levels of the ship to be explored, so good exercise up and down the many stairs. In the picture above, Mark disappears down a level. Along the ship’s passageways you can get a picture of life aboard ship seeing the mess halls, kitchens, dining and sleeping areas, supply quarters and medical treatment rooms. Over 3500 men made this carrier home during WWII. Some of the rooms just featured information on other wartime ships with sign boards and photos. It was too much to read and remember so I passed through quickly! The day we visited there were many visitors including large groups of students we had to navigate around. At one point, I wanted to go down the only stairs to tour a level and found a throng of about 50 school age kids also trying to get down the narrow opening. I decided not to join the throng and returned later.
In the 1950’s the ship was converted to an anti submarine carrier and my father flew one of the helicopters that searched for subs and was prepared to drop torpedoes if needed. Above is a picture from the torpedo room. The sign explained that this is a 1960’s era torpedo and once in the water, began a spiral search pattern to find the target. I thought for sure the twisty end of the torpedo was the front that enabled the spiral search. When Mark quit laughing, he told me that was the propellor on the back end that made the torpedo move. I often realize how little I know about how mechanical things work!
The flight deck (above) was one of my favorite spots as there are expansive and lovely views of Charleston, the harbor and Ravenel bridge. A number of planes are positioned on the deck but there were no helicopters from the time period when my dad served. I would have liked to have seen one of them! In the picture below, I am looking down on the flight deck from the Radar Deck. The U.S.S. Laffey Destroyer which is also docked here can be seen to the left and was our next stop.
The U.S.S. Laffey has a fascinating history and is known as “The Ship That Would Not Die,” as she barely survived attacks by Kamikazes during WWII. On April 16, 1945, the Laffey was near the island of Okinawa when the Japanese launched an attack of 50 planes. A fierce battle ensued with six Kamikazes and four bombs hitting the ship, killing 32 men and wounding 71. Although the ship was on fire and suffered much damage, it was able to shoot down 11 of the planes with the help of nearby fighter planes who came to the rescue.
Mark and I were amazed that this small ship (above) could withstand such a fierce assault. There was a wonderful film as well as a simulation of what it would feel like to have been on the Laffey during the Japanese attack. In addition to serving in the Pacific, the ship was also at Normandy during D-Day, bombarding Utah Beach. While docked here the ship weathered another potential disaster when in 2008 over 100 leaks were discovered in the hull. Due to concerns that she would sink, she was towed to dry dock for repairs at a cost of $9,000,000.
There is much to see at Patriot’s Point which also has a submarine that can be toured as well as a Vietnam Experience. You would need a whole day or more to really see everything. What an enjoyable day we spent here!
Thanks for joining us! In my next blog I plan to talk about “flower power.”