|USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) followed by the amphibious assault ship USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10) (Source)|
On the way there we had seen the signs for the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, which piqued my interest, a lot. As we rolled east on I-10 I just happened to notice, off to the starboard side, a rather large, gray warship. I was awe struck, an honest to goodness battleship, queen of the seas. The Naviguesser expressed some interest in seeing that wondrous sight again, perhaps up close and personal.
"Let me find a spot to turn around and we can..."
"Eyes front Mister! Maintain course and speed!" commanded The Missus Herself.
"Maintaining course and speed AYE!" I barked in my most manly voice.
"MOM!!!" sayeth my son, the future black shoe, er, the future Professional Surface Warfare Officer I mean, of course.
Now the matriarch of our little clan explained to the male members of the tribe, in no uncertain terms, that we were going to Florida, to visit Uncle Smitty (yes, that Uncle Smitty) and we would by God enjoy ourselves. Perhaps, if all and sundry managed to exhibit good behavior, we could maybe, possibly, stop at the park on the way back to Mississippi.
Needless to say, the progeny behaved as angels all weekend. Even I managed to maintain a certain decorum and "kept my nose clean." The beach was fun, the visit was grand and...
"MOM!!! We need to leave now so we can see the battleship!"
So off we went and there I was able to walk the decks of the mighty USS ALABAMA. She is...
a South Dakota-class battleship and was the sixth ship of the United States Navy named after the state of Alabama. She was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was retired in 1962. In 1964, ALABAMA was taken to Mobile Bay and opened as a museum ship the following year. The ship was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1986. W
|USS ALABAMA, BB-60, today. (Source)|
There's something about these big gray ladies. Whether tied up to the pier or on the high seas, battleships inspire awe.
I remember the opening scenes from the movie Under Siege, not a bad film, not a great film, but that opening was breath taking. (Fast forward to the 0:31 mark and, yeah, go full screen.)
That's USS MISSOURI, BB-63, in the opening scene. From what I understand most of the exterior shots in the movie are of MISSOURI, but the interior scenes were done on ALABAMA. No doubt there were other sets involved but at least they had real battleships on hand.
One battleship with which I have a fairly close relationship is not too far from Chez Sarge. Murphy and I paid her a visit on a beautiful fall day last year. That would be the ship over at Battleship Cove over in the Bay State. The USS MASSACHUSETTS of course. Now it hit me the other day that I had never shared the photos I took on board Big Mamie. Their website has this to say (in part) about the old girl -
Battleship MASSACHUSETTS was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The ship was launched on September 23, 1941, the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. “Big Mamie”, as her crew knew her, was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month.
Battleship MASSACHUSETTS went into action on November 8, 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off the city of Casablanca, Morocco, the Battleship engaged in a gun duel with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, moored at a Casablanca pier. In this battle, Massachusetts fired the first American 16″ projectile in anger of World War II. Five hits from Big Mamie silenced the enemy battleship, and other 16″ shells from Battleship MASSACHUSETTS helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, a floating dry-dock, and heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca. The ship’s battle flag, holed by a shell from the Jean Bart, is on display in the Battleship.
Big Mamie’s 16″ guns pounded Iwo Jima and Okinawa before their invasion in 1945, and by July of that year she was off Japan with the Third Fleet. The Battleship bombarded the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Kamaishi, and then sailed south to bombard a factory at Hamamatsu. Returning to Kamaishi, Battleship MASSACHUSETTS fired the last American 16″ projectile of the war. With peace achieved, “Big Mamie” returned to the United States and operated with the Pacific Fleet until mid-1946, when she was ordered deactivated.You can still see shrapnel damage from her fight with Jean Bart near the ship's bell on the quarterdeck -
She's an awesome warship, it's nice having the old girl nearby.
I tried to get a few people into some of the shots to give you an idea of how big these ships were. The guy in the red shirt above is obvious. I didn't realize there was anyone in the next photo until I got home. So in the shot immediately below I drew you an arrow. The one after that, he's not so obvious.
These next three shots were taken inside the number one main battery turret. (Any battleship sailors can correct me on that terminology if I got it wrong. I'm only used to modern destroyers, the Arleigh Burkes only have a single turret, Mount 51 = 5 inch gun, most forward mount. Zumwalts have two, both forward, Mount 61 and Mount 62. She has 6 inch guns.)
|Powder charges on the loading tray.|
Inside the turret isn't that claustrophobic, though it's not that roomy. Getting into the turret was an adventure. The hatch is underneath the aft overhang of the turret. Ya gotta get low, ya gotta get small. Going in was kinda easy. Going out, not so much. I should have taken a picture, I was just too excited about being able to get into the gun mount!
|The deck is in rough shape in spots.|
|Yup, that's a BIG anchor.|
|Get Seaman Schmuckatelli out here on the double. I think he missed a spot when he was scraping and painting.|
|View from the bridge.|
|Dude, you can't sit there!|
|East German corvette alongside, prepare to repel boarders!|
Man, that was a good day!