Destination: Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston SC

I’d been to Charleston before, but hadn’t spent any appreciable amount of time there. So when I had the opportunity to make it an overnight stop on a recent road trip, I jumped at the chance. One of the places I most wanted to check out was the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, primarily for the chance to explore USS Yorktown (CV-10), a venerable aircraft carrier that served during World War II and beyond. I always have a blast roaming around museum ships.

I arrived in the afternoon, and knew I wanted to spend the most time on the Yorktown, so I headed that way first. The walk towards the ship certainly builds the excitement!

Stairs go up directly into the massive hangar deck, which is packed with displays of aircraft (like this SBD Dauntless dive-bomber), armament, scale models, and lots of signs and placards to browse. There’s also an excellent museum section dedicated to the history of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and those who have earned that honor over the years.

The artifacts and displays on board the ship are amazing, of course, but the ship itself is a treasure too. Her keel was laid at Newport News just six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Commissioned in April 1943, “The Fighting Lady” steamed through the Panama Canal to the Pacific theatre of World War II, launching combat operations across the region including the Phillippine Sea, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and even strikes against Japan itself. She went on to serve in the Korean War and Vietnam War, and then served as a recovery ship for the command module of Apollo 8 in 1968. Decommissioned in 1970, she’s been here in Charleston since 1975.

I’m always excited to see a Corsair (FG-1D in this case), my favorite WWII fighter plane.

A B-25 Mitchell bomber, commemorating the Doolittle raid on Japan in 1942. That raid was launched from the Yorktown’s sister ship Hornet (CV-8).

Lots of more modern aircraft to check out on the flight deck, like this F/A-18A Hornet.

F-4J Phantom II.

F-14 Tomcat.

A-7E Corsair II.

A-6E Intruder.

SH-3G Sea King helicopter.

Views from the bridge.

Down below the hangar deck, it’s a maze of spaces and corridors and ladders and hatches. There are a number of self-guided tour routes, generally well marked. Still easy to get lost down there!

Squadron briefing room.

Next to the Yorktown is berthed the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), another World War II-era ship with a rich history.

Built in Maine and commissioned in early 1944, Laffey quickly found herself supporting the Normandy landings on D-Day. Not long after that, she too headed to the Pacific theatre, supporting the efforts to capture Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

She earned her nickname, “The Ship That Would Not Die,” on April 16, 1945. On patrol near Okinawa, she was besieged by a swarm of dive bombers and kamikaze attacks. She was struck by 4 bombs, six kamikaze strikes, and gunfire from strafing. 32 crewmen were killed and another 71 wounded. But she remained afloat, and spent the rest of the war under repair. After serving in the Korean War, and in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea during the Cold War, she was decommissioned in 1975.

This new Combat Information Center (CIC) demo is pretty neat!

Near Laffey is the submarine USS Clamagore (SS-343), launched in 1945 but too late to participate in the war before it came to an end. She served in the Cold War for 30 years before being decommissioned in 1975, and is the only remaining GUPPY type III sub.

I might have been lucky to see this boat when I did–her exterior condition is deteriorating, and it looks like there’s a plan to sink her as an artificial reef in the not-too-distant future. Glad I got the chance to explore her before then!

Down the road from the museum is the Hog Island trail and observation deck, a short wooded walk to a very nice view of the Cooper River and passing boats.

As I passed back by the museum, I had to stop in again for some shots of the beautiful Ravenel Bridge and the Yorktown at dusk.

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum is located at Patriots Point, just across the Ravenel Bridge (US 17) from downtown Charleston. Hours may vary by season, but generally 9am-5pm on weekends, 10am-5pm on weekdays. Tickets and parking are reasonably priced (and go towards a great cause, preserving these historic ships!), and tickets may be purchased online. My time here was limited and I didn’t even see it all–there’s also a reproduction of a Vietnam War forward support base, which I’ll have to get back to check out! I would note that the ships by their very nature are not accessible for the handicapped or those with limited mobility–there are steep ladders/stairways and some small spaces. Agile and adventurous kids will have a great time, of course!

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