Summer’s End

Well, yesterday was the last day of summer in Florida, or at least as far as anyone under 18 is concerned because school is back in session today.

Rather than take the family to the beach like it seems so many (too many) families do as their excuse for a short vacation, the Kilted Kid and I joined our Boy Scout Troop on a campout to the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum, home of the USS Yorktown.

The USS Yorktown

The USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. Under construction as BON HOMME RICHARD, this new Essex-class carrier was renamed in honor of YORKTOWN (CV-5) sunk at the epic Battle of Midway (June 1942). Built in an amazing 16 ½ months at Newport News, Virginia, YORKTOWN was commissioned on April 15, 1943. World War II’s famous “Fighting Lady” would participate significantly in the Pacific offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. YORKTOWN received the Presidential Unit Citation and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II.

In the 1950s, YORKTOWN was modernized to operate jet aircraft as an attack carrier (CVA). In 1957, she was re-designated an anti-submarine aircraft carrier (CVS), and would later earn 5 battle stars for service off Vietnam (1965-68). The ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule (December 1968). YORKTOWN was decommissioned in 1970 and placed in reserve. In 1975, this historic ship was towed from Bayonne, NJ to Charleston to become the centerpiece of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.

Also on Site

Patriot’s Point is also the home of the USS LAFFEY (DD-724), the most decorated World War II era US Destroyer still in existence. DD-724 was named in honor of LAFFEY (DD-459), sunk during the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal (13 November 1942). Both ships were named in honor of Seaman Bartlett Laffey, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient. The ship earned the nickname “The Ship That Would Not Die” for her exploits during the D-Day invasion and the battle of Okinawa when she successfully withstood a determined assault by conventional bombers and the most unrelenting kamikaze air attacks in history. In the very near future, the Laffey will also be the focus of a Mel Gibson movie names Destroyer.

The only GUPPY III submarine preserved in the U.S., the USS CLAMAGORE (SS-343) is Patriots Point iconic Cold War submarine.

The Best Part

I love museums and militaria, but this museum has a distinct advantage over many others. As scouts, we had the opportunity to camp on the ship. When we arrived, we were assigned crew berths for our two-night stay, we ate in the crew mess, and got so real behind the scenes access. You can see from the picture above that it can get very crowded on that ship, but by the time the museum closed for the night, there were only about 20 of us left aboard. That allowed us alone or in small groups to take our time and explore many of the out of the way places on the ship.

There is nothing like exploring an abandoned engine room or checking out the steam catapult mechanism after dark. Plus, the hangar deck and the flight deck are literally covered with WWII to modern era planes – everything from a Corsair to a Hornet!

All in all, a great experience and a wonderful way to end the summer!