What I Did on My Summer Vacation: The USS Alabama

Traveling with my hubby is always an adventure, and when you add Naval history to the mix he becomes like a little boy just waiting for the next adventure.
So was the case with as we made a stop-over in Mobile, Alabama and visited the magnificent battleship USS Alabama and submarine, USS Drum as we made our way to Palm Beach for yet another meeting.

The keel of the USS Alabama was laid in 1940 as hostilities across the Atlantic were heating up in Europe between the British, French and Nazi’s, but America was not yet at war.  This particular ship was the 8th to bare the name Alabama and completed her sea trials in 1942.  Weighing 44,500 tons and 680 feet from bow to stern,  She was immediately put into service in the Atlantic Ocean sailing from Norfolk, Virginia with a job of protecting Russian and British convoys.  After a brief period in this role, The Alabama was sent to the Pacific clearing the Panama Canal in August 1943.

In the Pacific the USS Alabama and her crew of sailors and marines served valiantly in the Pacific war against Japan, accomplishing all of her assigned tasks.  She saw 37 months of action, participating in nine major battles of the Pacific.  During this time she never saw any causalities or suffered damage from enemy fire;  a huge accomplishment!
After the end of the war, the Alabama dropped anchor in Tokyo briefly and then took on 3700 servicemen to travel back to the US arriving in at the Port of San Francisco on Navy Day, 27 October 1945, bringing our boys home form war.

Her service was complete.  Unlike many ships of the time, the USS Alabama only saw action in WWII and was decommissioned quickly; 1947.

Due to the cost of trying to maintain the “Peacetime Navy”, in 1962 it was decided that the Alabama (along with several other great ships) would be scrapped.  Shortly thereafter a campaign was launched to bring the mighty ship to Alabama as a memorial to the many sailors and soldiers from Alabama who had served.

Alabama school children raised almost $100,000 in mostly nickels, dimes, and quarters to help bring her home to her final resting place.

Having parents born and raised in Alabama as kids of the Baby Boom, the USS Alabama means a lot to both of them.  They were two of the school children who donated their hard-earned changed to help with this effort.  They were given a gift for their contributions; each received a lifetime pass to visit the great battleship in Mobile Bay.

In 1972, seven years after the ship opened to the public, they finally got a chance to use those passes for the first time.  It was also my first visit to the beautiful and historic ship.

Dad & Momma were just 22 years old here!
A lot has changed since that 1972 visit which Audley and I were able to enjoy on our own trip.
No longer is the Ship the memorial, but the state has constructed an entire Memorial Park dedicated to all the soldiers and sailors from Alabama who has served and even lost their lives for our country throughout many wars.  There is no way to post pictures of everything, but here are a few highlights of the Memorial Park and the USS Alabama.

 

 

The Vietnam Memorial

 

 

Replica of the Vietnam Wall containing the names of Alabama’s men and women who were killed in this conflict.  My father has several classmates whose names are etched here.  It’s a very moving and sobering spot to visit.
Seeing the open guns reminded me of how vulnerable of our servicemen really are when they are out fighting for us.

 

The travels and battles of the USS Alabama

 

 

 

Bunks for the sailors and marines onboard…. close quarters for sure!

 

Shipboard amenities for servicemen away from home.
Telegraph/Mail room
The command center of the ship
The Alabama’s service record is permanently recorded on the side of the ship.

While touring the ship I learned so much about the lives of the men on board, how they lived everyday and how they fought to protect our freedoms.

One thing I found so fascinating was the Presentation silver displayed.  While it was removed for it’s own protection during the war, generally it is left on board.

Here’s  little history on the presentation silver:  During the 18th century it became traditional for cities and states to present silver serviced to the warships bearing their names upon commissioning.  This silver service was designed for use on formal occasions such as port visits attended by local dignitaries. The US Navy withdrew silver services from all warships in WWII, leaving Alabama’s service stored in the State’s archives during the ship’s active service.  The silver was placed on board the USS Alabama for display in 1967 but has never been formally transferred from the state archives.

The USS ALABAMA’s presentation silver.
Besides home to the USS Alabama, Battleship Memorial Park is also the final destination of the USS Drum a WWII era submarine that was launched in 1941 and was donated to the USS Alabama battleship commission in 1969.
Since I married a Submariner, visiting the USS Drum was very important to Audley.  As he descended the steps into her hull he inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of submarine living still in the air after all these years.
I found it all quite emotional actually.
Audley in the control rooms of the sub looking at navigation charts.
Yes, those are beds, both over and under the torpedo.  Yes, that is how our sailors sleep.
The tiny kitchen where meals were cooked for the men serving on board
The officers were spoiled, just a little, although they still didn’t have much space.
Some of the USS Drum’s presentation silver
The USS Drum’s service record in WWII.

 

Audley & I on deck of the USS DRUM.
I hope you enjoyed a little of our visit to Mobile and the Battleship Memorial Park.  I know military history can seem rather boring, especially for a female, but I can assure you, a stop at one of our nation’s many military memorials will sure give you an whole new perspective and appreciation on our men and women who have and who continue to serve.
Next on our adventure we enjoyed a little R&R in Palm Beach, Florida complete with dinner by the ocean, shopping millionaires row and some high-end antiquing!

5 thoughts on “What I Did on My Summer Vacation: The USS Alabama

  1. Hi Jen, living in Va., I have visited Norfolk and all its mighty ships. To see so many in one place is an amazing sight! I enjoyed this tour so much. Talk about claustrophobic…I don't know if I could sleep in such close quarters. Enjoy your week! xo

  2. Jen, I've been here a few times on the iPad and can't get a comment to fly so I'm back…finally…on the PC.

    Before I forget, please thank Audley for his service on a submarine. I can't think of anything much more challenging. It takes a special person to serve in that way. My cap is doffed and I mean that sincerely.

    Very interesting information. It is a most impressive site that Alabama has created to honor those who have served. (It is also interesting that you were there at such an early age. Your mama's top reminds me of one I wore six years later with my son…oddly enough…guess fashion didn't change that much.)

    You two are looking fabulous!

  3. Pingback: What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Palm Beach | Fiddle Dee Dee

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