During a family trip to the Florida panhandle, we happened to pick a week when the weather was less than ideal for hanging out at the beach. For this reason, we began to seek out places to visit in the area with our grandkids where the rain would not hamper our fun. One day, we decided to visit the USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.
Although a visit to the battleship was not totally an indoor adventure, we were are able to visit the main deck of the ship and other accessible outdoor areas between rain showers.
Arriving at the Battleship Memorial Park, our first reaction was one of awe due to the enormity of the ship. All eyes were on her as we rolled into the parking lot for the tour. Being from the flat lands of Kansas, none of us regularly see these types of watercraft that navigate through oceans. To us, this battleship represented a world and military lifestyle none of us were exposed to at home.
Neither Gail or I were 100% confident the Grandkids would enjoy spending the day on the ship when we left the beachfront condo, but it turned into one of the most memorable days of the entire week. The kids truly enjoyed the experience.
In her prime, the USS Alabama was home to about 2,500 American sailors. She was an active battleship in World War II beginning in 1943 in the North Atlantic. Later that year, the ship relocated to the South Pacific and spent about 3 years patrolling the waters and fighting in live battles.
The ship developed a fierce reputation and over time was awarded 9 Battle Stars and was honorably nick-named “The Heroine of the Pacific”. The USS Alabama was also the lead ship of the American fleet that arrived in Tokyo Bay on September 5, 1945.
As we walked each deck, wondered down the narrow halls, and climbed steel ladders from one area to the next, I could not help but think of those sailors who were once housed in this vessel during wartime. Their experience on this ship was very different from ours since we were there as tourists and they were there on specific US missions.
I also had a sense of the teamwork aspect of the crew when the battleship was in operation. Each of the 2,500 sailors on the ship had specific jobs to do and each member of the crew depended on the other to do their job in order to improve their chances for survival.
Without a doubt, it was a daunting task to preform each day in calm and rough waters.
The fun part about visiting the battleship was having so much accessibility to it. Although there were some areas that were restricted for visitors, the majority of the ship was open to all. We walked every level of this ship and visited the areas where the sailors slept, ate and had down time. The most interesting areas to me were the engine rooms, kitchens and the observation decks.
Also located the grounds of the Battleship Memorial Park, is the Aircraft Pavilion which houses many naval airplanes and helicopters. The air crafts housed in the pavilion represent several eras and was interesting to see.
This memorial is also home of the USS Drum which is the oldest American submarine on public display.
I do not have any exterior pictures to the USS Drum because it was raining hard at the time and I did not slow down to take pictures. However, we did stop for some shots on the inside of the submarine. The vessel has very tight quarters as you might expect and it was hard to believe 72 crews member operated her during the war with Japan.
All said, we had a really good day and one could argue it may have been one of the highlights of our week long trip. Whether rain or shine we recommended the USS Alabama as a great place to stop and visit.