Last week, Yang and I finally got the opportunity to do something we’ve been promising ourselves for years: visit Battleship Cove. As someone who is fascinated by the WWII years and who had a father who served in the Navy, this was a special treat for me. I’ve long heard of my Dad’s various adventures, both in the Armed Guard doing convoy duty in the North and South Atlantic and on the U.S.S, Hudson in the Pacific Theatre. Here’s a picture of the Hudson (DD475) from the USS Hudson Homepage.
We first checked out a landing vehicle, then moved on to two different PT Boats. These guys were supposed to be small, but the one we photographed looks awfully intimidating. Maybe its the big shark’s maw painted on it? Small, though they may have been considered, they were pretty darned effective with their wooden construction giving them speed and agility and their firepower allowing them to take some nasty bites out of the enemy tonnage.
I was especially interested in USS Jospeh P. Kennedy, because, as it was a destroyer built during WWII, I thought it might give me a good idea of the type of vessel on which my Dad served. The Kennedy wouldn’t be an exact match, as a Gearing-class destroyer, where the Hudson was a Fletcher-class. The Gearing class is somewhat bigger, and this ship was in its 1970s update state; however, I thought I might still get something of an idea. I can’t get over how you can pack so many people in this space, though it is a big ship. When I was in the rooms where the men slept, I pitied the 60 or so guys my Dad must have tortured with his snoring. They must have thought they were under attack! I was also struck with how athletic you have to be to get around and stay on your feet with the steep climbs and the narrow corridors – and I didn’t have to contend with roaring seas or battle conditions! I was stiff for days afterwards! Still, the space was luxurious compared to what we saw on the submarine Lionfish – more about that later.
My Dad was a gunner on the Hudson, Sfc, but I don’t think he said he was on one of these monsters. If you look at the second picture, you see the red circle warning you to stay outside the guns’ turn radius. You wouldn’t want to get hit by this monster – unless you’d always had a hankering to turn into a pancake. You’ll notice that I was going down the stairs here. Too steep to descend facing down! I think guys used to almost slide down with both hands on the rails. But I could be wrong.
I found this picture online of the Hudson’s crew in 1945, and I think I can pick out my Dad. He’s the one with the beard and the cocky expression on the right, in the second row, behind the last seated guy on the right with his cap on. I know that expression well! You better click on the picture and enlarge! My Dad had a wonderful album from his Navy days, but either my brother or one of my nephews has it now. I really want to get my hands on it so that I can scan the pictures! If you click here, you can see the crew list with my Dad’s name! This is also from the Hudson Homepage. For more history of the Hudson, you can also click here.
Finally, we went on the WWII sub, the Lionfish. this was my second visit to a WWII-era sub, as Yang and I had also scrambled through the Tigershark in Baltimore Harbor many years back. All I can say is, tall or wide people don’t bother! It’s amazing how much equipment and machinery you can cram into such a narrow passage. What killed me was moving from compartment to compartment, because the hatches require you to step up and pull your legs up and along to get through. Now you know why you see guys grab the hatchways on either side and swing their legs straight through. It’s only for the young! I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy bunking over a torpedo, either. Maybe that’s just me!
By the time we finished the destroyer and the sub, we didn’t have it in us to explore the battleship, the biggest of the lot! So, another day, another visit! This display of ships was a cool experience. Oh, and we did see that the sailors weren’t the only ones in dress whites that day.