Location: Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
General Description: Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum consists of four main parts. The centerpiece of the museum is the USS Yorktown, an Essex class aircraft carrier that saw action in World War II and Korea. In two of the hanger decks and the flight deck are two dozen planes and jets that were flown from the carrier. The carrier also houses the Medal of Honor museum that celebrates all the soldiers given the Medal of Honor since the Civil War with some of their stories and personal memorabilia. In order of size, the next attraction is the USS Lafey, a World War II Sumner class destroyer that saw action at Normandy and the Pacific at Okinawa. Next would be the USS Clamagore, a Balao class submarine is a World War II diesel powered submarine. Finally is the Vietnam Support Base which is a recreation of a helicopter base used during the Vietnam War.
1) Plan on spending at least a full day to visit the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. We began the day on the USS Lafey so we could take a break for lunch before visiting the USS Yorktown. The self-guided tour of the USS Lafey took over an hour and is well worth the time. Be sure to take advantage of the film and sound presentation in the gun battery and the History Channel recreation of the amazing kamikaze attack off the coast of Okinawa. The USS Lafey somehow survived the attack of over 50 kamikaze and bombers earning the name “The Ship That Would Not Die.” Also take the time to talk to any of the volunteers on board, since they are all old sailors that served on the USS Lafey in the 1960s. They can give a unique perspective on life aboard the ship.
2) The USS Yorktown has 5 separate self guided tours that take you all over the carrier. However, even then you get to see less than 25% of the ship! The first tour is of the crew quarters and mess room. The second is the one of four massive engine and turbine rooms. The third tour is the flight deck and bridge where you can learn about all the planes and jets that have flown from the carrier. The fourth tour is of the ship’s memorial and models and the fifth takes you through officer country. I also took advantage of the audio tour which has 111 stops throughout the carrier. It was an excellent way to learn about each location without having to stop and read all the interpretive signs. It certainly sped me up, but it still took most of the afternoon.
3) There are over two dozen planes and jets in two of the hangers and on the flight deck. They span the entire life of the carrier from WWII through the Cold War. You can spend a couple of hours just learning about them and how the carrier was modified to handle them. It was interesting that only the bombers used the catapults during WWII and the Yorktown was the only aircraft carrier that continued to use hydraulic catapaults instead of being converted to steam powered.
4) The most surprising thing I saw were the two bridges. The upper bridge was for the Captain who was in command of the aircraft carrier. The second bridge just below the first was for the Vice Admiral and his staff who were in command of the task force. I also learned there were two other “bridges” on lower decks that could be used to steer the ship if the main bridges were taken out. I was also surprised to find an escalator on the carrier that was used by pilots to travel from their “ready” rooms in the bowels of the ship up to the flight deck.
5) We did not have the time to visit the submarine, the USS Clamagore and the Vietnam Base was closed for repairs. It would probably have taken another 2-3 hours to see the rest, which for us would be the better part of another day. A museum well worth seeing even though the price of admission was pretty large.