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The Freedom Letter
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Patriot's Point
12/25/2001
This is the second of my Carolina coast updates. Hope you have had a very Merry Christmas.
About an hours drive down US highway 17 from Pawleys Island is Patriot's Point. (Turn left just before the bridges to Charleston over the harbor.) Patriot's point has a number items of historical interest. Ships: The USS Yorktown (CV-10), The Destroyer Laffey, the submarine Clamagore, and the Coast guard cutter Ingham. They have a large gift shop, a few scattered antiaircraft guns, and some miscellaneous military aircraft. It is also a departure point for the Harbor dinner cruise and a tour boat to Fort Sumter. The carrier is, in my opinion, the most fascinating ship of the group. This is the 2nd Carrier to bear the name Yorktown. The first (CV-5) was lost during the battle of Midway in June of 1942. This one was commissioned in April of 1943. She is 888 feet long, and in her current configuration displaces 41,000 tons. This is contrast to our current class of carriers which range between 1100 and 1300 feet in length and displace between 90,000 and 100,000 tons. Amazing. Although the Yorktown is "small" by comparison, It is still huge. A very impressive sight. For her service in WW2 she and her gallant crew were awarded 11 battle stars. She was in active service until 1970. One of her last official missions was the recovery of the Apollo 8 astronauts in December of 1968. (The fact that I remember this is an indication of my age!) She was towed from New Jersey to her present berth in 1975. She was opened to the public about a year later. The WW2 carriers had wooden decks without the angles and number of exterior elevators carriers have today. Yorktown was modified in the 1950's adding an angled deck, an additional elevator on the port side, and paving over the original wood. (Her original tonnage was only 27,000.) All carriers are little floating cities. Yorktown carried a crew of 3100 enlisted men and an officer corps of 400. In the prop driven era, about 90 planes. She has oil fired boilers, and the dining, medical, and living space consumerate with the size of her crew. There are eight self-guided tours available. All begin on the hangar deck. You are allowed to go in to most of the places in the ship. The bridge, the main deck, sick bay, enlisted living quarters, officers quarters, enlisted mess, officers mess, engine room, and other work areas. Ships of this size are fascinating, especially when military in nature. On the main deck are a few helicopters and Navy fighters and fighter/bombers. An F-14, an F-4, an A-3 Corsair, and an A-6 to name a few. On the hangar deck are some WW2 era fighters. A Wildcat, a Hellcat, a Corsair, a Skyraider and a couple of others. Well worth the admission charge, even if your family prematurely bails out on you like mine!
I made a quick run through the Clamagore and the Laffey before departure. The Clamagore was the last diesel-electric submarine in service at the time of her decommissioning in 1975. She began her service in June of 1945, which means WW2 was over before she could see combat. She was involved in the Cuban blockade in 1962 among other cold-war duties. She is 325 feet long and displaces 1800 tons. She carried a crew of 80. WW2 submarines make you think a small bathroom is big. Everything is cramped. You have to crouch down to get through the watertight doors, compartment to compartment. If you don't like cramped spaces, you should probably not sign up for submarine duty! I have toured similar subs in both San Francisco and Baltimore, so this one was familiar.
The Laffey is the second destroyer to bear the name. She began her service in February of 1944. She was involved the Normandy invasion in June of that year, and then later saw duty in the Pacific at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Before her service ended in 1975 she saw action in Korea and the Mediterranean. Destroyers are small compared to Battleships and Cruisers. Her length is 376 feet and she displaces 2,200 tons. Her crew totaled 340.
I have seen a bigger Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore and did not want to have to walk back to Pawleys Island, so I dispensed with the tour of the Ingham.
Next: Battery row and Fort Sumter.
P.S. The five of us rode in a Cadillac Deville courtesy of Enterprise rent a car. I sat in the back with Michael and my Mother. I do not believe I have ever been in a car for more than an hour that was more uncomfortable. At times I felt like climbing out of the window! The back seat is cramped in every dimension I can think of. With only four, it would probably be fine. With five it is truly awful. What has happened to the full size Cadillac?
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