Mt. Pleasant, SC
Charleston, South Carolina has long been a popular tourist destination. Why not? It offers an historical district of some of the finest preserved early American homes, fabulous shopping and restaurants, antebellum plantations, the South Carolina Aquarium, great beaches and a temperate climate. Located just a few minutes from the major downtown attractions, just across the Cooper River via the striking Ravenel Bridge is Patriot’s Point.
If you’re a navel veteran or military buff, you will want to spend a day, maybe two, at Patriot’s Point. How often do you get the chance to wander around an aircraft carrier like the USS Yorktown (CV-10)? Plus, they also have the Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Inghan (WHEC-35) open for tours. Also on site is a World War II Korean War ear Destroyer, the USS Laffey (DD-724). The Laffey won a Presidential Unit Citation for action off Okinawa, April 16, 1945. Also available for touring is the USS Clamagore (SS-343). The Clamagore is diesel submarine constructed near the end of World War II but arrived too late to see action. Until it was replaced with a fleet of nuclear submarines and decommissioned in 1975 and, it was a front line submarine during the Cold War.
If you’re coming to Charleston for a visit then the USS Yorktown is a must see. Looming on the horizon just across the harbor from the Charleston historical district, it is hard to miss. From downtown Charleston it is a quick trip up East Bay Street to the Ravenel Bridge the view from the top is amazing. Stay in the right lane there are a bunch of them on this new bridge and the first main street to the right leads to Patriot’s Point.
The Yorktown alone is a full day if you try to see it all in one bite. Be sure to wear your walking shoes. There is a lot to see but there are narrow steps and tight quarters. If you have trouble walking, climbing narrow stairs or you’re claustrophobic, this may not be the attraction for you. They have done an excellent job with signage and there are tons of historic pictures of the The Fighting Lady and her predecessor the CV-5 which was sunk in the Battle of Midway but not before it helped destroy the bulk of the Japanese fleet in the Pacific including 4 of their 6 aircraft carriers. The Battle of Midway likely shortened the war in the Pacific by at least one year, maybe two.
The USS Yorktown that resides at Patriot’s Point is the CV-10. It was under construction at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. at the time of the sinking of the CV-5 it was originally was going to be named the Bon Homme Richard. With the loss of the CV-5, it was decided to rename the ship the USS Yorktown. It played a major role in World War II, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam. The USS Yorktown is the oldest aircraft carrier still afloat.
Inside the Yorktown is the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum which is currently being remodeled. If it is open when you visit, do not miss this exhibit. It is both moving and inspiring. Also on the hanger deck is a mock up of the Apollo 8 spacecraft that was pulled from the ocean by the aircraft carrier. Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders were the first humans to orbit around the Moon. On January 3, 1969 they were on the cover of Time magazine as Men of the Year. Also on the hanger deck is a flight simulator that allows you to land a space shuttle.
Throughout the ship you can get glimpses of what daily life on an aircraft carrier was like. From bunks to mess halls, from the engine room to navigation, from the laundry to the infirmary, it is all open for touring. The beauty of the self guided tour is that you can set your own pace. One suggestion, don’t move too quickly and fight the urge to skip sections. Tucked in unusual corners are some really interesting displays. For example, deep in the bowels of the great ship is an interesting display of the Charleston shipyard and dry dock. The real crowd pleaser of the USS Yorktown is the flight deck.
On the flight deck is a collection of 25 different airplanes and helicopters including: an A-4 Skyhawk, an A-6 Intruder, an A-7 Corsair, an F-4 Phantom, an F-9 Cougar, and an F-14 Tomcat the recently retired fighter made famous by Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Bring your camera for this stop. Not only are the aircraft interesting, the views of Charleston just across the bay and the Ravenel Bridge are spectacular.
Note: it can be quite windy on the flight deck and it may feel 10 degrees colder than the Mt. Pleasant shoreline. Dress accordingly.
If that not enough history for you, from Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant you can also take a boat tour of Ft. Sumter the place the American Civil War began. There is also a recreation of a Vietnam era base station to tour.
Patriot’s Point also features an 18 hole professional golf course and some nice accommodations. Plus it is only a few minutes from Shem Creek and some of the best seafood restaurants not only in Mt. Pleasant but in the entire country.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
40 Patriots Point Road
Mount Pleasant SC 29464-4377
1-866-831-1720 (toll free)