Student Write-Up of Trip to Battleship Cove
Last Sunday, while a majority of the northeast was hunkering down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, a group of students from Professor Nolan’s History of War class traveled to Battleship Cove. Battleship Cove, fastened between the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay, is located one hour west of Boston in the historic city of Fall River Massachusetts, a one-time textile powerhouse. A nonprofit maritime museum and war memorial, Battleship Cove is home to multiple exhibits and naval vehicles including the Battleship USS Massachusetts, the USS Lionfish Submarine, and the USS Joseph P. Kennedy JR.
I caught my first glimpse of battleship cove as our bus drove along the waterfront and over a bridge running parallel to the site. The first impression is awe striking. The floating artillery platforms make everything around them look minuscule and vulnerable. The words “power,” “steel,” “coercion” popped into my head, recalled in a flash from the textbooks we’ve been reading and the lectures we’ve been hearing from Professor Nolan. What better place to be on the eve of a Hurricane?
Inside the museum, we were greeted by an authentic WWII amphibious landing vehicle similar to the vehicles used during the Allied powers invasion of Normandy. It was a remarkable sight. Unfortunately, due to the weakening steel, the vehicle was roped off preventing guests from standing on the platform.
Next, we proceeded up the gangplank to board the USS Joseph P Kennedy Jr., a Gearing-class destroyer that served in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. We were stepping aboard this ship on October 28th — exactly 50 years after the confrontation in Cuba had ended. Walking on the decks laden with Anti Aircraft turrets and destroyer guns were incredible, but what lay below deck was a bigger surprise. Below deck, the reality of the sailor’s under deck existence was neatly and economically laid out, including a small convenience store, bedrooms the size of closets with four bunks in each of them, and doctor’s office. Space was tight, but little did I know, I hadn’t seen anything yet.
Next it was down the gangplank and onto the deck of the USS Lionfish, a naval submarine that patrolled the pacific during WWII and sunk three Japanese vehicles. She was also later commissioned to patrol the waters off the Pacific and Atlantic during the cold war. On the deck of the Lionfish we were able to climb up and mount the deck guns—kind of a thrill — but the true adventure lay below deck. The Kennedy was a luxury hotel compared to this sardine can. The front and rear of the sub had torpedo stations and in-between lay a radar room, a kitchen, and even a dinning room. I admit that I was immediately claustrophobic, saved only by the fact we were docked above water and I could turn around and run out. It was pretty impossible to imagine how a sailor would feel underwater in this metal fortress for weeks on end. After emerging from the Lionfish, the cold and damp sea air felt good.
Next it was on to Battleship Cove’s main attraction. The USS Massachusetts is the largest ship at Battleship Cove. Boasting nine 16-inch guns capable of firing 2,700 pound armor piercing shells and displacing 35,000 tons she was rightly referred to her crew of over 1,500 men as “Big Mamie.” The Massachusetts was commissioned in 1939 and complete in 1942 and served in South Dakota class during WWII. Among her peers (ships with 16 inch guns) she stands out for being believed to have fired the first and last shots of WWII. The Massachusetts is nothing short of a floating steel fortress. Her deck is enormous, stretching over 600 feet, and is comprised of over 120 different guns. Below, her three levels create a city that holds everything a sailor could need (so thought the Navy) including a full Barbershop, a full surgery station, dining halls, and various artillery loading stations. Below deck, The Battleship Massachusetts also holds a museum comprised of two different levels of naval exhibits that include everything from actual WWII artifacts to model ships and airplanes. There were times, while exploring the ship, when I totally forgot that I was on board a floating vehicle. We ended our tour with a lunch of fish and chips, chicken fingers, and hamburgers in the ships mess hall.
Battleship Cove is a wonderful attraction and provides guests with a small piece of living history. Anyone with a curiosity for history or the military will appreciate all that Battleship Cove has to offer.
For Visitor’s information visit: http://www.battleshipcove.com