Battleship Cove, America’s Fleet Museum is excited to announce the unveiling of a bold new vision - "A Sailor’s Life: The Story Behind the Steel."
The million-dollar re-interpretation project, made possible by the Manton Family Foundation, peels back the layers of steel to reveal the personal stories of the brave individuals who served aboard USS Massachusetts berthed at Battleship Cove.
The experience starts from the parking lot, giving visitors teasers of what is to come, and leads them on an incredible journey through our Nation’s past with four new tours, new exhibits, refurbished areas and interactives. The museum aims to provide experiences where visitors can make personal connections by immersing themselves in the history of the battleship and her crew.
Four self-guided tours focus on different themes: World War II, the crew, the topside of the ship, and below decks. All are color-coded and lead visitors along a set path. The tours begin with an orientation film in a newly designed theater in the Memorial Room.
Battleship Massachusetts was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The ship was launched on September 23, 1941, the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. "Big Mamie", as her crew knew her, was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month.
Battleship Massachusetts went into action on November 8, 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off the city of Casablanca, Morocco, the Battleship engaged in a gun duel with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, moored at a Casablanca pier. In this battle, Massachusetts fired the first American 16" projectile in anger of World War II. Five hits from Big Mamie silenced the enemy battleship, and other 16" shells from Battleship Massachusetts helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, a floating dry-dock, and heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca. The ship’s battle flag, holed by a shell from the Jean Bart, is on display in the Battleship.
After a refit in Boston, the ship went through the Panama Canal in February 1943 to join the action in the Pacific, where she would remain for the remainder of her 3 1/2 years of active service. The Battleship saw action in the New Guinea-Solomons area and participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943, the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the powerful carrier strikes against Truk in February 1944, and a series of raids against Japanese bases in the Western Pacific and Asia.
Following modernization and a refit in Bremerton, Washington, she returned to action in September 1944 for the invasion of the Palau Islands and acted as an escort for the fast carrier task forces using her extensive armament to defend the carriers against enemy aircraft.
Big Mamie's 16" guns pounded Iwo Jima and Okinawa before their invasion in 1945, and by July of that year she was off Japan with the Third Fleet. The Battleship bombarded the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Kamaishi, and then sailed south to bombard a factory at Hamamatsu. Returning to Kamaishi, Battleship Massachusetts fired the last American 16" projectile of the war. With peace achieved, "Big Mamie" returned to the United States and operated with the Pacific Fleet until mid-1946, when she was ordered deactivated. The Battleship remained in the Reserve Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia until she was stricken from the Navy Register in 1962 and ordered sold for scrap.
However, her wartime crew had held annual reunions since 1945 and lobbied to save their ship as a memorial. With the assistance of Massachusetts school children, they raised enough money to bring Big Mamie to Fall River in June 1965. She was opened to the public two months later. Now the centerpiece of the collection at Battleship Cove and one of the five National Historic Landmark ships here, "Big Mamie" stands ready to welcome visitors from around the nation and across the world as she has for nearly a half century.
Destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., known by her crew as the "Joey P.," was laid down April 2, 1945, by the Bethlehem Steel Company at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, MA. Launched on July 26, 1945, and commissioned on December 15, 1945, she was completed in only 8 months, reflective of the fast pace of shipbuilding during the last year of the Second World War.
Homeported in nearby Newport, RI, Kennedy spent the next 27 years performing countless duties. Following commissioning, she spent the rest of the decade conducting training exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and executed peacekeeping duties as a member of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. On February 3, 1951, she joined the carrier task force attacking North Korean positions. In May of that year she stood off Wonsan, North Korea, using her 5" guns for nearly a month of continuous bombardment duty. Kennedy left the war zone and arrived back in the States in August 1951, and for the next few years she completed several Sixth Fleet tours of duty, midshipmen cruises, and joint NATO maneuvers.
In early 1961 she operated in the Caribbean, assisting with the first Mercury space flights. She arrived at New York Naval Shipyard in July for renovation under the FRAM I (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) program. This conversion afforded her new anti-submarine gear, a helicopter hangar and flight deck, and other improvements designed to extend her useful life. Following a post-refit shakedown cruise, she returned to Newport in September 1962 to embark President John F. Kennedy for his observation of that year's America's Cup Races.
In October Kennedy was dispatched to the Caribbean to participate in the naval blockade of Cuba. It was here on October 26 that Kennedy stopped and boarded the Greek freighter Marucla, suspected of ferrying missile components to Cuba.
From the early 1960s until her decommissioning in 1973, Kennedy again performed innumerable duties, including her role as a recovery vessel during the Gemini space program. She was stricken from the Naval Register of Ships in 1973 and acquired by Battleship Cove in 1974. In Spring 2000, Kennedy was towed to Rhode Island Sound to portray herself and her sister ship USS John R. Pierce (DD753) in the Kevin Costner film entitled "Thirteen Days,” which recreated the events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A National Historic Landmark, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is home to the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen's Museum and serves as the official memorial to Bay State citizens who gave their lives during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
A Balao-class submarine, USS Lionfish was laid down on 15 December 1942, launched on 7 November 1943, and commissioned on 1 November 1944. Her first captain was Lt. Cdr. Edward D. Spruance, son of the famous World War II admiral, Raymond Spruance.
After completing her shakedown cruise off New England, she headed to the Pacific and commenced her first war patrol in Japanese waters on 1 April 1945. Ten days later, she dodged two torpedoes fired at her by a Japanese submarine and on 1 May destroyed a Japanese schooner with her deck guns. After a rendezvous with the submarine Ray, she transported B-29 survivors to Saipan and then made her way to Midway Island for replenishment.
On 2 June she started her second war patrol, and on 10 July she fired torpedoes at a surfaced Japanese submarine, after which Lionfish’s crew heard explosions and observed smoke through their periscope. She subsequently fired on two more Japanese submarines and ended her second and last war patrol performing lifeguard duty (the rescue of downed fliers) off the coast of Japan.
When hostilities ended on 15 August she headed for San Francisco and was decommissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard on 16 January 1946.
Lionfish was recommissioned on 31 January 1951, and headed for the East Coast for training cruises. After participating in NATO exercises and a Mediterranean cruise, she returned to the East Coast and was decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 15 December 1953.
In 1960, this venerable submarine was called to duty again, this time serving as a reserve training submarine at Providence, Rhode Island. In 1971, she was stricken from the Navy Register, and in 1973, she was unveiled for permanent display as a memorial at Battleship Cove, where she has evolved into one of the museum’s most popular exhibits and a revered monument to all submariners.
As designed, the PT boat's primary mission was for advanced base operations in foreign countries, and to defend coastal waters from capital ships, but additional missions were assumed throughout the course of World War II.
The Higgins and Elco Boat companies built a majority of United States PT Boats. Designs varied, but these boats were generally 80' in length and carried a beam (width) of 20'. Typical armaments included four torpedoes and an assortment of 40 mm, 37 mm, 20 mm, and .50 caliber machine guns, depth charges, and rocket launchers. Three Packard Marine gasoline engines powered the boats to a top speed of 45 knots.
At the end of World War II, the expense of returning PT boats to the United States from overseas was considered prohibitive, so most boats were stripped of useful materials and burned. Despite the paucity of remaining boats, and the dwindling number of surviving PT veterans, these legendary vessels continue to captivate the imagination of history enthusiasts worldwide.
PT 617, an Elco (Naval Division of Electric Boat Company) boat nicknamed "Dragon Lady," missed World War II, but served as a training vessel and a diving platform in Florida. PT Boats, Inc., the national organization of PT veterans, acquired her in extremely poor condition and restored her over five years in Melville, Rhode Island.
The same type of vessel piloted by President John Kennedy, PT 617 was towed to Battleship Cove in 1986 and placed on display with PT 796. Collectively, these two vessels and the National PT Museum on board Battleship Massachusetts represent the world's largest collection of PT artifacts and memorabilia.
PT 617 is the only example of an Elco-built PT boat on display in the world.
PT 796, a Higgins boat nicknamed "Tail Ender," did not see service in World War II, but was assigned to a Navy ordnance testing station in Panama City, Florida, where she was actively used to develop specialized equipment for Vietnam river patrols.
In 1961, she joined her present berthmate USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in Washington, DC, where each participated in President Kennedy's inaugural celebration. Although she is a Higgins boat, PT 796 was painted with the hull number "109" and towed as a float through the President's inaugural parade. Decommissioned July 7, 1970, the boat was signed over to J.M. "Boats" Newberry, founder of PT Boats, Inc., the organization that restored and brought her to Battleship Cove in the 1970s. On August 14, 1975, VJ Day, 796 was dedicated at Battleship Cove, where she continues to be exhibited inside an authentic WWII Quonset hut.
Both PT 617 and PT 796 are National Historic Landmarks.
As home to the National PT Boat Museum, Battleship Cove displays the world's largest collection of PT boat artifacts and memorabilia. The PT Boats are complemented by a vast assemblage of ephemera collected by WWII PT boaters in the Pacific and Atlantic theaters, artifacts that help us to appreciate not only the heritage of PT boaters but also the diverse cultures (Japanese, German, Italian, French, and British) of the regions from which these items were drawn.
Originally commissioned by the East German People's Navy (the Volksmarine) as the Rudolf Eglehofer, the Hiddensee is a Tarantul I class corvette built at the Petrovsky Shipyard, St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), Russia. The only exhibited example of a Soviet-built missile corvette in the U.S., Hiddensee was designed to oppose any naval threat to the East German Coast, and to fulfill this mission carried long-range STYX anti-ship missiles and an array of defensive weapons designed to ensure her own survivability.
Following the reunification of Germany, the Hiddensee served with the Federal German Navy until her decommissioning in April 1991. Shortly thereafter she was reactivated and transferred to the U.S. Navy. Joined briefly by a crew of 20 former East German sailors, a small civilian U. S. crew conducted extensive testing with the vessel at the Navy's Solomons, Maryland, facility in the Patuxnet River. After 50 underway deployments in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Capes areas, Navy budget cutbacks severely curtailed operations, but she continued on as a research vessel until April 1996.
The Hiddensee joined the Battleship Cove fleet on June 14, 1997.
”Women Protecting US” highlights the contributions made by women to our nation’s defense from the American Revolution to the present with themed displays that feature women’s military reserve units, nursing, and clandestine operations. A not-to-be-missed three-dimensional “Rosie the Riveter/Winnie the Welder” display focuses on women’s roles on the Home Front during World War II.
This space is dedicated to the men and ships that stood picket duty off our East and West coasts during the Cold War. Their homes were renovated World War II liberty ships, and their stories are told with models, oral histories, maritime artifacts, and a recreated picket ship radar room!
Battleship Cove is home to the unique National PT Boats Veterans’ Museum, which proudly represents all 43 World War II squadrons in an enormous collection of photos, insignia, personal articles, and other memorabilia, including the PT boat model used in the filming of the epic 1965 John Wayne classic, “In Harm’s Way.”
This cruiser saw service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and when she finally retired in 1971, “The Fighting Saint” had logged an amazing record-breaking career. Guarded at its entrance by a 14’ all-copper radio/radar test model, this extraordinary exhibit covers all aspects of Saint Paul’s service. An interactive navigation light display is a visitor favorite!