Yesterday I visited Alabama's Battleship Memorial Park. Be advised: If you have not been, you must do so ASAP.
Having never before seen a battleship, I was amazed. The USS Alabama's massive 16-inch guns were undoubtedly one of the most incredible things I have seen. The shells were over 6 feet tall, and there were tons of them below decks circling the substructure beneath the guns. All I can say is that I am damn glad I wasn't born in Japan in the 20's. The gun sights still functioned, and although it was hot enough to boil water inside the turrets, I was able to peer through the same scopes that sailors used over 60 years ago in the European and Pacific Theaters.
The conning tower had 15 inches of armor surrounding it, and you could still climb inside and work the controls. 18 inches of armor plating made the ship weigh 90 million pounds - and yet it still floats. Apparently that was enough armor as no sailors lost their lives to enemy fire, although the Alabama shot down 22 enemy planes and was awarded nine battle stars, earning the ship the nickname "Lucky A."
130,000 horsepower powered this beast at speeds of up to 28 knots (I would love for one of Blackfive's readers to inform us how many gallons of fuel per miles it took to drive a battleship).
Next was the submarine the USS Drum, which was in phenomenal shape. I find it hard to see how 72 men could fit in a space clearly designed for only seven. The periscope still worked, and had the boat only been pointed in the proper direction, I could easily have "sunk" several parked cars (If Adm. Fluckey sunk a train, a car shouldn't be a stretch).
My family had a great time despite the fact that it was over 100 with the heat index. But both vessels were quite cool - especially below decks on the Alabama. I would advise that visitors plan to spend all day at the park. You could work the guns, see the chow hall, bunks, brig, navigation areas, and all the places that it took to keep the 2500-man ship afloat. There is just so much to see, and I feel that I cheated myself by only being there half of the day, and probably missed half of the tour. The tour is self-guided, but the supplied pamphlet and arrows painted on the ship are virtually fool-proof.
To cap off the day, Col. Glenn D. Frazier was in the welcome center signing his book, Hell's Guest. Col. Frazier is a TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT - at age 16 he lied about his age and entered the Army. He survived the Bataan Death March and 3-1/2 years of Japanese custody. And through his Common Sense Campaign, he still serves this great country all these years later. I had the honor of talking with him for the better part of an hour (thanks to a patient wife and surprisingly well-behaved children). I haven't been able to put his book down, except to drive and write this post.
The park is 100% privately funded. You must visit the museum, and you must also buy Col. Frazier's book.