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Battleship Cove July 23, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Battleship Cove in Fall River. This museum features several warships and exhibits that highlight World War II.

Here are eight nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Patrol torpedo (or “PT”) boats served as a formidable weapon during World War II. One of the most notable actions featuring PT boats involved PT Squadron 3, which rescued General MacArthur from approaching Japanese forces on Corregidor. PT boats had fairly sizable crews that consisted of motor machinist mates, gunnery mates, a radioman, a quartermaster, a cook and several officers. At the outset of the conflict they were primarily used to attack enemy ships with torpedoes and depth charges; as the war progressed they played a larger role in terms of shore bombardments and harassment of enemy infantry.

2. As World War II drew to a close, the Office of Strategic Services developed a new class of semi-submersible sea vessels. The codename of these vessels was “GIMIK” and they were designed for operations by Koreans and Korean-Americans who were recruited by the OSS. The OSS wanted these recruits to use the GIMIK vessels to launch raids, perform sabotage and gather intelligence in Korea. Also, the OSS wanted to use the GIMIK vessels as part of the planned invasion of Japan in Operation Olympic. After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though, the GIMIK vessels were effectively scrapped.

3. The USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. saw action in the Korean War, as she participated in the 1951 bombardment of Wonsan. She would later intercept the Lebanese freighter Marucla during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the U.S. suspected that the Marucla was actually transporting missile components to Cuba. The USS Kennedy would be featured in the film Thirteen Days about that tension-filled period in October 1962.

4. The USS Massachusetts was constructed at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Perhaps her most famous engagement occurred at the outset of Operation Torch, when she exchanged fire with the Jean Bart; in this case, she distinguished herself by scoring five direct hits on the Jean Bart, disabling her. She would later participate in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and she would conclude her service in World War II with a bombardment of the Kamaishi Iron Works in Japan.

5. At the height of World War II, the USS Massachusetts featured eighteen 40mm quad gun mounts. Each of these 40mm guns could fire 120 rounds per minute. Each quad gun mount was manned by a crew of thirteen, with two crew members tasked with operating a Mark gun director. A hybrid electric-hydraulic drive system powered each gun mount, controlling its cooling system along with making adjustments in its train and elevation. The director played an essential role in terms of determining the speed and range of enemy planes.

6. U.S. naval torpedoes had a failure rate of over 70 percent at the outset of World War II. This alarming statistic stemmed from 1) the difficulty of maintaining a proper depth for a given torpedo, and 2) the presence of a rather complicated exploder that relied on a precise tension in its firing pin. These issues were later corrected after extensive testing by the Navy. Interestingly, at the outset of the conflict, U.S. naval torpedoes were completely outclassed by Japan’s “Long Lance” oxygen-fueled torpedoes.

7. John Shafroth was the commander of a division of four battleships that included the USS Massachusetts. Standing a shade over six feet and weighing about 260 pounds, he was regarded as the largest admiral in U.S. naval history. He was famous for carrying a bar of soap (or some chalk) on his inspection of a given battleship; if he had difficulty navigating any part of that ship, he would mark that section – with the expectation that it would later be modified to accommodate his large frame.

8. David Bushnell created the Turtle submersible. She was powered by a hand crank, and she had ballast tanks that allowed her occupant to control her depth. She was designed to allow her occupant to sneak up on British ships during the Revolutionary War – and then her occupant would attach a mine to their wooden hulls. Unfortunately, her initial assault on the HMS Eagle was foiled by the fact that the Eagle had a metal hull.

The museum featured an amazing collection of artifacts, including a well-designed PT Boat Museum that featured flotsam and jetsam that PT boat crews collected during World War II. I enjoyed roaming through the USS Massachusetts and I gained an appreciation for her wartime status as a floating city. I also enjoyed exploring the missile corvette USNS Hiddensee, which was constructed by the Soviets at Leningrad for the East German Navy; it was amusing to see Cyrillic terms on various gadgets being labeled with their corresponding English definitions.

The only quibble I have with the museum concerns its lack of hand sanitizers. Exploring each warship requires an extensive use of handrails, especially when traveling between decks. A strategic placement of hand sanitizers on board each of the ships would have been a boon.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs, military enthusiasts, and anybody who enjoys exploring ships.

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