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Day 57 (10.28.97) - Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA

Fall River, MA has the largest collection of World War II naval vessels in the world. We also finally made it into Rhode Island.


Summary: I visited Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts for several hours (there are a lot of ships to go through). We also just made it into Rhode Island by the end of the day.

Logistics: Miles Driven, 40
Weather, Sunny, Clear, Windy and Cool (50 F)

Detail: We actually looked for campgrounds in Connecticut this morning! Since Rhode Island is quite small, we were pretty sure we'd get through it in one day. We decided to head to Newport, RI before Providence just to see what was there. As we drove down Hwy 24, I saw a brown sign saying something about "Battleship Cove". Brown signs usually signify something like a park or museum and this sounded interesting so I took the next exit without reading the sign very carefully. Mom probably wasn't sure what I was up to - but I didn't know either, it was just a whim.

We drove through this town which seemed quite unusual to me. All the houses we passed at first were right up against the sidewalks - no front yards whatsoever. Later, we saw houses with some yards, but very small.


We also saw a lot of abandoned, brick buildings that looked like mill or manufacturing buildings. I couldn't pull over to take pictures of the more interesting ones, but did get this abandoned police station and later a mill type building that looked like it had been converted to offices:


I found out later that between 1870 and 1920, Fall River was the second largest cotton manufacturing center in the US. So the city has had an interesting history, but has had some difficulty redefining itself.


I had failed to notice which exit to take to get to this 'Battleship Cove', so we ended up driving through Fall River a little more then we otherwise would have, but of course that's when we saw all the abandoned mills and yard-less homes. I finally did manage to locate the waterfront area and "Battleship Cove". It is exactly what it said it was - a museum on the water with the largest collection of World War II naval vessels in the world - including a battleship, the USS Massachusetts. Mom doesn't care for military stuff at all, so decided to wait in the RV where she had other things to do (and was much warmer).

In the gift shop, I saw some signs about sleeping on the battleship, so asked the two women who worked there.


Carol and Jessica explained that yes, people can stay overnight on the USS Massachusetts for about $45 - $55 per night. You stay on one of the original crew cots (2" mattress), don't have much privacy of course, but get to experience sleeping on a battleship much as a WWII sailor would have! They were very friendly and helpful and would be glad to help you out if you're interested in trying something like this:


Of course, I had no idea how long it would take to go through something like this - but it was just too fantastic an opportunity not to try. It did take me the rest of the afternoon even though I tried to hurry, didn't take as many pictures as I'd have liked, and didn't even try to tour the boats extensively or read all the signs!

Here is the short list of the big 'exhibits' (I guess this is the correct term, but somehow calling floating naval vessels exhibits feels a little odd). Notice the phrase about 'overnighters' as discussed previously:


However in addition to the ships are a few other exhibits, such as the Huey and Cobra helicopters from the Vietnam War:


There was also a very informative board about Quonset Hut's. The first of these were built on Quonset Point, Rhode Island - which is where they got their name. They were the dominent structure in military buildings during WWII and after the war many were converted to various civilian purposes after the war, some are even in use today.


There was also a LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized) built in 1944 that somehow wasn't listed on the main sign. These were designed to unload a 30 ton tank or 120 combat soldiers onto a contested beach (as in D-Day). Before she headed back to the RV, Mom managed to capture me piloting this one.


The two PT boats were both indoors, one in a regular steel building and the other in the Quonset Hut. The second one actually has a wooden hull, which I found surprising for a WWII naval boat. However, the Navy considered these expendable and duty on a PT boat was quite hazardous. The boats are about 80' long. During WWII, we had about 48 squadrons of about 12 boats each. Also shown is a picture I took of a very nice model of a PT Boat base in the Solomon Islands.


Each PT boat carryed a crew of 12 enlisted men and two officers. They didn't have much room, but looked more comfortable than some of the other naval boats I've looked at.


The first of the larger 'exhibits' I went on was the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.


This is a destroyer that was built in 1945 and remained in service until 1973. A Destroyer is a fast and maneuverable long distance warship designed to escort larger vessels in a fleet or battle group. This ship was named after President JFK's older brother who was killed in World War II. It was newer than the battleship and submarine in the Museum and had been upgraded during her long years of service, so has a more modern look and feel than the others.


Next to the destroyer is the USS Lionfish, a WWII submarine:


While this was older than the USS Albacore we visited earlier, in some ways I liked it better. It actually seemed a little roomier inside (while still VERY cramped). The museum also left decommissioned torpedo's onboard and had one with a cutaway and signs explaining how it worked (also done for one of the engines). I also liked it that all of the big boats were in the water still. On the submarine, it made it sound like a submarine (You can hear sounds echo on the metal hull). It was very difficult walking through this boat, but it was worth the effort.


Next to the submarine was a Russian Missile Corvette that had been used by the East German Navy, the Hiddensee. It was built in 1984 and retired in 1991. Somehow, I forgot to take a picture of it, but did get a few of the inside.


You can also see more photo's at other web sites, such as this:


Finally, I made it to the queen of the museum the battleship USS Massachusetts, or "Big Maimie" as her WWII crew called her.


This is the ship you can sleep on if you wish. A battleship is basically designed to be a floating gun platform. She carried a crew of about 2,000 men, had 9 - 16 inch guns, 20 - 5 inch guns, and 59 cannon. The USS Massachusetts was completed in 1941 and saw quite a bit of action during WWII including at Casablanca, then later in the Pacific Theater. However during WWII the US built only 8 battleships vs 35 aircraft carriers. The battleship, with all her power, had been eclipsed by newer technology.

Walking around a WWII battleship is even harder than walking around a submarine! There are lots and lots of stairs (more like ladders in that they are quite steep) and hatches (all must be climbed through, you can't just step through them). There are few long passageways, the interior of the ship is more like a maze than anything else! The scale was also much larger, a galley that cooks for 2,000 will be quite different than one that cooks for 200 of course. Here is a recipe for biscuits on the Massachusetts:

Sugar 16 pounds
Salt 5 pounds
Shortening 48 pounds
Flour 200 pounds
Baking Powder 22 pounds

However, as big as this ship was, I'm not sure the men had much more room than on any of the other ships - the ship was bigger, but also carried more men, more guns, more supplies, etc.


There were plenty of signs around the ship explaning how the guns worked and ammunation was fed from magazines below deck up to the guns on the deck. These are for the 5 inch guns:


There was also a very interesting exhibit on computers! Did you know that before WWII, a computer was defined as a person who computes, but that after WWII, a computer was defined as a machine that computes! The first computers were built to help the navy compute targeting information.


I probably could have stayed several more days, but felt it was probably time to get moving. Before I left the waterfront area at Fall River, I also noticed a channel light - while not a full lighthouse, it was still kind of cute, and this lovely fellow (to pretty not to take a picture of him).


Leaving town however, it was easy to get to Rhode Island - it is on the city limits. We could also see why the state motto is "The Ocean State"


It was only about 5 PM as we rolled into "The Ocean State", but we stumbled into a nice RV Campground run by the city of Portsmouth - they actually close Nov 1st, so we're still on the edge of New England closing down. Anyway, I decided to stay there for the night and hit Newport, RI in the morning, mansions and all (or whatever we find of interest).

Posted by jl98584 17:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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I'm sure the sailor in your blood will find Newport interesting, even without the mansions!

by TexasRTJ

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