July 10, 2018
In the past we have toured several battleships, destroyers, and submarines, but never have been on board an aircraft carrier. While we planned details out for our trip, I specifically searched out a place to potentially see one, if not tour it. At Nauticus in Norfolk, VA, we saw a commissioned aircraft carrier in the distance. But in Charleston, we were able to board the USS Yorktown (the aircraft carrier), the USS Laffey (a destroyer), and a submarine.
We were shocked to discover at the ticket window that the admission was complimentary for the next few minutes that morning only. Being slightly confused, we walked on and was directed to wait for a few more minutes until a USS Laffey veteran was escorted by.
This 90+ year old man that slouched so feebly in the golf cart had a story that became much more clear after we toured the destroyer. He was a World War II survivor of a Kamikaze attack. The horrific ordeal was spelled out within the ship. Long story short, the situation was so dire, one of the sailors asked the captain if they should abandon ship. In response the captain indignantly replied something to the effect, “As long as a cannon will shoot, we will not abandon ship.” They were eventually able to limp it back to safety after being rescued.
We clapped and cheered the elderly veteran on when he rolled past. A gentleman called out to him thanking him for his service. We followed the crowd to watch a presentation honoring this sailor. After a half hour, we were able to move on to our original destination, the carrier.
I was well impressed with how organized and structured the Yorktown’s tours were. We began our time aboard by viewing a short introductory video to understand that ship’s story. Then, out of five self-guided tours, we chose to start with #3 to get to the flight deck. This was potentially the hottest, in the 90+degree summer heat. Also, the deck was what set this ship apart from all others.
The men imagined what it would have looked like as they looked at the variety of aircraft on board. I enjoyed the morning with the theme song from Top Gun started resonating through my head. I never realized the top deck was wood. More importantly, we were amazed at how short the runway was. That had to be an adrenaline rush landing the plane while the ship rocked with the waves.
We had enough time to run through every tour and then go through the Liffey and the submarine as well. With only minutes to spare, we popped in the nearby Vietnam Veteran’s exhibit. We were spellbound with the movie there when a worker informed us that the place was closed. Bummer.
With a day well spent and several miles walked, we once again returned home. We were financially blessed with the costs covered for the day. But, I felt even more blessed to see a man who was a part of that history, who lived through those tumultuous times.
Until we meet again,