There is a place in Alabama that honors the memory of Alabama veterans in all the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, from the Merchant Marines to the Coast Guards, to the Navy, Air Force, the Marines, and the Army. That place is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, which is located in Mobile, Mobile County. The USS Alabama Battleship (BB-60) is on the front lines of the park’s attractions. The battleship received nine battle stars for her World War II service, and was fondly called “Lucky” because no American aboard her died during World War II. The USS Alabama was opened to the public on January 1965, giving people a glimpse of this 11,565-ton, Illinois class ship in its fullest glory.
True to its name, the Park is a memorial to Alabama’s men and women who served in the armed forces. After she was decommissioned in 1947, the battleship, which was also called the “Mighty A”, was scheduled to be scrapped in 1962 along with her sister ships, the USS South Dakota (BB-57), USS Indiana (BB-58), and USS Massachusetts (BB-59). In the end, only the Alabama and Massachusetts were preserved.
A “Save the Battleship” was formed by the USS Alabama Battleship Commission in 1963, with more than a million students donating their lunch money and. They were able to raise $100,000, which mostly consisted of dimes, quarters, and nickels. It’s worth noting that these same children who made the donations received a free pass to the park, and it can still be redeemed for free every year. Other donations to save the “Mighty A” came from corporate fundraising, which, in total, collected $1 million dollars. It took around three months just to move the ship from Bremerton, Washington and to Alabama, a feat that is still considered to be the longest non-military tow in history.
There are around three individual self-guided tours that cover only a portion of the battleship, with each tour lasting for about 30 minutes. Visitors are given a pamphlet that highlights all the areas that will toured, and they are allowed to view one of the four engine rooms, bunk rooms, the captain’s quarters, and a galley that once fed 2,500 crew members. These were all meant to give the visitors a chance to understand and experience what it was like to run the massive ship as well as show the tremendous sacrifices that the soldiers made to defend the U.S and its allies.
Another main attraction in the park is the USS Drum, the World War II submarine and winner of 12 Battle Stars. The Drum was donated by the U.S. Navy in 1969, and is considered the oldest existing submarine in the country today. It is also the first one to be ever opened for public viewing. It was responsible for sinking fifteen Japanese ships in the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
The park also has an aircraft pavilion that honors the 29 Alabamians who have received the Medal of Honor. It also has 25 vintage, World War II warplanes together with vehicles, artifacts and equipment that were used in different war periods, from World War II to Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the Desert Storm.
The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is testament of patriotism and sacrifice of men and women who wanted to make a difference in their country. And as with any place that combines history, adventure, and knowledge, the park is something that’s truly worth visiting time and time again.