The USS Alabama almost went to scrappers. For fifteen years following decommissioning, the battleship sat at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Then, in the early 1960s, the federal government announced plans to scrap its aging World War II battleships, including the USS Alabama. The people of Alabama wouldn’t have it. The children alone raised $100,000 toward the $800,000 it would cost to move its namesake battleship to Alabama. In 1965, the USS Alabama opened in Mobile as a memorial and museum. Today the submarine USS Drum and a plethora of military aircraft and vehicles join the battleship on the 155-acre USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.
Brief History of the Battleship
The USS Alabama battleship was still under construction when Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. With the Pacific fleet left in ruins, it was time for new, mightier and faster battleships go into action.
By February 1943, having gone from blueprint to fully functional battleship in thirty months, the USS Alabama, along with sister battleship USS South Dakota, headed to the North Atlantic. The heavily-armed battleship was ready for her first World War II action.
The battleship’s guns were first fired when a German Junkers Ju-88 was spotted. After a two-minute volley of fire from the USS Alabama’s five-inch guns, the Ju-88 pilot left the area.
The battleship was later refitted and re-camouflaged for action in the Pacific. Substantial upgrades included radar, which meant now her guns could be fired at the enemy without a clear line of sight, even at night. The ship saw significant action at the Battle of the Philippines Sea and other assignments battling the Japanese.
The last shots fired from the USS Alabama destroyed manufacturing plants only 50 miles north of Tokyo. The war ended shortly after that, when the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.
The USS Alabama accrued nine battle stars during the war, conducted ten bombardments, and shot down 22 enemy aircraft. The government decommissioned the battleship in 1947.
When pulling into the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park parking lot, you’ll pay a small parking fee. (The fee for vehicles with three axles or more, including RVs is substantially higher but includes one adult admission ticket.)
The spacious grounds include picnic tables, a fishing pier, and several military aircraft and vehicles. Inside the aircraft pavilion are even more aircraft and vehicles. This is also where you purchase your tour tickets and watch a film that covers the history of the USS Alabama.
Touring the USS Drum Submarine
The USS Drum was the first American submarine to enter combat in World War II and is the oldest U.S. submarine left in the world. It’s a quick tour; it took us less than a half hour. However, you get a good idea of what life was like living beneath the sea for months at a time. It’s definitely not a life for a person who suffers from claustrophobia.
Touring the USS Alabama Battleship
The park’s website suggests allowing about two hours to tour the entire park. We were there for six hours, including several hours just on the USS Alabama. Upon entering the ship, volunteers hand you a detailed four-page, step-by-step guide for the self-guided tour.
The tour is divided into three routes: A, B, and C. Each route is also color coded and covers a different part of the ship. Between the guide and the signage, the routes are easy to follow. But, get ready for a workout. We ascended and descended ladders at least ten times during the tour and climbed through countless hatches.
The USS Alabama was the most detailed ship tour we have even taken. We got a feel for what it was like to live and work on the ship—except the ship was standing still. What was it like to be on it while in rough seas? Or when in combat? That’s something only the brave military personnel who’ve experienced it will ever know.
If you visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is located at 2703 Battleship Parkway east if downtown Mobile. Check the website for admission rates and hours.