Combine Naval History with a Day of Fun
Located on Mount Hope Bay in Fall River, Massachusetts, Battleship Cove is home to the national historic landmarks USS Massachusetts, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., Lionfish, PT 617, and PT 796. The patrol boats, covered in Naval History’s April 2001 “Museum Report” and displayed at the National PT Boat Museum, are the world’s only restored pair of motor torpedo boats. The museum also exhibits squadron plaques, scale models of PT boats, a captured Japanese suicide demolition boat, and the actual model of the PT boat used in the 1965 movie In Harm’s Way, starring John Wayne. A wall plaque honors PT boaters killed in action, and a video presents oral descriptions of the boats’ contributions in World War II.
Continuing on a self-guided tour, visitors can inspect a U.S. Army Cobra AH-1S attack helicopter, an Army Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, and a Navy T28 Trojan Trainer aircraft. But Battleship Cove’s anchor is the Massachusetts, “Big Mamie” to her crew. She houses the official state of Massachusetts memorial to Bay Staters killed in World War II and the Persian Gulf War. In 1942 Big Mamie fired 16-inch shells against the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart at Casablanca, sinking her. In all the Massachusetts steamed 225,000 nautical miles, earning 11 battle stars in 35 major campaigns, from North Africa in 1942 to Iwo Jima in 1945. She was decommissioned 27 March 1947.
Touring the decks, visitors can easily imagine living on board the ship. The bulkheads, shops, department spaces, and crew’s quarters display artifacts and memorabilia that help to tell her story. Some rooms are devoted to World War II events in which the battleship did not participate—Pearl Harbor, with a video of the bombing; and D-day, with audio stories from men who were there.
The destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. houses the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen’s Museum, with displays that include a map showing which “tin cans” were lost in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Plaques and memorabilia add information along with a sense of the destroyer experience. This ship also serves as Massachusetts’ official memorial to citizens lost in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, with a room dedicated to them. The Kennedy earned two battle stars in Korea and was decommissioned in 1973.
The attack submarine Lionfish is Massachusetts’ memorial for all submariners killed in World War II. The “Silent Service,” whose personnel accounted for less than 2 percent of the Navy, sank 30 percent of the Japanese fleet and 60 percent of Japanese merchant marine ships. Submarines had the highest casualty rate, losing 52 subs and 3,505 men.
The Lionfish served in the Pacific, making two war patrols during which she eluded attacks, sank a Japanese schooner, and fired on enemy submarines (one of which she is believed to have sunk). Her first captain was the son of Admiral Raymond Spruance, Lieutenant Commander Edward D. Spruance.
Twice decommissioned (1946 and 1953) and then recalled to duty, the Lionfish patrolled during the Cold War and served as a reserve training sub in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1973, she was placed on permanent display at Battleship Cove.
A walk through the submarine gives a vivid idea of what it was like to live in such close quarters. On the bulkheads and in the work spaces, exhibits tell the service’s story. The aft torpedo room features a cutout of a Mark 14 torpedo, allowing a view into its makeup.
The USNS Hiddensee, a Soviet-built Tarantul I–class fast-attack craft, was transferred in 1991 from the Federal German Navy to the U.S. Navy. Originally constructed for East Germany, the ship was designed to oppose coastal threats. She carried Styx antiship missiles, Strela surface-to-air missles, 30-mm Gatling guns, and a 76-mm deck cannon. In the U.S. Navy she served as a research vessel until April 1996; the following year the Hiddensee joined the Battleship Cove fleet.
The Cove is a great place to spend a day while taking in some history. There is even an old carousel. Have lunch on the Massachusetts at the Wardroom Grill; local dining and lodging suggestions are listed at the Web site. Call ahead for special events, education programs, or group rates. Overnight camping for youth groups is available on board the Massachusetts and Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.
5 Water Street, Fall River, MA 02721
Open daily, 0900-1700 (subject to change without notice)
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day
Adults $15, seniors $13, military $5 (free in uniform)
Children 6-12 $9; free under 6