Update: The USS Wisconsin 2008 reunion will be held August 26-31, 2008.
The battleship USS Wisconsin, commissioned during World War II when she saw action in the South Pacific, and then put back into battle for the Korean War in 1951 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991, has called Norfolk, Virginia, home the past seven years. The Old Gray Lady, BB-64, is mothballed at the Nauticus Maritime Museum on Norfolk's waterfront, the largest and last of the great battleships built in this country, replaced by aircraft carriers. When driving into the city, she is massive and impressive in her oceanfront dock across the street from downtown Norfolk.
I have wanted to visit the Wisconsin since she moored in Norfolk in 2000. Until now only the deck area was open to visitors. However, the city of Norfolk will soon take ownership from the Navy and will begin charging admission but, at the same time, will offer access to more areas of the ship.
In an article in Sunday's Richmond Times Dispatch, Norfolk officials told of their plans for the battleship:
... the city plans to reopen to visitors the Wisconsin's wardroom and some adjoining quarters, and maybe one of the ship's massive gun turrets.Those 16-inch guns bombarded Okinawa during World War II.
The Wisconsin's 16-inch guns were the largest size ever mounted on a U.S. warship, capable of hurling shells 23 miles...."
The 16-inch guns were what my dad manned as a 20-year-old sailor during World War II. He shared stories when I was young ... but not many stories because that generation did not often discuss the war. The opportunity to hear more was snuffed out in 1975 when he passed away.
I have a framed photo hanging on my living room wall of the Wisconsin, given to Dad when he left the Navy, with details of the ship's record during the war. He was a Seaman First Class; his battle ribbons are there along with the ship's record of three Japanese planes shot down while in the South Pacific.
On this blog's right sidebar is the link to the Wisconsin's website. I wrote about her last year while remembering my dad on the anniversary of his birth.
And so I hope to visit the Wisconsin. I want to walk in my dad's footsteps. I want to see the 16-inch guns I heard about in my youth. I want to see the deck and interior of the place he called home all those months while away at sea. I want to touch the walls he touched ... I want to see what he saw ... I want to walk the deck where he walked. I want to experience the Wisconsin....
More information can be found at:
- Pilot Online - February 2007
- Pilot Online - October 2006