Sponsored by: Patriots Point
One of the Charleston area’s most diverse and successful attractions is Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Whether guests enjoy military history, want to pay their respects to those who have served or are eager to explore some two dozen aircraft, Patriots Point is the place to visit.
Covering World War II, the Vietnam War and Cold War history, Patriots Point offers a full day of exploration and learning – while taking in the gorgeous views of the Charleston harbor and Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River.
As you plan your next visit to Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, put these five things on your must-see list.
1. Stand on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown
It’s not everyday you get to board an aircraft carrier. Explore the World War II ship, learning about her role in the Pacific offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. Nicknamed the “Fighting Lady,” the Yorktown was modernized in the 1950s to accommodate jet aircraft as an attack carrier. The ship served off Vietnam in the 1960s.
The Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970 and five years later was relocated to Charleston. Visitors can explore the massive ship and stand atop the flight deck for spectacular views of Charleston’s skyline.
2. Gain a new appreciation of the Vietnam War
The almost 3-acre outdoor Vietnam Experience exhibit offers a realistic portrayal of a wartime experience. With more than 100 speakers, the sounds of helicopters overhead and gunfire on all sides will transport visitors to another place in time.
Marine officers come to life through holograms in an exciting 3-D production set in a "Brown Water Navy" support base and a U.S. Marine Corps artillery fire base during the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968. A new addition to the exhibit is the Quonset Hut where visitors can experience the mini-theater located inside a replica of a Saigon street corner, climb inside the M151 Jeep, and see an authentic 17-foot Viet Cong Sampan.
End your visit in the Vietnam Experience at the dog tag memorial display where all 896 South Carolinians who died in the Vietnam War are honored.
3. Learn about the Cold War and the Americans who fought in that war
USS Laffey (DD-724) is the most decorated World War II era U.S. destroyer still in existence. DD-724 was named in honor of Laffey (DD-459), sunk during the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942. Both ships were named in honor of Seaman Bartlett Laffey, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient.
The Combat Information Center at Patriots Point offers a realistic portrayal of how the USS Laffey served the U.S. Navy during the Cold War. Two sailors greet visitors in a hologram experience, and radar repeaters show a sweeping motion as they “search” for enemy submarines. Radio transmissions recreate one of the many tense moments of this time.
“A lot of people fought in the Cold War whose stories aren’t told,” says Christopher Hauff, public information officer at Patriots Point. “When we created that room, we wanted to focus on the Cold War. You get that same feeling that any false move or quick call to judgment in the push of a button could cause a war.”
4. Gain a new appreciation for the men who served in the Laffey gun mount
In the Mount 53 Experience exhibit, take a step back to April 16, 1945, during a historic kamikaze attack on the USS Laffey. In an 80-minue attack off Okinawa, 32 men were killed, including six of the 14 men working the gun mount.
Visitors can climb into the gun mount and watch a video about how it works. Witness what it was like for the brave men serving in the gun mount, and find out how the Laffey got her nickname as “The Ship That Would Not Die.”
5. Blast off into space on the Apollo
The USS Yorktown recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule from the Pacific Ocean in December 1968. The crew of Apollo 8 made history as the first humans to leave Earth’s orbit, reach the moon, orbit it and return safely to Earth.
Take a ride to the moon and back inside a replica Apollo 8 capsule on board the USS Yorktown. Listen to actual radio communication and watching video recorded during the mission. The capsule also moves and shakes to replicate actual takeoff and launch.
“It feels like you’re going around the moon and splashing down,” Hauff says.
To learn more about the Museum or to purchase tickets, visit PatriotsPoint.org.