U.S.S. ALABAMA “THE MIGHTY A”

This post has been two weeks in the making, just to much to say, I finally have it done. While in Gulf Shores we went here.

Sunday we took a ride to Mobile Alabama, about an hour or so from where we are. We went to Battleship park, which is right on Mobile Bay. Anchored there and on display is the U. S. S. Alabama “The Mighty A”. A World War II battleship. also there is the submarine Drum, and some vintage aircraft from the war. I have been in a submarine before, when I went to Hawaii in the 80’s, but that was small compared to the Drum, which is a first class attack sub. We have never been in battleship or anything close to it.

We decide to tour the Drum first. Walking up the walkway we both noticed two things, it was way bigger than I ever thought it would be and second, we noticed a man in a wheelchair being pushed up to the stairway by two ladies. At first we didn’t think much about that, it was all about the sub.

THE U.S.S. DRUM

 

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The U.S.S. Drum , an attack sub, it’s only job was to search out and destroy enemy war ships and shipping. These subs were the main workhorses in the Pacific. The Drum started service in 1941, and over the war earned 12 battle stars. She is just over 311 feet long, 27 feet wide and weighs about 1,526 tons. The crew consisted of 7 officers and 65 enlisted men. In World War II you volunteered for sub service, no thanks I would say. Sub service then was 90 day missions, with return to base and refit and go out again. During the war 216 subs were in service. 52 never came back. That’s about 20 percent losses, no thanks. Most of these subs carried 24 torpedoes. There are six forward torpedo tubes, and four rear tubes, all loaded in there tubes when they sail. The remaining  12 torpedoes stored half in front and half in back. We entered the front part of the sub first, which is the forward torpedo room. You then meander through one long narrow hallway to the back of the ship to the rear torpedo room. You can also climb up to the conning tower, which we did, to see the periscope room. You notice right away all the switches, valves, knobs, gages all over the place, all serving a purpose. There are only a few rooms with doors, for the officers and captain, the crew sleeps all over the rest of the sub, in open bunks.

This sub was in 14 war patrols, each were 90 days or longer. One patrol it was depth charged by a Jap cruiser for 20 hours. No thank you.

It took about an hour to tour the sub, we then made our way to the Alabama.

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Forward torpedo room

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One of the many watertight hatches we went through

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Main control room, the ladder to the right center of the picture takes you to the second level where the periscope room is.

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Periscope room, very small, but this is where the action was when the captain was ready to fire at enemy ships. The periscope is the bronze cylinder in the middle. The arms have been removed.

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This is one of the bunk bays. Crew members shared a bunk when on a patrol.Crew worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Not even ten feet wide in here.

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This is an engine piston over two feet long.

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This is how the ship moved, levels we moved to make the sub go forward, back sideways and all that. Damn the torpedoes I say.

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Rear torpedo room. It was very cramped in here.

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Solid brass propeller nut to secure the shaft to the boat. Weighs 95 pounds and is about 16 inchs round. It is stamped U.S.S. DURM by mistake.

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20 MM Anti aircraft gun

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During the war the Drum also had a mascot.

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Earlier I mentioned that an older gentleman was coming aboard. While we were still in the forward torpedo room, he came down the ladder, helped by the two ladies I mentioned before. A minute later I noticed his hat and asked him if he was on a sub like this. His Answer was YES, the Redfin. The Redfin was also an attack sub,  same as the Drum. He served two years on it during the war, as the radio operator. This was the first time he had been back on a sub since the war. We talked a little about his service on the Redfin. He is 95 now. It was quite the honor to meet him, and really made our day.

 

THE U.S.S. ALABAMA “THE MIGHTY A”

Walking to the Alabama ramp, my mouth kept gaping open. The ship kept getting bigger and bigger. Holy moley a monster of a ship. 680 feet long, 108 feet wide,194 feet tall draft in the water 33 feet. Crew of 127 officers, and 2,205 enlisted men, but during missions about 2,500 men total. weighing 35,000 tons, but when loaded for sea battle 45,000 tons. Armed with nine 16 inch guns in three turrets, accurate to 21 miles. Twenty 5 inch guns, in 10 twin mount small turrets. 48- 40mm anti aircraft guns and 52- 20 mm guns.

The U. S.S. Alabama, after launching in 1943, went to the pacific. There it participated, in virtually every island hopping landings in the war. She provided anti aircraft protection, from the Kamakazi, suicide planes the Japanese were sending, and  provided heavy bombardment fire onto the Japanese islands, prior to the invasions. She was also called the LUCK A ,because she was never hit by a suicide plane. She did however loose eight men in a five inch turret in battle, when another five inch gun accidently went off and struck it while turning to fire.

When we first got onboard it was just amazing how big, and all the firepower. We were able to take three different walking tours, which went through out the ship, up and down a total of eight decks. We spent about four hours or so touring.

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Notice the anchor chain, below is how big a link is. In the left and right of center are the 40mm anti aircraft guns, in center are the big 16 incher turrets.

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One anchor chain link, I could not even move it.

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Before I gut to all the guns, our tour took us below decks and all over the place. It is like a floating city with everything you could ever think of being here. Machine, carpenter shops, Cobbler shop, mail room, sick bay with operating rooms, laundry, tailor shop, barber shop, photo room, movie room, butcher shop, brig and many more, including mess halls. Plus all the battle operation rooms, the bridge, combat center, plot rooms and all that.

THE SHIP

BAKERY, One of the  most important place on the ship. 850 full loafs of bread were made every day.  They said the smell of bread baking was all through the ship.

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BARBER shop, three full time barbers were here. They had the luxuary of living in here, instead of with the other masses of men all over the ship.

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MESS hall, one of a few, anything you can think of for meals.

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No food yet.

A What, yep a soda jerk and ice cream station onboard.

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She’s still waiting.

CAPTAIN’s lounge, this is where the captain entertained, when important people came aboard. I guess we were not that important.

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Under attack, the captain and important men went to Battle bridge, they controlled the entire ship in this tiny room.

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16″ thick hatchway, with dead bolts.

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Here I am in one of the small spaces in one of the engine rooms (they have four engine rooms) behind the camera is a big room with all the boilers and engine works to power the ship

AYE ,AYE, captain, which way do I go

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One of the many, many ladders we went up and down. The steel handrails, were not there during the war, just a taught rope.

THE GUNS

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Melissa manning one of the 20mm guns. Three men manned this gun, one firing, one taking the empty bullet housing off, (the center round housing) and one man inserting a new magazine

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Another shot of the 20mm guns

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This is the 40mm rotating antiaircraft guns. Two guns on my side and two on the other. Each firing independently. Right behind my head is where the loaders would drop the 2 foot long rounds in so they can be fired.

5 INCH GUN TURRETS

There are twenty 5″ gun turrets on the Alabama. Each one built the same way, and in it’s own armored surroundings. 5 to 6 men were in the top gun mount operating the gun. About 50 to 60 more would be below decks, feeding ammunition up to the gun. The shells had three parts, the main canister, powder bag inserted into the shell canister and the exploding shell, they were put together by hand to make one shell. After firing the casing was sent out of the back of the gun mount and could be reused later.

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Hoists and elevators moved the shells up to each level, then to the gun mount. In event of possible fire, each compartment could be flooded.

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The front entry hatchway for the gunner to sit in and operate the gun sights when in action. He did not fire the gun. Another one is on the other side.

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Back entry hatch way, during the war the steps were not there just a ladder to get in.  The men in here loaded the guns with ammuntion. The open door in the bottom middle is where all the empty shell casing came out after being ejected from the gun.

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The aiming station, to the left is the breech for loading the shells

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Sitting in the aiming seat, very cramped.

Down three decks or so is the ammunition room, filled with thousands of shells, and powder canisters, which had to be hoisted up to the gun turret..

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THE BIG BOYS

16 INCH GUN TURRETS

Three main 16″ gun turrets are on the Alabama, each in its own circular armored Barbette as its called enclosure. Runs from the bottom of the ship to the top turret. The outer rooms at the bottom are for the powder bags, each weighing 90 pounds. Canisters of 3 powder bags each are stored here in air tight canisters. During battle the powder was passed into the lower part of the barbette then hoisted up 3 bags at a time to the gun crews. It took six bags to shoot a shell. Inside the barbette a deck up is where the shells were stored, they were dragged into position, and then elevated up to the main gun deck. In action a crew could fire one shell every 30 seconds. Each gun could fire independently of the others. The main turret turned on a big reduction gear, and was placed on the gun mount not anchored. If the ship sank the turrets would fall off. It took 77 men to operate and fire the gun, in actual combat there would be over 100 as they would be needed below to keep sending up shells quicker.

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Cutaway below shows the many decks below, needed to feed ammo to the big guns.

 

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Cutaway view of the main turrets extending far below decks.

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Powder bags

 

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Massive 16″ guns

 

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We entered the gun turret in the back of the gun, there was a little hatch to go up, there we entered the main room, which is called the operators booth. Here is where all the controls for movement, sighting, aiming and direction of the gun are.

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Inside the operators booth, the hatch we got in is below the little seat on the bottom left. A man sat here and sighted the gun looking into the scope in the middle top of the picture.

 

 

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We are now on the other side of the operators booth. Here to the left are 6 – 2 inch thick hatch doors, 2 for each gun where men went in to the gun room itself. In battle the hatches were shut and dogged, which means locked

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I have now walked through the operators booth into the gun room(side view), where 6 men would then decend down a ladder 10 feet or so to the breech of the gun. Powder and shells arrived here and were rammed into the gun barrel. Then the breech would be closed and the gun was ready to fire. The barrel is pointing left here.

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Another view from another gun, with gun barrel pointing straight ahead. This armored area was only about 6 feet wide by 8 feet long.

 

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Projectile handling room, filled with shells

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Lower powder room with hoists

 

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View from the pier.

This thing was massive and I was very impressed, a floating city. Could of spent another couple of hours here, but ran out of time. Very glad we were able to see a piece of history. Next we want to see an aircraft carrier.

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