In this final segment of the Charleston, South Carolina Travel series, we are headed to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum for an exciting and educational day. A must-see for history buffs and those interested in military aircraft, war ships, equipment and who want to get a better understanding of the risk our military men and women take in combat. Then take the ferry to Fort Sumter and finish the educational and exciting day with a helicopter ride.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Mt. Pleasant
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, at the mouth of the Cooper River on the Charleston Harbor, across from Charleston.
We all really enjoyed our visit and spent a large part of the day there without seeing all there is to see and learn.
It is home to three museum ships:
- USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier
- USS Laffey, a destroyer
- USS Clamagore, a submarine (to be sunk as an artificial reef in 2018)
It’s also home to the Patriots Point Museum, the Cold War Memorial, the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S., the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the agency’s official Medal of Honor Museum.
The Ship That Would Not Die
If you go, don’t miss the USS Laffey Mount 53 Experience, a presentation of what it was like for the brave men, on April 16, 1945.
April 16, 1945
While operating off Okinawa, the Laffey was attacked by 22 Japanese bombers and Kamikazes killing 32 and wounding 71 of the 336-man crew. The heroic crew shot down 9 Kamikaze aircraft and saved the damaged ship, earning her the nickname: “The Ship That Would Not Die.”
USS LAFFEY (DD-724) is the most decorated World War II era US Destroyer still in existence. DD-724 was named in honor of LAFFEY (DD-459), sunk during the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal (13 November 1942). Both ships were named in honor of Seaman Bartlett Laffey, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient.
Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, can be reached by ferry. The ferry is included in the Patriots Point ticket price and the point of embarkation for Fort Sumter. The 30-minute ferry ride across the harbor is pleasant and well-narrated.
It is a historic site, dating back to revolutionary times. There is much to learn, and a good bit of the original fort is still here. The museum has some memorabilia to check out, including an original US and Confederate flags.
Fort Sumter is notable for two battles of the American Civil War. It was one of a number of special forts planned after the War of 1812, combining high walls and heavy masonry for structural integrity. Work started in 1829, but was incomplete by 1860 when South Carolina seceded from the Union.
First Shots of the War
The First Battle of Fort Sumter began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery fired on the Union garrison. These were the first shots of the war and continued all day, watched by many civilians in a celebratory spirit. The fort had been cut off from its supply line and surrendered the next day.
The Second Battle of Fort Sumter (September 8, 1863) was a failed attempt by the Union to retake the fort dogged by a rivalry between army and navy commanders. Although the fort was reduced to rubble, it remained in Confederate hands until it was evacuated as General Sherman marched through South Carolina in February 1865.
Fort Sumter is open for public tours as part of the Fort Sumter National Monument operated by the National Park Service.
No doubt, the most thrilling part of our vacation for me was a sightseeing helicopter tour over the naval museum exhibits, USS Yorktown, Charleston Harbor, and surrounding beaches. It was a spontaneous decision and so worth it. My husband was not willing but our daughter was. Jill climbed into the back seat and I slid in the front, fastened my seat belt and put on headphones. It was just a 10-minute flight during which time I fought fear I would fall right out the open door. The pilot assured me I would not but my brain was not convinced. The adventure was breathtaking and I am so glad it did it.
The helicopter is parked right next to the historic USS Yorktown. A significant portion of the proceeds go to maintaining the naval museum and its exhibits. Daytime flights ranging from 10-20 minutes provide incredible views and photo opportunities that even locals enjoy.
Tours start at $65 per person. Purchase tickets at Patriot’s Point ticket window or online. A minimum of two tickets must be purchased per flight. Strict weight limits apply. Tours are only offered weather and maintenance permitting.
Other posts in this Charleston, South Carolina Travel Series
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