The USS Alabama
What: Battleship Memorial Park, 2703 Battleship Parkway, Mobile, Alabama, 36602. An outstanding collection of land, air and sea military vehicles, with the USS Alabama as the main attraction.
How to Get There: Take I-10 from either the east or the west. From anywhere else, head south on Alabama’s great back roads until you hit I-10, then point your front wheel toward Mobile.
Best Kept Secret: There have been seven U.S. Navy ships named “Alabama” reaching back to before the Civil War. Today, a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine sails under that same proud name.
Avoid: Missing Mobile. It’s a beautiful town and its Gulf Coast location makes for great seafood and fabulous hospitality.
More Photos: www.motofoto.cc
The coastal plains along Alabama’s southern edge are flat, and the line of sight extends to the horizon. Ride east on Interstate 10 out of Mobile and you can see her distinctive profile from a great distance. One can only imagine the fear she induced in our enemies as she emerged from the mist on the high seas. She, of course, is the battleship USS Alabama, docked at Battleship Memorial Park, just east of Mobile.
To call the USS Alabama impressive would be an understatement. This magnificent old warship is a study in superlatives and contrasts. Taller than a 20-story building, longer than two football fields, and capable of firing projectiles weighing up to 2,700 pounds (nearly as much as a Z-06 Corvette) at targets more than 20 miles away, the USS Alabama projected America’s power on the open seas during World War II. She lost not a single crew member to enemy fire, which led to the nickname the “Lucky A.” The ship earned nine Battle Stars and sailed just under a quarter of a million miles in combat conditions. She saw action in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters, and when she passed through the Panama Canal, the 680-foot, 44,500-ton Lucky A had just 11 inches of clearance on each side!
After World War II, the USS Alabama was retired from active service. In 1962 the Navy announced plans to scrap the ship because of the high cost of keeping her in mothballs, but the good citizens of Alabama would have none of that. Alabama kids raised nearly $100,000 in nickels, dimes and quarters, and corporate sponsors coughed up another $1,000,000 to bring the ship from Puget Sound, Washington, to Mobile.
The USS Alabama is in amazing condition; indeed, it looks as if the ship could go to war today. Being aboard is like being in a movie (in fact, Steven Seagal used it for the set of the 1992 movie Under Siege). With armor more than a foot thick above the waterline it’s amazing the USS Alabama could float at all, but the old girl had a range of 15,000 nautical miles between fill ups. When she did stop at the pumps, the Alabama took on roughly 2 million gallons!
Approaching the ship highlights the big guns, and when you get closer they are stunning. Try to imagine nine 16-inch guns, three per turret, firing away. The ship boasts 20 5-inch guns (two in each of the ship’s 10 smaller turrets), plus another 12 mounts with no fewer than 48 40mm cannons. And just to make sure, the Alabama has another 52 20mm anti-aircraft cannons, for a total of 129 guns!
The USS Alabama is only part of the treasure included in Battleship Memorial Park. The park includes the USS Drum (a World War II submarine), armored vehicles and an impressive aircraft collection spanning 70 years of military aviation including a B-52 bomber, numerous fighters, the top-secret SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance aircraft and assorted other planes. And talk about contrasts: The USS Alabama could touch just faster than 32mph running flat out on the high seas; the SR-71 cruised at speeds in excess of 3,000mph. The USS Alabama weighs more than 720 million pounds; the SR-71 was built from lightweight titanium.
Battleship Memorial Park is easy to find just east of Mobile on I-10. You can’t miss it, as the USS Alabama is visible for miles from either direction, even at night. Admission is only $15, and take our word for it, it’s the most bang for the buck you’ll ever get. MC