Recently, my husband and I went to a reunion of his mother’s family in a tiny town just north of Mobile, Alabama. On our last day my husband, my in-laws, and I decided to be tourists in Mobile, braving a heat index of over 100 degrees to tour the USS Alabama, a WWII battleship docked in Mobile Bay.
The ship is part of a whole park that displays tanks and other large weapons, but the ship is definitely the main attraction. My husband and I explored the deck of the ship first, marveling at its size and the lovely view of the bay, before entering the inside. Thankfully, most of the rooms were air conditioned, or at least had a large fan to promote air circulation. The displays outlining the history of the war and the ship were interesting, but what enthralled me was the recreation of the various cabins on the ship. We saw officers’ quarters where a lucky man had a bunk and writing desk all to himself, and quarters for regular sailors that sometimes slept nine men to a cabin.
We photographed the organ that had been used for Sunday morning services for my mother-in-law, a retired church organist, and marveled that chaplains sometimes served more than one boat and were transported between them by helicopter.
We also learned that the Alabama was used mostly by Marines fighting in the Pacific. She saw 37 months of combat from 1942 through 1945 in Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, and Okinawa, among other places.
As if all this wasn’t enough to excite a life-long WWII nut, we just happened to visit the ship the same day as Col. Glenn Frazier was signing copies of his 2007 book, Hell’s Guest. Frazier’s story of the Bataan Death March was featured on Ken Burns’ documentary The War, which I devoured while researching for my own books. It was all too fitting, especially since a great-aunt of my husband’s, Emma Belle Petcher, who we saw several times over the family reunion weekend, also told her war story on the same documentary!
All in all, a history-lovers’ dream day trip.