Heavy Metal.

Over 41,000 tons of warships sitting at anchor, easy to explore, and less than an hour south of Boston. Battleship Cove, located in Fall River, Massachusetts, is a museum dedicated to the sailors who served the US Navy during wartime. Founded in 1965, the museum exists to preserve several historic vessels that fought for the United States during the 20th century. With a beautiful Saturday unfolding after a week of brutally cold temperatures and nasty winter weather, I set off for this very cool destination.

The museum was originally created by sailors who had served aboard the USS Massachusetts during the Second World War. With the mighty battleship no longer in active service and headed for the scrapyard, these veterans of the Massachusetts convinced the US Navy to donate the ship to be the centerpiece of a new museum. Over the years, other vessels have been added to the museum’s roster, including the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy (a naval aviator who was also the older brother of President John F. Kennedy), the submarine USS Lionfish, two Patrol Torpedo boats (PT-617 and PT-796), and a cold war relic from the Soviet Union: a retired East German Tarantul-class fast-attack missile boat, the Hiddensee (via Wikipedia).

Every ship can be explored, both by walking on the decks but also by climbing up or down ladders and exploring the vessels’ interiors. Whereas previous maritime museums I have visited (such as the Olympia and the New Jersey) had very clearly delineated tour paths, these ships were much more open to exploration. You could make a wrong turn and not necessarily know how to get back on track! In fact, exploring some of these ships reminded me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I loved as a child. There was no right answer to exploring these vessels, just where your curiosity would take you (although there were a few places that were locked off or marked as forbidden).

Battleship Cove
Battleship Cove is located an hour south of Boston in Fall River, MA, near the Rhode Island border.
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After a pleasant drive with next to no traffic, I arrived at Battleship Cove. You can see the Massachusetts in the background.
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Battleship Cove, home of the Massachusetts, Joseph P. Kennedy, Lionfish, and Hiddensee. The cove sits beneath the Charles M. Braga Jr. Memorial Bridge, which connects Fall River and Somerset, MA.
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The Joseph P. Kennedy. Unfortunately, much of the interior of the ship is currently closed for renovations. Built in 1945, this Gearing-class destroyer served for almost three decades as an anti-submarine warship.
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With hundreds of destroyers built during WWII, many of them were upgraded to continue to serve in the US Navy through the 1970s. The Kennedy was extensively modernized to include radar, sonar, and more advanced weapons. For instance, the large box in the middle of the ship houses its ASROC anti-submarine rocket system, which was installed in the 1960s.
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If you saw the TV show M*A*S*H*, you’ll appreciate this sign located beside the docks.
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The Lionfish was commissioned in 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the Second World War.
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The Lionfish‘s forward torpedo room. Unlike the USS Becuna in Penn’s Landing which I toured last fall, the Lionfish is less polished. Much of the equipment has a patina of use on it. To me, it made the experience more authentic.
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The crew’s mess hall, which would also serve as a surgery center during an emergency. Needless to say, space on a submarine is at a premium.
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The Lionfish’s laundry room. 1 sink, 1 washing machine, and a roller-type dryer. Clothes would be squeezed dry by the rollers. I’ll never complain about the small laundry room in my apartment complex every again.
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Powered by four 9-cylinder diesel engines, the Lionfish could travel at up to 20 knots when surfaced. The top cover of one of the engines was removed so you could peer inside. These engines are built upside-down: the crankshaft and bearings (pictured) are at the top of the engine, and the cylinders are at the bottom (the opposite of your car’s engine).
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The East German missile corvette Hiddensee. Built in Leningrad in what was then the Soviet Union in 1984, this small ship packed quite a punch: a 76-mm main gun (at the front of the vessel), four anti-ship missiles, and two smaller anti-missile guns for self defense. These small, fast vessels were designed to swarm the larger ships of the US Navy and attack with their long-range missiles.
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The “Choose Your Own Adventure” quality of the museum. There were no signs indicating where this corridor would take you, or what was there. Needless to say, I went down it anyway.
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Notice the Cyrillic writing on the control panels. Even though this boat was being built for East Germany, the Soviet designers did not bother translating the labels for their customer. The ship was taken over by the US Navy in the 1990s, and English notes are written on most of the control panels.
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The Hiddensee‘s galley. The high quality tea mugs (left) stood out to me.
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The heart of the Hiddensee’s mission revolved around four of these SS-N-2 “Styx” anti-ship missiles. The missile’s range was over 50 miles, giving these little boats the ability to strike far bigger vessels and inflict substantial damage.
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All aboard the Massachusetts. The massive battleship dwarfs its companions.
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Facing the rear gun turret. The Massachusetts carries 9 16″ guns in three turrets, similar to the New Jersey’s design. The gun turret by itself weighs more than the Kennedy or the Lionfish.
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Unlike the New Jersey, the Massachusetts was never modernized, so it exists like a floating time capsule from the 1940s. These 40 mm guns were protection against air attack. The operators of these guns would need to fire at attacking enemy planes while sitting exposed, in the open with no protection around them, aside from a thin plate of metal in the front.
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A massive 16″ shell from the Massachusett’s rear gun turret. The deformed shell laying on its side was used in combat to sink the French battle cruiser Jean Bart in 1942. The shell was recovered from the wreck of the French ship many decades later.
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Each anchor weighs 25,000 pounds. The ship has three anchors on board.
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View from the very front of the ship, looking aft.
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To get inside the rear main gun turret, you have to crawl under pipes and through armor plating. 40+ men made this tiny area their workspace every time the ship went into battle.
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Looking at the loading of powder bags into one of the main guns. The powder was needed to propel the huge shells up to 23 miles through the air.
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Finally, this is one of two Patrol Torpedo (PT-boats) at the museum. The most famous PT-boat is PT-109, which was commanded during the Second World War by a young sailor named John F. Kennedy. The story of that boat’s sinking by the Japanese, and his struggle to keep his crew safe afterward, became a major story when he ran for President of the United States in 1960.
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Although PT-Boats are small, the crew’s quarters are more spacious than on a submarine.
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About to get back on the road! After several hours spent climbing up and down ladders, walking over seemingly endless ship decks, and crawling through narrow spaces, sitting down in DH’s front seat felt like heaven.
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78,356 and counting. DH’s next big milestone will be at 80,000 miles.

For a family-friendly day trip, Battleship Cove is a great place to spend an afternoon. From April to Columbus Day, the museum is open 7 days a week, with weekend hours during the rest of the year. Admission prices are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, children 4-12 are $11, US military veterans are $16, and active duty personnel and children 3 and younger are free. Should you end up near Fall River, this museum is definitely worth a detour to visit. Thanks for coming along on another Voyage of DH!

‘Til next time.

6 thoughts on “Heavy Metal.

  1. You’ve introduced me to so much history & culture through your blog – which is appreciated since my tourist experience in the northeast is next to nil! 41,000 pounds. How does that fatty even float? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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