NO MATTER WHERE YOUR JOURNEY TAKES YOU, you’re never far from one or more of these 90 magnificent floating monuments to U.S. Naval power. American battleship museums are steeped in history that remains relevant today, and the 75th Anniversary of D-Day refocused the spotlight on America’s fleet of remaining warships, many of which saw action in World War II.
In Marinalife’s fall issue, we ran the first installment of the Iron Itinerary series and covered Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports. In this follow-up article, we explore ships berthed in the Great Lakes, Pacific Coast and Hawaii.
USS Little Rock, USS The Sullivans & USS Croaker
Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, Buffalo, NY
The only guided missile cruiser on display in America today, Little Rock is the sole survivor of the U.S. Navy’s WWII Cleveland class of light cruisers. The Sullivans is named in memory of five brothers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Solomon Islands in 1942. Croaker had six WWII Pacific War patrols, was awarded three battle stars, and claimed 11 Japanese vessels. These historic ships, along with vehicles, smaller vessels and aircraft, are on display at the park located on the shores of Lake Erie.
Cod is credited with sinking more than 12 enemy vessels totaling 37,000+ tons and damaging another 36,000 tons of enemy shipping in WWII. All seven of the submarine’s war patrols were successful, and the Cod was awarded seven battle stars. Docked in Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor, the Cod was recently featured in a documentary film by World of Warships, Navy Legends — a good flick to watch if you can’t visit in person.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Edgewater Marina
USS Silversides Submarine Museum, Muskegon, MI
Silversides was one of the most successful submarines in the Pacific Theater of WWII, with 23 confirmed sinkings totaling more than 90,000 tons of enemy shipping. She received a Presidential Unit Citation for cumulative action over four patrols, as well as 12 battle stars. Tied up near the shore of Lake Michigan, Silversides Museum offers young visitors science and technology classes and overnight stays on board the legendary submarine.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Safe Harbor
Edson initially served in the Far East, operating in the Taiwan Strait and off the coast of Vietnam. Her service in 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin was recognized with the first of three Navy Unit Commendations. She is one of only two surviving Forest Sherman-class destroyers. Floating on the Saginaw River off Lake Huron, the ship’s guided tours cost a minimal fee but are free for active duty military in uniform.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museums: Bay Harbor Marina
USS Turner Joy
U.S. Naval Destroyer Museum, Bremerton, WA
Turner Joy’s service included a double-duty role as flagship for Destroyer Squadron 13 and Destroyer Division 131 with several tours in the Pacific. This vessel is most remembered for participating in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. You’ll find plenty of hotels and restaurants near the ship museum located on Sinclair Inlet just off Seattle’s Elliott Bay.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Bridgeview Marina
Stockton Maritime Museum, Stockton, CA
A minesweeper, Lucid was active during the Vietnam War, participated in Operation Market Time, and patrolled and searched for Vietnamese junk traffic. She boarded a total of 186 junks and steel-hulled ships, as well as hunted mines in the harbors of South Vietnam. Tours of the Lucid, moored not far from the San Joaquin River, are currently by appointment only while the vessel is being restored.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: 5 Star Marina
In 1944 and 1945, Hornet participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Volcano and Ryukyu Islands campaign. After the war, she took part in Operation Magic Carpet, returning troops to the United States. Hornet also recovered the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts when they returned from the Moon. San Francisco Bay is home to the Hornet and other naval exhibits.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Safe Harbor Ballena Isle
Pampanito made six patrols in the Pacific during WWII, during which she sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others. A Balao-class submarine, Pompanito was the third Navy vessel named for the pompano fish. She served as a Naval Reserve training ship from 1960 to 1971. Based in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, the museum offers a full day experience in Pacific Coast maritime history.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco Marina
BattleshipIowa Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Iowa served during WWII, the Korean War, and the Cold War, earned 11 battle stars, and hosted three U.S. presidents, earning the nicknames “Battleship of Presidents” and “Big Stick.” Iowa also served as the Third Fleet flagship, flying Admiral William F. Halsey’s flag at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Iowa is docked near the World Cruise Port Terminal on LA’s Main Channel that flows into the Pacific Ocean.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Holiday Harbor – Cabrillo Marina
USS Midway Museum, San Diego, CA
Commissioned a week after the end of World War II, Midway was the largest ship in the world until 1955, as well as the first U.S. aircraft carrier too big to transit the Panama Canal. She operated for 47 years, during which time she saw action in Vietnam and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in Operation Desert Storm. Visitors take a self-guided tour around 60 exhibits including the sleeping quarters, engine room, galley and ship jail at the Navy Pier.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museum: Safe Harbor Cabrillo Isle
Battleship Missouri Memorial, Honolulu, HI
Missouri is best remembered as the Empire of Japan’s surrender site in WWII. She fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was active in the Korean War. She was reactivated and modernized in 1984 and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm, receiving a total of 11 battle stars. You’ll find the Missouri tied up to a pier on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museums: Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor
Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Honolulu, HI
Arizona was bombed and sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. Unlike many of the other ships attacked that day, Arizona was irreparably damaged. The wreck still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor below the USS Arizona Memorial.
Where to Dock for Battleship Museums: Keehi Small Boat Harbor