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In Pictures: Saluting historic Navy ships across the U.S.
By Tom Adkinson
July 7, 2023

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The month in which we celebrate Independence Day is special at many places with connections to America’s military past, and that’s particularly true at these five destinations where ships of various vintages are open for visits. They are on three coasts and deep in the middle of the country on Lake Michigan. The vessels include a frigate built in 1797 that remains a commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy and a World War II submarine built hundreds of miles from the oceans where it would patrol. All aboard!

‘Old Ironsides’

historic navy ship old ironsides
You can’t get much more patriotic than the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides.” The 54-gun frigate, built in 1797, earned its nickname in the War of 1812 when British cannon fire from the HMS Guerriere bounced off its thick wooden hull. Boston is its homeport, and it is oldest commissioned warship afloat. U.S. Navy personnel are on board as interpretative historians. Inspecting the ship sets the stage for the nearby USS Constitution Museum, where you can explore the sailing ship’s full story. Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy

USS Yorktown

USS Yorktown
The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, known as the Fighting Lady, is the centerpiece of the multi-faceted Patriots Point attraction in Charleston, S.C. Along with the Yorktown are the USS Laffey (nicknamed the “Ship That Wouldn’t Die” after it survived a massive kamikaze attack), the three-acre Vietnam Experience and the Medal of Honor Museum. The Yorktown served in World War II and Vietnam and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule in 1968. Image courtesy of Patriots Point

USS Alabama

USS Alabama
The massive USS Alabama – 680 feet long and displacing 45,000 tons – almost became scrap metal. After leading the American fleet into Tokyo Bay on Sept. 5, 1945, at the end of World War II, the mighty ship was decommissioned in 1947 and was scheduled to be scrapped in the 1960s. Patriotic Alabamians intervened, and the ship now is the biggest attraction at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile. Also in the park are the submarine USS Drum and several warplanes, including a Red-Tail P-51 fighter, the plane flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Image courtesy of Alabama Tourism Department

USS Midway

USS Alabama
A 25-foot-tall statue called “Unconditional Surrender” often is paired in photos with the USS Midway, now a major visitor attraction in San Diego, Calif. The Midway, named for the critical Battle of Midway in World War II, was built in only 17 months and was commissioned just one week after the war ended. That, however, was when she began the longest tenure of any 20th century aircraft carrier. A cadre of 650 docents, many of them Navy veterans, tells the ship’s story. A bonus aboard is the Café 41, which offers an excellent view of San Diego who you enjoy a lunch. Image courtesy of the USS Midway Museum

USS Cobia

USS Cobia
Wisconsin isn’t a place you might expect to see a submarine, but it’s quite logical in Manitowoc at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. Of the 223 submarines the U.S. built during World War II, 28 came from a shipyard in Manitowoc on Lake Michigan. The USS Cobia is the museum’s focal point. Even though it wasn’t one of the Manitowoc 28, it’s of the same class, and it holds quite a distinction – it’s listed as an Airbnb property. They call it Sub BNB. Image courtesy of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Trip-planning resources:,,, and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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