Sunday, March 1, 2009

USS Turner Joy

Bremerton, Washington has a relationship with the US Navy that is about 100 yers old. It seems only right that a place with ties so deep should also be home to a spectacular museum ship. The Navy Museum, however, is a let down compared to its previous glory, so don't bother with that.

Laid down in 1957 and launched on August 3, 1959, USS Turner Joy was the last ship of the Forrest Sherman class of destroyers. She was on patrol with the USS Maddox when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the duo and precipitated the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed LBJ to increase the number of troops sent to Vietnam. She received 9 battle stars and participated in various stages of the Vietnam War. It is said she even fired the last round of the war.
The ship is 418 feet long with a beam of 45 feet. She draws 22 feet and when empty, displaces 2800. When fully loded she displace 4050 tons. Her turbines and two propellers could push her through the water at up to 32.4 knots. When she got where she was going, she could bring her three 5"/54 guns to bear, and, if it was a ship, her six 12.75" torpedoes.
(three tubes on each beam)
The Ship is moored stern toward shore, with her bow pointing proudly toward Sinclair Inlet. She is only a short walk away from the ferry terminal. The charge is only about $10 for adults. For that you have the run of the ship. Almost all of the ship is opened up for guests to at least get a glimpse of. Some rooms separate the public from their content with plexiglass, but it is possible to lay your hands on the 55 pound five inch projectiles that are situated all around the ship.
I suspect the museum is not worried about this because it is tremendously difficult to pocket one of these rounds and NOT stumble around as though you have just thrown out your back. I hefted one, and they are not for the feint of heart. The wife frowned on my curiosity, and my pockets were the wrong size.

When you board the ship, you are on the stern, near the aft five inch turret. The door was open on our visit nd we were able to sit or stand in all the positions. The best was that of the gun captain, who sat in a plexiglass bubble at the top of the turret with all the controls in his hands. Otherwise, you could get a good look at the breech of the large naval gun, just by sticking your head in the hatch.
You can enter the ship through any of a number of entrances, each with a set of light blocking shees set up. Once inside you can choose to go forward or aft. This decision may depend on he amount of traffic, as the passage ways were built for young and fit men. You have the option of dropping down into the engine rooms and getting good look at the reduction gears meant to change the speed of the turbines into power for the propellers. One can only imagine the noise and heat in those confined spaces.
I recommend, if you are not a naval buff, taking your own personal navy person. If you do not have one, you can ask a docent to show you around. When I first visited Turner Joy, in 1998, I had with me an ex-engineer from the USS Long Beach, the shell of which is moored not too far away. He was able to explain things that were not obvious, and his descriptions, taken from his own memories of the Vietnam era fighting ships, were poignant and vivid. You can stand in front of the instrument panels and pretend you are at your station. Don't let the water disappear from the boiler glass, you will melt the tubes! But, don't let the water get too high in the glass, or you will send liquid water into the turbine blades! Seeing the massive reduction gears and the steam pipes covered with 4 inch thick asbestos insulation really helps you imagine the noise and heat.

If one is observant and has good spacal reckoning, you can envision the water tight spaces. One must go up a ladder from the engine room to move forward or aft. Only then can you descend again to after steering or forward to the paint lockers and Sonar rooms. Up one level, on the main deck, is the crew's mess and the galley. Beyond that is the officer's mess. You can walk by the pharmacy/operating room and the Ship's Store. You can also find the Exec's stateroom and the Captain's in port cabin here.

Up a level or two and you can find yourself on the ship's bridge. Here you can issue commands to an imaginery crew and con the ship. Have a companion step in the wheelhouse and you can talk to each other via the voice tubes. Step into the CIC and you can see the radar screens set up to look like they are searching the skies.

Go down to Sonar, then around the forward turret trunk and ammunition hoist, and you find yourself in the bow. Here you can see the tubes down which the anchor chains go to get to the chain lockers. Here, also, you can see various rescue and damage control equipment. The transducers for the Sonar are there and you can see the freezers for the galley nearby, too.
Overall, this is a great place to spend a few hours or all day. It is a great museum ship and you don't feel hurried to leave. You can go your own pace. There are identifying signs all over, but it may be preferable to have a friend who knows something about ships along or a docent if you want to get the full educational experience. If knowing every little detail is not necessary, then, you can go it alone. I really enjoyed my visit, and so did my wife...a noted history un-enthusiast.

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