Battleship Sleepover

A couple of weekends ago, my two youngest children got to experience sleeping on board the USS New Jersey.  It wasn’t that I had tired of their antics and decided to ship them out to learn some military discipline; it was an event with their Scout troop.  I did not actually go with them.  I happily and wholeheartedly volunteered to stay home with the older two boys.  In the past, I have spent the night in a historic prison and an abandoned farming township but this time I felt that Mr Pict should have the sleepover experience.  This was not just because I wanted to stay home cosy in my jammies but also because I would have been the only mother on the trip and – quite frankly – because I did not fancy trying to sleep in a situation where I felt uncomfortable and claustrophobic.

The USS New Jersey is a battleship with a long and interesting history – well, interesting if you like military history which I don’t but which Mr Pict does (another reason why he was just the parent for the job).  It was launched in 1942 and not completely decommissioned until the early 1990s so it saw action in World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War.  I really cannot accurately relate any of its detailed history, however, as I was not on the tour and – though I did listen to my husband’s report – I did not absorb and retain the information.  That’s what Wikipedia is for.

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The USS New Jersey became a museum ship in 2001 and is permanently docked in Camden, New Jersey.  It can be visited during the day by members of the public but getting to stay overnight was only possible because of the kids being Scouts.  Soon after they arrived, the troop was taken on a guided tour by knowledgeable volunteers.  They got to see a wide variety of spaces on board the ship and learn about the different eras of its history.  Our youngest son even got to sit in the Captain’s chair, a position he apparently rather enjoyed.  After the tour, the group dined in the mess area.  My kids are cheese snobs so were not impressed by the box mac’n’cheese on offer but having to eat food you don’t necessarily love probably added to the whole naval experience.  They were lucky they didn’t get hard tack.  Their bunks for the night were the exact same bunks the navy personnel would have slept on when the battleship was active.  The photos of the kids slotted into the narrow beds made me feel queasy so I was very glad that we had made the choice to have Mr Pict act as chaperone.

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After breakfast the next morning, they got to have a daylight wander around the ship, look at the Philadelphia skyline from the vantage point of the deck, and then it was time to head home.  As lukewarm as I a about military history, I think it’s a pretty cool thing for them to be able to say that the slept overnight on a battleship.

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17 thoughts on “Battleship Sleepover

  1. Laura – I’ve been aboard the mighty New Jersey on 2 occasions. She’s a big one! She is just one of the 4 Iowa Class Battleships that served during WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam. I was with this ole’ girl over in Vietnam on one occasion. She can throw a “broad side” projectile more than 17 miles away! She would destroy a Vietcong village with one shot. She scared the hell out of me one day when she fired her 16″ guns to starboard. She sat about 4 miles away from us, off our Starboard beam. A flash of yellow fire and black smoke, needless to mention the roar from the muzzle blast, made me jump. “What the hell was that?” I wondered. I found out!

    Now, years, later she is a museum for all to see. She’s somewhat in bad condition. Her Teak Wood decks are a mess, I noticed. Some of the 5″38″ Duel Gun Mounts have been removed to make way for Missile Launchers. Today, she is too slow for the modern Navy of this time. I’m sorry to see this. It’s great that your kids got to know what it’s like to “bunk” in aboard a ship like this. The only thing is that the noise of the ship is gone. I’ve been told that the Navy is considering one of the Iowa Class to be put back into Service! Not sure which one. When I, and my Brother, went aboard we were allowed to Tour the ship on our own, because of being former Navy enlisted.

    • Thank you very much for this wonderful reply, Les! I appreciate the personal insight you relate as well as the additional details you provide. My husband and kids felt the ship was still incredibly noisy so I’ll have to pass on that you think it’s much quieter now.

      • Laura – The ole’ girl truly is quite compared to what she is like while at sea. The machinery that kept her plowing thru the sea’s is quiet now. No boilers running. No machinery spaces in operation, any more. How’d you like to be sleeping in your “rack” and have one of those “16 in. Rifles” let go a Broadside near your compartment? It has a hell of a roar!

        If you could, stand on her forward deck and try a visualize what it’s like to be “underway” from years ago.

  2. Great post Laura. I have a friend whose daughter is on a Canadian ship. He did one of those family aboard trips for about four days and said he doesn’t know how they manage it for such long trips. Claustrophobic and no privacy, to him. But for his daughter, all is good. What a wonderful experience for your kids.

  3. Glad Mr. Pict was willing and able to go!! My adopted dad served on a deep water submarine when he was in the Navy and I’ve seen pictures of him in very tight quarters. Ugh! I shudder at the thought of a submarine – or a battleship overnight! I’m right there with you in choosing to stay home!

  4. I never took any pictures of the berths in our point class cutter but those berths the boys are in look quiet roomy in comparison. Very similar to what we had on several of the oil rigs and barges I worked on. Sounds like they had a memorable time so that’s good.

    • I applaud you for being able to cope with an even more confined space than that. There is no way I would cope – even if I could fit. Ha ha!

      It was a very memorable experience for the kids and one I think they will value more as time goes on and they really appreciate what a rare opportunity it was for them.

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