I took the ferry from Long Wharf to the Charlestown Navy Yard to visit the USS Constitution, but on the way into the yard, it was impossible to miss the presence of a grand, grey warship at the pier: The USS Cassin Young.
Intrigued, I left the crowd heading for the Constitution and went to Cassin Young first. At the gangway is a hand-painted sign that reads “WWII Destroyer – Not Modified for Visitor Safety.” Now I’m even more intrigued.
Everything is pretty much exactly the way it was when the destroyer was decommissioned in 1960. The rangers won’t let me up on the superstructure, but I’m free to wander the deck. The big guns are capped, of course, and the torpedoes and shells are empty. But the galley still smells like grease, and sailors are painting the deck railing just above me.
Even though I can’t get to the more interior spaces, which are probably not-at-all modified for visitor safety, this is an indelible experience. The ship is both huge and cramped at the same time. I have to stoop through the doorways and I scrape my head on the galley ceiling. The big guns are extremely intimidating, but at the same time the ship seems vulnerable, exposed. I’m trying to imagine my uncle Walt in the Pacific on the USS Albert T. Harris, and my great-uncle Robert on the SS Bushrod Washington in the Mediterranean. (One made it home, the other didn’t.)
I’m traveling alone today, so no famous people are immortalized in this shot.
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