By Jug Varner

A visit to historic Charleston, SC, would be incomplete without taking the short ride across the bay bridge to Mt. Pleasant and a fascinating tour of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and other ships and special displays at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

It is the world's largest of its kind, with five ships, twenty aircraft and numerous exhibits and memorials that provide an enlightening and enjoyable experience for the entire family. One can spend endless hours here and many do. Some four million people visit each year, making it one of South Carolina's most popular attractions.

In addition to the Yorktown are the destroyer Laffey, submarine Clamagore, Coast Guard cutter Ingham, nuclear merchant ship Savannah and a Vietnam Support Base.

The carrier is the namesake of the old Yorktown sunk at the Battle of Midway in 1942. Commissioned in 1943, the new ship earned her nickname “Fighting Lady” in WWII battles at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines, Truk and the Marianas. She also served in the 7th Fleet during the Korean war and continued in service until decommissioned in 1970. She was the first ship at Patriot Point.

Yorktown exhibits include: the National Congressional Medal of Honor Museum; Halsey-Doolittle Raid; Test Pilot Hall of Fame; Carrier Aviation Memorial; Stover Memorial Theater; Battle of Midway; WWII Fast Carrier Group; Imperial Japanese Navy; Japanese surrender table and documents from the battleship USS Missouri; Super Carriers; restored WWII and later model aircraft. Various tours take visitors through the ship from engine room to bridge, flight deck, hangar deck and numerous working and living spaces.

The destroyer Laffey participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. In 1945 off Okinawa, she endured a 79 minute attack by 22 Japanese planes. Although struck by five Kamikazes and three bombs, the crew managed to shoot down 11 aircraft. With later service in Korean and the Atlantic Fleet, Laffey was decommissioned in 1975.

Submarine Clamagore patrolled exclusive in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas from 1945 until 1975 sad was one of the last diesel-powered submarines in the Navy.

The Savannah was the first nuclear powered merchant ship in the world, with a fuel load that could have taken her 300,000 miles.

Coast Guard cutter Ingham battled through the “Bloody Winter” of 1942-43 in the North Atlantic. She is credited with sinking the German U-boat 626.

The Vietnam Naval Support Base exhibit is a true-to-scale creation of an actual base, showing living and operational areas used by those who served in Vietnam.

All ships at Patriots Point have been designated National Historic Landmarks. The Museum opens daily at 9 a.m., and visitors can purchase and array of quality mementos.