Last week, I visited my friend in Pensacola, Florida. First off, the place is gorgeous, with crazy-beautiful beaches, like this one:
That’s why, when my friend insisted on taking me to museums, I was kinda disappointed. Especially when he wanted to visit the USS Alabama Museum, featuring a battleship used in WW2.
I’m not all that interested in war stuff. Don’t get me wrong: the way WW2 affected peoples’ lives is insanely fascinating. And knowing what happened in their daily lives is soo interesting, too.
I just don’t like walking around seeing the giant turrets and hearing how “a giant shell 6 feet long is shot from there.” I’m more interested in the people aspect.
That’s why, when my time walking down amazing beaches was cut short to skitter around a battleship, I was more than unsure. Especially when it started to drizzle as we pulled up to this:
I’ve never visited a ship before, but assumed we’d just walk around the top of the boat, getting soaked by the rain, and looking at all the big guns.
Boy, was I wrong.
The top of the battleship is only a tiny piece of the experience. You actually get to explore the ENTIRE ship. They have painstakingly recreated it to showcase the lives of soldiers on board.
Walking around *where WW2 soldiers actually walked* and being a part of their experience was so exhilarating. The whole time, it was easy to get lost in the moment and feel like I was actually there. That’s the kind of thing I love, and here were my favorite moments:
1. I’m a Giant!
Even though WW2 was only like 60 years ago, I got the impression the average height back then was about 4’2″. Why? Everything on the ship was tiny. For instance, this was a door:
Obviously, everything had to be compacted into the tiniest space possible. I mean, the ship held 2,500 people! But I honestly think I would have been ruled “unfit to serve” simply because I’m 6’3″. Screw asthma and other illesses; height is a condition!
One of my favorite parts was going to the “mess hall” where the soldiers ate their meals:
It was cool imagining the camaraderie as hundreds of people joined each other in a relatively tiny space 3 times a day. I bet there were fart jokes a-plenty.
And the food didn’t look too bad. Of course, one of the side dishes was mushed turnips, which immediately made me think twice about enlisting.
3. The “Loose Lips Sink Ships” Propaganda
To make the ship feel as authentic as possible, there were pinup girls, old calendars, original music, etc… all over the place. The thing that threw me off was the propaganda.
I totally expected posters on how evil Hitler was or horrible messages about gas chambers.
The propaganda that dominated the ship was all about how blabbing could result in catastrophe.
Here were just a few of the posters I saw:
I admit that, at first glance, I was like, “Did the higher-ups really think soldiers were that stupid that they’d just walk around saying, ‘Hey I can’t wait to run mission Fat Boy next week!'”
Then my friend said, “The posters are probably drilling it into their heads in case they’re captured and interrogated.”
Then I was like when Phoebe (from Friends) says, “Ohhhhhh.”
4. The Popular Candy
There was a little grocery store on board, selling (tons and tons of) cigarettes, snacks, razors, etc… The thing that really surprised me were the candy bars:
60 years later and we still devour Snickers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, and Nestle.
5. Blast from A Christmas Story Past
I’m more excited to share this than anything! The following boxes sat on one of the shelves at the grocery store:
It’s the soap Ralphie had to eat in A Christmas Story! First, that’s awesome in and of itself. Second, notice it’s called “Life Buoy” and not “Life Boy”. Mind blown!
6. I Found My Ship’s Calling
After scouring the innards of the ship, I decided what I’d want my job to be:
Barber! Being on the ship in a time of war would be terrible, so I’m not downplaying that. But if I’m stuck on board, I might as well get a chance to talk to people all day while making them look good. Also, you can’t see it, but there were three bunk beds right there in the shop. So they got to sleep on their own, away from the group berthing room (which had like hundreds of beds all stacked on top of each other):
As scary as it sounds, people walked around the ship (with like million foot turrets and stuff) smoking all day. The part that made me giggle like a 13-year-old boy were these little cups hanging around the ship:
8. Scary-Ass Medicine
I think this picture of a medical chair explains everything:
Isn’t that a scene out of every horror movie ever made?