Funding will be used to climate control the Exhibit Hall and Theater in order to create an environment that can safely exhibit additional artifacts, extend the life expectancy of equipment in the theater and make these areas more comfortable for guests. In addition, funding will be used to upgrade the museum experience in the USS Laffey’s aft gun turret by adding interactive elements – ultimately bringing her to life and enhancing the public’s understanding of destroyers and the lives of those who served aboard them.
The interactive elements that will be added to the Laffey will focus on a day in the ship’s history – April 16, 1945 – when the destroyer was attacked by 22 Japanese bombers and kamikaze (suicide) aircraft within a span of 80 minutes. The aft gun turret was directly hit by two Japanese planes, killing six enlisted men. In total, 31 men were killed and 71 injured of the 336-man crew during this attack.
“Destroyers – also known as ‘Tin Cans’ – played an integral role during World War II,” said Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette. “No combat ship was more versatile or as fast; and they were used for a number of missions, including surface action against enemy ships and shore bombardments, anti-submarine warfare, and radar picket duty – like the Laffey’s assignment on the day she was attacked. Thanks to the generosity of the Tin Can Sailors, Inc., we will be able to tell this story in a way that is authentic, engaging, and meaningful for future generations.”
The plan for the redesigned gun turret experience aboard the USS Laffey is as follows:
Guests would enter the turret and find a video monitor mounted between the two guns. Lights will fade and the video will begin, telling a little about the USS Laffey and the gun mount where they are currently standing. The video would then transform into a reenactment of the battle that took place in April 1945; including sounds of the Japanese aircraft attacking the ship, bombs exploding and the Laffey’s guns firing back This experience would intensify as the floor vibrates with each explosion and the lights flicker. The climactic moment of the video would be the sound of a Japanese aircraft diving into the turret and a massive explosion. At this point, everything would go silent and the video would resume, showing images of the turret after the attack, setting a somber and reverent tone for the men who lost their lives in the turret that day.
Work on the aforementioned upgrades is already underway and is estimated to be completed in early May. During this time, the USS Laffey will remain open to the public.