Story & photos by Cub Scout Wolf Den Leader Patrick G. Curley
Lynnfield Cub Scout Pack 48 spent the night on the USS Massachusetts, a decorated World War II battleship anchored permanently at “Battleship Cove” in Fall River, Mass. It was a unique opportunity to experience what it was like for the 2,300 sailors who manned the ship during several years of intense battle service in World War II. The Scouts had free range to tour virtually all areas of the decommissioned battleship as well as the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (a destroyer), the USS Lionfish (a submarine), PT Boats and the Hiddensee, the only exhibited example of a Soviet-built missile corvette in the United States.
After an afternoon touring, the Scouts watched a documentary about the ship and its veteran sailors, then enjoyed Q and A with the director of the Battleship Cove, followed by dinner. After dinner, many of the Scouts participated in Battleship Bingo, during which the staff taught the Scouts sailor slang, so by the end of the weekend, the Scouts were quite fluent. They woke up on their racks (bunks), went to the head (bathroom), climbed the ladder (stairs) to the mess (dining area) to eat food prepared in the galley (kitchen) by the swabbies (sailors). And if they were lucky, they had brought some extra gedunk (junk food) and stored it in their locker (space for their supplies) on the tin can (the ship).
The Scouts visited the ship’s snack bar for popcorn and other treats then enjoyed “The Lego Movie” until lights out at 11 p.m. They slept on hanging cot-like “racks” stacked four high, just like the sailors slept on nearly 80 years ago. To climb to the top rack, one must climb up the edge of each of the lower racks. One side of the racks is attached by chains so any movement by those above or below causes the whole set of racks to move. The Scouts slept deep down in the ship surrounded by the thick steel walls of the battleship. The Scouts slept soundly but the parents less so due to the loud sounds of the heating system and the rumble of snoring that reverberated through the bunk area.
With a contingent of more than 55 Scouts and parents, Lynnfield’s pack was the largest on the ship that night. Cub Scouts ranges from Lion Scouts in kindergarten through Webelos in fifth grade. Each grade has its own den and parent leaders. Scouting offers kids amazing opportunities for adventure, learning, respect and outdoor exploration.
A big part of Scouting is respect for those who serve our country. The Battleship Cove experience further deepened the Scouts’ appreciation for and understanding of the bravery, sacrifice and strength exhibited by American Veterans, past and present.
Built in the Quincy shipyard, the USS Massachusetts served four years of intense battle service in World War II from 1942 to 1945. After the war, it sat mothballed at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval base. In the early 1960s, the Navy was going to scrap it for metal, but the veterans who served on board banded together with the City of Fall River and the Commonwealth to save and refurbish the ship. Today it serves as a proud reminder of America’s victory in World War II and as an incredible adventure for visiting Scouts, school groups and the public.