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A Visit to the USS Edson Destroyer in Bay City, Michigan USA

A retired U.S. Navy destroyer, now serves as a museum ship.
It was Memorial Weekend, 2019, and the wife and I wanted to do something to show respect for America's military.

I remembered reading a wikipedia article on Navy Destroyers, one being docked in nearby Bay City, Michigan, about a two hour drive north of us on Interstate 75.

So I looked it up - the USS Edson, a destroyer that saw service in the Vietnam War and is now docked as a museum ship. Named for Major General Merritt A. Edson, United States Marine Corps.

A review of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum website showed how to get there using Google Maps or a gps.

So we set off for Bay City, a mediumsized city north of Flint and Saginaw and south of Alpena. It is close to Saginaw Bay, on Lake Huron, and the Saginaw River runs through town.

If Bay City is trying to keep the USS Edson museum ship a secret, it is doing a good job. On I-75 there are no billboards directing travelers to the site. No state tourist signs or markers. We drove through town, along the riverfront, past the parks, looking for directional signs to the ship. None were found.

Clearly, state and local governments need to step it up.

Google Maps got us to the ship. A destroyer is one of the Navy's smallest and fastest warships, but getting first glance of it, docked there on the Saginaw River, belies that fact, especially to people not used to seeing the biggest the Navy has to offer.

This destroyer is huge! It is as long as the longest cruise ship at 418 feet, stem to stern. Beautiful, it is not, painted in military grey, it looks like it is all business.

During the Vietnam War, when it shelled the enemy on shore, it was call the Grey Ghost, a ship that disappeared off the scene in fog and smoke, but reappeared later to keep up its battering.

The USS Edson was commissioned in 1958 and decommissioned in 1998. It was towed to its current site in 2013.

It is open for self-guided tours, and at the same time is undergoing restoration by volunteers.

Clearly, it needs more visitors. On the Sunday, we visited there were only about a dozen cars in the parking lot.

Clearly, also, it needs a massive infusion of revenue. The welcome center is nothing more than a trailer, that also houses the micro gift shop.

But...the ship.

Board it on the long gang plank. Right at the top is the front gun, sporting a 5 inch barrel that fires its ordnance as far as 13 miles.

Inside the visitor booklet is a self-guided tour, but that procedure quickly evaporates because of the fascinating interior of the ship. Duck your head, and step over the door frame through a watertight door into the bowels of the ship. It is just as it was during military service.

Some of the passageways are so narrow you need to turn sideways. There are no frills on this warship. You get to see what it was really like on the open seas when you visit the machine shop, the radio room, the three-high bunk beds, the mess hall and galley kitchen, the officer's quarters, the laundry room, barber shop, and mail room.

Wind your way through the ship at your leisure. There are museum displays of Navy uniforms, training manuals, books, and lots of official U.S. Navy photos.

Duck your head and carefully step out of a water-tight compartment door onto the main deck. Walk to the bridge area and climb the stairs to the top. Go to the front of the ship and astonish yourself looking at the anchors and the huge chain links. Go back to the front of the bridge and ring the ship's bell.

We lingered on the deck, watching small boats full of families pass by on the Saginaw River. It reminded us of the size of this destroyer.

But it is all relative to larger Navy ships. A Navy aircraft carrier employs 5,000 sailors. The USS Edson had 218 plus 17 officers.

If you are in Michigan on vacation and are interested in seeing the USS Edson museum ship, read about it on Wikipedia and the museum's own website. Then dial it into Google Maps.

You can be back on I-75 in a couple of hours. Those are hours you won't forget. Thank you. Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons. Official U.S. Navy photo, in the public domain.
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Published: 6/1/2019
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