In recognition of Veterans Day (Nov. 11), here are three retired military vessels you can tour. Each made history, for widely different reasons. Since 9/11, public access to ship memorials has opened up considerably, but security is still tight; visitors are welcome, but generally not their knapsacks or handbags.
-- Margaret Roth
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
SHIP: Battleship USS Missouri, off Waikiki at Oahu's south shore.
PLACE IN HISTORY: Mighty Mo was the site of Japan's official surrender on the morning of Sept. 2, 1945, in a signing ceremony on Deck 01. The ship went on to serve another 47 years, seeing action in the Korean and Persian Gulf wars.
WHAT'S ABOARD: The claim to fame of this long, lean, Iowa-class battleship is its nine 16-inch guns, which also played a major role in the Gulf War. Each one 65 feet long, the guns can fire a 2,700-pound shell 23 miles in 50 seconds with legendary lethality. A new feature this year is the Truman Line, in the old crew's mess decks, where you can get lunch for $6.50 to $10.
FEE: Admission to its seven decks is $16. Guided tours, some including restricted areas, start at $22; reservations recommended.
WHERE TO STAY: Within 10 minutes of Mighty Mo is the Best Western's full-service, if unexciting, Plaza Hotel (3253 N. Nimitz Hwy., 800-800-4683, www.bestwestern.com), with doubles from $139. For a luxurious dose of local history, the pink Royal Hawaiian (2259 Kalakaua Ave., 866-716-8109, www.royal-hawaiian.com), dating to 1927, has four-poster beds, a pool, spa and mai tais on the lawn; doubles from $259.
INFO: Battleship Missouri Memorial, 877-644-4896, www.ussmissouri.com. Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, 800-464-2924, www.gohawaii.com.
SHIP: Submarine USS Nautilus, moored in the Thames River next to Naval Submarine Base New London.
PLACE IN HISTORY: The Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, has a history of firsts. The sub's launch in 1954 set new standards for speed and distance in undersea warfare, and in 1958, it became the first sub to navigate under the North Pole. It was retired after 25 years in service.
WHAT'S ABOARD: A walk through the Nautilus is a complete tour of submarine life -- from the Torpedo Room to the crew's mess and galley. The close quarters for which submarines are infamous are evident in the crew members' 10 bunks. An adjacent museum traces the development of the "silent service" from the wooden one-man Turtle deployed unsuccessfully in the Revolutionary War to the most modern classes of submarine.
WHERE TO STAY: A mere mile away, the 140-room Best Western Olympic Inn (360 Rte. 12, 800-622-7766) is an inexpensive, amenities-laden option with an indoor pool, hot tub, dry saunas, restaurant and bar. Doubles from $100 weekdays, $129 weekends. For even more TLC, the 285-room, AAA four-diamond Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa (625 North Rd., 866-449-7390, marriott.com), built in 2001, is a 10-minute drive from the Nautilus, with a spa, indoor pool and fitness center. Doubles from $239 weekdays, $199 weekends.
INFO: U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum, 800-343-0079, www.ussnautilus.org. Mystic Country, 800-863-6569, www.mysticmore.com. Connecticut Vacation Center, 888-288-4748, www.tourism.state.ct.us.
SHIP: Destroyer USS Turner Joy, at the Bremerton boardwalk (an easy walk from the Bremerton terminal of the Seattle Ferry).
PLACE IN HISTORY: On Aug. 4, 1964, two days after an attack from three North Vietnamese boats, the Turner Joy fired at supposedly hostile craft in what would become known as the Tonkin Gulf incident, opening the door to escalating hostilities in Vietnam -- even though those may not have been hostile craft on the radar after all.
WHAT'S ABOARD: On one of the ship's three five-inch .54-caliber guns, you can see battle scars from day and night gunfire in Vietnam, in which the Turner Joy continued to serve.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel rooms are at a premium in this Navy town. But next to the Turner Joy is a Hampton Inn (150 Washington Ave., 800-426-7866, www.hamptoninn.com), with rooms from $99 double. A 10-minute drive away is the Illahee Manor Bed and Breakfast (6680 Illahee Rd. NE, 800-693-6680, www.illaheemanor.com), a five-room inn built on the water; from $115.
INFO: USS Turner Joy, 360-792-2457, www.ussturnerjoy.org. Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau, 800-416-5615, www.visitkitsap.com.