Girl Scouts spend night on USS Yorktown

Published 10:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

On a trip over the Memorial Day weekend, the Junior Girl Scouts of Troop 2580 learned the important meaning behind the national holiday.

The girls walked in the steps of the country’s heroes while participating in the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum’s camping program aboard a historic World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, on Charleston Harbor.

Morning and evening meals were served aboard the Yorktown just as they were to the ship’s sailors decades ago while at sea.  Sleeping accommodations aboard the ship were quite rustic, but the girls loved bunking in the Junior Officer’s berthing quarters.

During the trip, the group became “shipmates” while touring the museum’s three 70 year old warships including the USS Yorktown, World War II destroyer USS Laffey, and Cold War submarine USS Clamagore. Through a virtual reality program on board, the scouts explored space and learned about the Yorktown’s role in the recovery of the Apollo 8 astronauts and command module as it splashed down near Hawaii. The Apollo 8 mission was the first manned spacecraft to successfully leave Earth’s atmosphere, orbit the moon, and return safely to Earth.

A true highlight for the girls was meeting 96 year-old Bill Watkinson and thanking him for his service.

According to museum staff: “Bill Watkinson served as a radar night fighter pilot assigned to the USS Yorktown CV-10 during World War II. Now, more than 70 years later, he visits the Yorktown often to volunteer his time and share his memories with museum guests.

“To honor him, the museum dedicated a bench in his honor. Bill’s bench is situated in front of the F-6F Hellcat on the hangar deck of the Yorktown. It was a Hellcat much like this one that Mr. Watkinson flew of the deck of the USS Yorktown during World War II and he enjoys sitting in front of it as he greets guests and shares his memories as a military pilot.”