Laffey in need of TLC

World War II destroyer Laffey

MELISSA HANELINE

World War II destroyer Laffey needs millions of dollars in repairs, and its keepers at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum don't know where they will find the money to complete them.

Charlie Hall, media and public relations manager for the state-owned Mount Pleasant tourist attraction, said Wednesday that "The Ship that Would Not Die," now closed to the public, will soon move to a local dry dock.

The Laffey sprang a leak late last year, which allowed thousands of gallons of water to seep into its hull.

Divers worked to patch the ship, but after months and many volunteer efforts, the ship still needs more than $7 million in work.

"Where we're going to get the money from, we don't know yet," Hall said.

The Laffey took on water three times in recent months, according to Patriots Point officials. Temporary repairs only uncovered long-term structural problems.

Hall said the Laffey's move date is uncertain, but added that repairs should take at least a year. The Laffey would likely by transported by tugboat to Detyens Shipyard on the Cooper River, he said. The move would require some dredging and relocating of piers.

The maritime museum hopes to have the ship back and open for public tours by April of 2010 for the anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa.

The Laffey is the only remaining Sumner class destroyer, according to Patriots Point. In 1945 nearly two dozen Japanese warplanes attacked the ship.

Five kamikaze hits and three bomb strikes killed 31 and wounded 71 of the 336-man crew.

After it shot down 11 attacking planes, the Laffey earned the Presidential Unit Citation and five battle stars for service — plus its die-hard reputation.