Patriots Point lays out plans for destroyer’s homecoming celebration

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum will celebrate the return of the destroyer Laffey in a series of events April 13-15.

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum will celebrate the return of the destroyer Laffey in a series of events April 13-15, coinciding with the 67th anniversary of the warship surviving a massive Japanese kamikaze attack in the Battle of Okinawa.

Ninety former crew members, including several who served during World War II, will attend the three-day event to pay tribute to “The Ship That Would Not Die.” All events are open to the public.

From 7-10 p.m. April 13, special tours of the Laffey will be provided along with live music and dancing on the pier. Food, beer, wine and soft drinks will be available for purchase. Admission is free, but parking will be $5.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 14, Laffey veterans will be available to share their stories and sign autographs as well as lead tours through the ship. Regular admission applies along with the parking fee.

At 1 p.m. April 15, the anniversary of the Japanese kamikaze attacks will be commemorated with special remarks from former crew members, the laying of a wreath and a performance by a U.S. Marine Corps band. Admission will be free from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Parking will cost $5.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity for the public to interact with the brace sailors who served as members of her crew,” Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said.

“This will be an experience that visitors will never forget,” Laffey Association President Sonny Walker said. “We are also thrilled to have four surviving heroes of the Battle of Okinawa, where the Laffey was attacked by 22 kamikazes in 80 minutes and survived.”

Five Japanese suicide aircraft bombers and three bombs struck the ship, killing 31 and wounding 71 of the 336 crew members onboard the Laffey during the attack.

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The Laffey returned to Patriots Point in January after a three-year absence as it underwent a $9.2 million restoration of its hull upriver in North Charleston to prevent it from sinking into Charleston Harbor.

The 377-foot-long destroyer was added to Patriots Point’s fleet of former warships in 1981 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It is now moored beside the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.