Veterans Memorial Park was developed as a memorial for all veterans of the United States Armed Forces and as a tribute to Northington General Army Hospital, one of the largest military hospitals in the world at the end of WWII. When the hospital closed, it was stipulated that the one-acre site could only be used as a shrine, a memorial to veterans or a denominational church.
The Park was first dedicated in 1978 as a memorial for veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. In 1997, a rededication ceremony was held at the Park with guest speaker Lee Allen Hallman, CDR USN (Retired). In 2002, surviving crew members of the USS Tuscaloosa held a joint reunion with their sister ship the USS Wichita. The veterans came from all over the United States to see fellow soldiers and to view parts of their ship, perhaps for the last time.
Starting in 2003 the Tuscaloosa Veterans Memorial Park Association has presented a Memorial Day service for those who sacrificed for our freedom, country and way of life. Today the Park serves as an invaluable patriotic reminder for our children and future generations.
Tuscaloosa Veterans Memorial Park is located at 1701 McFarland Boulevard, Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the site of the former hospital’s chapel. The one-acre site is retained in public ownership under the oversight of the Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority. The majority of development costs to date have been donated by the private sector including more than $250,000 of in-kind construction.
The tall centerpiece at the Park is the mast of the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa. During WWII, the USS Tuscaloosa fought in crucial campaigns including Normandy, North Africa, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. In 1941 she escorted President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to the Charter signing in Newfoundland. The USS Tuscaloosa earned five battle stars for European operations and two battle stars for Pacific operations.
Near the ship’s mast you will see one of the five inch guns from the USS Tuscaloosa. It was used as an anti-aircraft weapon and in-shore bombardment.
This 5-inch, 25-caliber artillery gun was once located on the U.S.S. Tuscaloosa, which was launched on November 15, 1933 and commissioned on August 17, 1934. The Tuscaloosa was a New Orleans class heavy cruiser that was built in Camden, New Jersey. The Tuscaloosa was equipped with eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns that were located in single turrets, four one either side of the ship for the purpose of both antiaircraft and surface fire. The gun weighed 4,720 pounds and was serve by a crew of eight men. This gun was capable of firing a 54-pound shell out to a range of 14,500 yards. The Tuscaloosa was decommissioned on February 13, 1946 and scrapped in 1959.
Continue around the park and you’ll see the Vought A-7E Corsair, a carrier based attack bomber of the type which saw service in Vietnam.
The A-7E was the final fleet version of the A-7. After more than two decades of service the A-7 was replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet. The A-7E was equipped with a 20 mm gun and could carry up to 15,000 pounds of bombs and missiles. The A-7E Corsair were part of the two-carrier battle group that conducted a joint strike on selected Libyan terrorist related targets in 1986. Together with carrier base F/A 18’s, the A-7E’s used anti-radiation missiles to neutralize Libyan air defenses.
On loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, Florida the aircraft on display was assigned to the Aircraft Carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Next is the “Huey” attack helicopter that was introduced in 1955 and continues in service.
The Bell Aircraft Corp. manufactured the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, and it has a cruising speed of 127 mph and a range of about 320-miles. The aircraft weighs about 9,500 pounds and usually carries a crew of 3. The UH-1 is better known as “The Huey” and is one of the most recognized aircraft of the Vietnam Era. The aircraft had a wide variety of uses ranging from medical evacuation to troop transport to gunship. The UH-1H on display here went into service in September 1967. All four branches of the United States Military are still using the Huey.
On the ground you will see a M60 medium tank that was issued to Army units in 1960.
The First M60 tanks were issued to the United States Army in the fall of 1960 as replacements for the M48 Patton Tank. The M60A3 was introduced in 1978 and was the first production line tank to be outfitted with the Tank Thermal Sight (TTS). The TTS allowed the Tank Crew to pick out an enemy vehicle in the dark. The tank was also equipped with a meteorological sensor device that fed data directly into its ballistics battle movement. The M60A3 remained the main battle tank of the U. S. Army and Marine Corps until it was replaced in the mid-1980’s by the M1A1 Abrams Tank.
Across the way is the iconic Willys MB Jeep. This general purpose all terrain vehicle was first produced in 1940 and was instrumental in WWII, The Korean War and Vietnam.
The oldest piece is an Armament gun that was pulled around on a caisson during WWI. The weapon is a 75 millimeter French gun borrowed by the U.S. during WWII.
The Park also includes numerous interpretive and educational markers.
Veterans Memorial Park is located on McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in front of University Mall.