By CAROL COMEGNO
The battleship USS New Jersey needs more volunteers to
get it shipshape.
About 800 volunteers signed up, but only about 30 are
showing up weekly to help the Home Port Alliance convert
the ship into a museum on the Delaware River.
To ensure the New Jersey can open Sept. 2, the alliance
needs more people willing to help scrape off old paint,
apply new paint, repair hatches and doors and handle other
sometimes tedious chores.
The rewards are great, say those already at work aboard
the "Big J."
"I am just ecstatic working on that ship. It's like I died
and went to heaven," said Bob Walters, 64, of Cinnaminson,
who was a member of the ship's navigation crew during the
Joe Fillmyer of Cinnaminson, director of volunteers, said
the number needed for the restoration effort will only
increase over the next several months.
"Because of the tremendous cost of a project this size,
you cannot pay everyone to work and you can never have too
many volunteers," Fillmyer said.
He said he would like to have at least 50 to 75
volunteers a week to clean and prepare living quarters for
museum displays and encampments by groups like Boy
The alliance is also seeking volunteers to help in the ship'
s wood shop, where Fillmyer said about 1,000 teak wood
plugs will be crafted to replace missing ones that used to
cover the screws that hold down the deck. In addition,
volunteers are needed for training as tour guides and
"A half dozen of the volunteers are women but we'd like to
have many more. Their enthusiasm has been fantastic,"
Many of the volunteers are veterans who served on the New
Jersey or other ships.
The alliance's executive director, Thomas Seigenthaler,
said no military background is required to be a volunteer.
But anyone wanting to work on the ship must first fill out
The Home Port Alliance, a nonprofit group, was awarded the
887-foot battleship last January. One of the Navy's most
decorated warships, it is docked for repairs at Pier 1 of
the Broadway Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp. In
September, it is to be moved to a new dock near the E-
The alliance hopes to be able to open the main and upper
decks to visitors this year. Tours of the lower decks, and
the opening of a landside museum, are several years away.
John Horan, 76, of Cherry Hill, a signalman on the ship
during World War II, has been volunteering twice a week.
His jobs have included putting in fluorescent lights and
unsealing doors and portholes.
Most of the work being done now is inside the ship's upper
decks. Most of the space is unheated.
"It's not too bad inside," Horan said. "We wear gloves and
I come prepared with a few sweaters, a jacket and a
battleship hat, of course."
On the Web
Complete Courier-Post USS New Jersey coverage
Official USS New Jersey Web site