USS New Jersey's fans celebrate ship victory|
By CAROL COMEGNO
V-Day for the battleship New Jersey is
two days away and counting.
In preparation, workmen will remove the top of the great
warship's mast today. On Thursday, the ship will be towed back
to its namesake state to be preserved on the Camden Waterfront
as a floating museum and memorial - just four miles upriver
from the old Philadelphia Navy yard where the USS New Jersey
After a hard-fought battle to bring the ship to Camden, the
Home Port Alliance celebrated Monday. The nonprofit South
Jersey coalition won the ship in an uphill fight against the
state battleship commission and Bayonne, which also wanted the
"This is a momentous day and it makes our maxim -
birthplace to berthplace - a reality. We want to thank all of
those who helped in the two-year quest," said retired Navy
Capt. David McGuigan, the alliance's president.
The ship made a 5,800-mile journey from Bremerton, Wash.,
last year and is now temporarily moored at a facility for
inactive ships at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on
the Delaware River.
John Morrow of Turnersville, who helped build the ship
launched in 1942, was among those who swam in euphoric
disbelief at Monday's celebration.
"When I was working on the ship in the hot summers and cold
winters here, never did I think in my lifetime I would ever
see her back for good," said Morrow, 83, a former machinist
who sat dockside during the ceremony and gazed up at the
ship's name emblazoned on its stern.
"I can't wait to see her back in New Jersey," he said.
"That's where she belongs."
The alliance invited about 100 guests to the ceremony to
celebrate Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig's signing of
documents that transfer ownership of the vessel to the
coalition. The event was for alliance board members and
volunteers who helped bring the ship to Camden. Among them
were ex-battleship crew members John Moran and John Morris,
both of Cherry Hill, and Bob Walters of Cinnaminson.
Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., and Adjutant Gen. Paul Glazar,
chief of the state Department of Military and Veterans
Affairs, also attended.
McGuigan told the gathering, "We are indebted to Gov.
(Christie) Whitman for state support and we must recognize the
early financial support of the Camden County Board of
Freeholders and the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp. for giving
the quest financial credibility, and the media for generating
He said the bipartisan board is on the brink of
establishing a "substantial memorial that will have an
educational and economic impact" on Camden and the state. The
museum is to open by September 2001.
Retired Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler, the alliance's executive
director, said plans call for the top of the ship's mast to be
removed today so it can clear the Walt Whitman Bridge during
its tow from about 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday four miles upriver to
the South Jersey Port Corp.'s Beckett Street Marine Terminal.
Whitman is expected to attend an official state welcome for
the ship on Friday.
Plans are also under way for the ship to be used for an
event during the Republican National Convention in
Philadelphia next week.
The public can view the New Jersey, one of the nation's
most decorated battleships, on its trip upriver from locations
along the river or in boats. Penns Landing will offer the best
public view of the docking. Limited public viewing of the
docking in Camden will be from Wiggins Park and the walkway
behind the E-Centre.
On Monday, the alliance unveiled a plaque that will be
placed on the ship to commemorate the historic transfer last
Thursday. The three founders of the alliance were Camden
County Freeholder Patricia Jones, state Sen. John Matheussen,
R-Gloucester, and Camden Mayor Milton Milan, who did not
Matheussen said he is gratified to have been part of a
coalition of "dedicated and selfless" members in an endeavor
that will leave its mark on the region and state history. He
thanked the battleship commission for 20 years of effort to
bring the ship to the state.