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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

`Ship of hope'

Courier-Post Staff

welcoming ceremony The battleship USS New Jersey is not only a tourist attraction, but also a ship of hope that can be the greatest economic spark for a beleaguered city trying for a comeback.

Gov. Christie Whitman and others conveyed that message Friday aboard the massive warship during a ceremony welcoming it to the city where it will be repaired and become a naval museum and memorial by the end of 2001.

Several hundred invited guests stood on the warped and rusting main deck - a thrill for many who had never been aboard the ship. Many stood in awe of the 16-inch guns on the ship, which was decorated with red, white and blue bunting.

"Today is the fulfillment of a promise to our veterans and the realization of a dream to bring the ship to New Jersey," Whitman said, one day after the ship arrived at the Beckett Street Terminal on its trip to Camden.

"She has always been known as a lucky ship. I know her luck will instill - as it did in the thousands who served her - a spirit of pride and hope ... in a city that has battled against the triple threats of poverty, hopelessness and decay," said Whitman, who rode the ship on its trip home through the Panama Canal last October.

"What brighter symbol could there be?''

The Rev. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church and a Camden activist, called it a "ship of hope" that may bring people to Camden not just to visit, but also to help rebuild the wounded city.

For Mabel Giordano of Mount Ephraim, standing on deck for the first time was a moving experience. She built parts for the battleship during World War II across the Delaware River at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard at a time when women were not allowed on board.

"I'm ready to cry. It's invigorating," said 84-year-old Giordano, who made it up the gangway with the help of a cane and a young Marine.

Murray Luftglass of Montclair, a New Jersey crewmember during the Korean War, said being on board in peacetime was a different feeling.

"She looks pretty much the same, but I'd say these decks could use some refurbishment," he said as the 63rd Army Band played patriotic marches.

New Jersey Battleship Commission chairman Joseph Azzolina did not speak at the event, co-sponsored by the state and the Home Port Alliance coalition. The Navy awarded the ship to Home Port Alliance instead of the commission, which worked for 20 years to bring the ship to New Jersey, but proposed placing it in Bayonne.

Retired Navy Capt. David McGuigan, president of the alliance, said his group won the ship against overwhelming odds because it convinced the Navy the ship could be an " instrument of progress" for Camden, as well as a visible Navy presence in the region.

Navy veteran Walt Jagielski, 73, of Lincroft in Middletown Township, Monmouth County, said it was an honor to be one of the state militia "sideboys" who piped aboard guests like Whitman and U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N. J.

"I will make it a point to bring my family down to see a ship that helped make peace in the world," Jagielski said.

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