CourierPostOnline front page South Jersey News Sports Entertainment Classifieds Jobs Cars Real Estate Shopping

Customer Service
· Subscribe Now
· Switch to EZ-Pay
· About Us

Today's Weather
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Metro Editor
Donna Jenkins
News Sections
South Jersey News
World Report
Weekly Sections
New! Nuestra Comunidad
Senior Scoop
South Jersey Living
South Jersey Scene
Static for Teens
Women on the Run
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
In Our Community
Gannett Foundation
In Memoriam
Lottery Results
Photo Galleries
New! Spot News Kids Korner
South Jersey Guide
Weddings, Engagements & Anniversaries
Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

Friday, October 5, 2001
Battleship offers preview

Courier-Post Staff

Two friends on a lunch break from nearby offices strolled down a Waterfront walkway near Wiggins Park on Thursday to look at the mighty mass of gray steel docked in front of them.

``It's huge,'' said Phyllis Custis as she gazed and gaped at the USS New Jersey, the newest big-time attraction on the Camden Waterfront.

``It's unreal,'' her friend Charron Carter chimed in. `` It's like storybook stuff that it's actually here.''

And the best is yet to come.

It was their first glimpse of what will soon be a floating museum celebrating one of the most decorated battleships in the Navy's history. The USS New Jersey is nearly ready to be opened to the public after a multimillion-dollar face lift. Visitors will be able to do far more than look at its imposing silhouette against the Philadelphia skyline. They'll be able to touch it, climb its nearly vertical steps, wander through a maze of hallways and travel, as if in a time capsule, in a vessel that was the very essence of American military might.

The Home Port Alliance, the group restoring the historic ship, held a sneak preview for invited guests and media Thursday to showcase new onboard exhibits. They were made possible by a $1.2 million contribution from the Battleship Commission and Foundation, which campaigned to bring the ship, built in Philadelphia, to New Jersey. The exhibits include artifacts from the ship, interactive displays in the Combat Engagement control room, complete with monitors showing video of its massive guns in action and uniformed mannequins at the battle stations.

Alliance officials said they expect to announce an opening date for the ship within days. About 30 percent of the interior and decks will initially be open to the public while restoration work continues on the remainder of the ship.

``Today is the rebirth of the ship,'' said state Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, co-chairman of the Alliance and an important friend of the battleship in Trenton. Matheussen steered a $7.2 million appropriation for the ship through the Senate on Wednesday. The bill is expected to be approved by the Assembly soon and signed by acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, its other sponsor.

``It's an opportunity to prove to New Jersey that this ship belongs to all of us,'' Matheussen said. ``It's not a regional thing.''

Unity was a big theme Thursday. Matheussen and other Alliance officials thanked and praised Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, who heads the Battleship Foundation and Commission, and lobbied hard to bring the New Jersey to Bayonne, near his home district in Monmouth and Middlesex counties. Azzolina also sounded conciliatory notes and vowed to make the battleship a statewide attraction.

``We're united,'' said Azzolina. ``We're one people, one New Jersey, one battleship.''

Azzolina helped lead a tour of the ship, on which he served during one of its last tours of duty, off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983.

Azzolina, now 75, was 57 at the time. He served 42 years in the Navy.

He said his proudest career accomplishment was to help bring the battleship to New Jersey.

Email this story to a friend

Copyright 2005 Courier-Post. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service (updated December, 2002).
For questions, comments, or problems
contact us.

The Courier-Post is a part of Gannett Co. Inc., parent company of USA Today.

Deals and Coupons
Auto Deals
Consumer Web Directory
End of Month Values
Customer Central
Customer Service
About Us
Courier-Post Store
Jobs at the Courier-Post
Jobs with Gannett