By CAROL COMEGNO
Loading and firing procedures inside a battleship gun turret are well-defined for safety and are executed by a crew of up to 80.
When former Navy Lt. Robert Lian of Westampton was the officer in charge of Turret No. 2 on the battleship USS New Jersey in the 1980s, the procedure began with him calling, "Light off the turret!" He stood inside the enclosed turret but outside of the three compartments where each of the guns were loaded.
Then the chief petty officer checked each gun barrel elevated five degrees for loading and hit a "Bore Clear!" switch.
Following that came Lian's "train out" command to turn the gun to its proper position to port or starboard for firing after receiving bearings from the gun plot room below.
"Sometimes we manually trained out the guns to better coordinate firing with Turret No. 1," said Lian, referring to the other bow turret in front of Turret No. 2.
With a hand signal, he gave a thumbs up to start loading.
The nearly 6-foot tall projectiles, weighing almost a ton each, were hoisted from the ammunition magazine at the bottom of the turret several decks below, placed on a cradle and slid into the gun barrel. Then six cylindrical-shaped bags of black powder were placed on an elevator and loaded into each gun behind the shell. The breech door closed.
Then the guns were raised to the proper elevation.
Lian pushed a brass switch at his station indicating the turret was ready to fire.
The turret officer, however, did not pull the triggers for the three guns in his turret. The firing was done from the gun plot and control room below.
The fireballs and ear-deafening noise of the blast outside the turret were not experienced inside. "What you feel inside is a vibration and muffled noise," Lian said.