CourierPostonline - South Jersey's Information Source 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

Monday, May 25, 1998

'New Jersey' berth place

USS New Jersey, built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, is the most decorated battleship.

By Tina Markoe, Courier-Post

MEMORIES: John Borek of Winslow helped build the USS New Jersey at the Philadelphia shipyard during World War II.

Veterans want ship
in South Jersey

Courier-Post staff

Edgar Hill was aboard the USS New Jersey in 1942 as the mighty battleship slid into the Delaware River and went to sea for the first time.

He served aboard the ship during World War II, and then as a shipyard worker decades later, watched her being prepared for another conflict in Vietnam.

Now, Hill wants to see the New Jersey again - this time as a floating naval museum on Camden's Waterfront. To him, the site seems ideal - near the battleship's birthplace in the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and in the state whose name she bears.

His dream might not come true.

"A lot of people would like it to come to Philadelphia," says Hill, 78, of Westville. But, he adds, "The Battleship New Jersey Commission thinks it would have more visitors . . . in Bayonne (Hudson County) because it's closer to New York City." The ship is now in Bremerton, Wash.

The New Jersey has a strong emotional pull for local residents like Hill, who served on the ship in peace and war.

The Delaware River is the perfect place for the New Jersey because the ship has a connection to both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, says Norm Sooy, director of the Camden County Veterans Office and a former Coast Guard captain.

"Bayonne doesn't have that," says Sooy. "It also could be berthed easily along the Delaware without the dredging that is needed elsewhere."

Several South Jersey officials, including Camden Mayor Milton Milan and state Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, have made the same argument.

But the Bayonne site has a trump card - endorsements by two Garden State groups that have raised $3.5 million for the ship's return. Those groups - the state-created battleship commission and the Battleship New Jersey Historical Museum Society - have asked the Navy to release the ship.

Also, the New Jersey has docked twice at the military terminal at Bayonne, including its first visit to its home state immediately after World War II.

Congress and the Navy still must agree to remove the New Jersey from a list of inactive ships being held for possible reuse. Officials have said the New Jersey is in the best condition of the Navy's four largest battleships.

The New Jersey, 888 feet long and 108 feet wide, is the most decorated of all battleships, with 15 battle stars from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It provided firepower for campaigns in the Marshall Islands, Truk, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. The ship also served in the Persian Gulf War.

Hill has vivid memories of seeing the vessel as it awaited launching at the Philadelphia shipyard. "When I took a look at the battleship, I was really elated," he recalled. "I thought it was just about the biggest thing in the world. I wondered how it would float."

Hill described his wartime duty on the New Jersey as "days of pure monotony highlighted by a few short days of pure nerve- racking anxiety."

A member of the ship's original crew, Hill served as an electrician's mate from 1942 until 1944. He was on the ship again in 1967-68, when it was overhauled at the Philadelphia shipyard, where he was a power plant worker.

Americo Medoro of Winslow, a shipwright at the Navy yard during World War II, also wants the New Jersey to return to Philadelphia.

"I don't think much of the Bayonne location. It should be down here, not up north," said Medoro, 75.

Former shipyard worker John Borek, 79, of the Elm section of Winslow, echoed that sentiment. "It should come home," he said.

The dispute over the New Jersey is a politicians' battle, says John Bobb, 74, of Moorestown, who served on the ship during peacetime missions to Europe and Cuba.

"They have a bigger draw up there (in New York harbor) as far as tourists, but I don't know why they couldn't put it in South Jersey for sentimental reasons," he says.

The battleship commission considered several alternate sites, including Camden, Atlantic City and Cape May, says Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth County, who heads the group.

"The commission has looked at other sites," says Azzolina, a former crew member of the ship. "It wouldn't work in the Camden area. The tourist population is not as high in the Philadelphia region like it is in New York City."

Calls to bring the ship to Camden's Waterfront are an "11th-hour attempt to undo 18 years of work by the commission," adds Gordon Bishop, fund-raising director for the Battleship New Jersey Foundation.

He also said no one from South Jersey has officially contacted the battleship groups.

But Camden County Freeholder Patricia Jones said the lack of serious consideration for a Camden site is reflected in the commission's make-up. It has no South Jersey members.

Some of the New Jersey's fans acknowledge the Bayonne berth may have some merit.

"I would love to see it down here," says Robert Lian of Westampton, a retired Navy lieutenant who commanded a gun turret on the battleship in the late 1980s. "But I had been to Penn's Landing to see the Olympia (Admiral Dewey's flagship in the Spanish-American War) some years ago, and it was in bad shape then, because it did not have enough visitors to generate the income to maintain it.

"I think this decision needs to be looked into more, but my concern is that the group that operates it as a museum is able to do so feasibly," says Lian. "My guess - and it's only a guess - is that being closer to New York will bring more tourist traffic."


Many veterans say they'd be happy to see the ship, currently in Bremerton, Wash., just return to the East Coast.

"This would be good for us veterans here," says Hill. "Most of us on the original crew came from the eastern part of the country. I think this is a worthwhile project, and she will draw visitors to wherever the final resting place will be."

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