retired Philadelphia Naval Shipyard worker, I had the privilege
of working on the battleship New Jersey twice: once to get it
ready for action in the Vietnam War and, again, for a minor overhaul.
I have fond memories of working on her. I
remember when they first fired the huge 16-inch guns, it knocked
a whole lot of paint off the compartments.
I marveled over the beautiful wooden deck
and the heavily armored pilot house. The deck hatches were so
heavy, a man could not manually open them.
I and my fellow shipyard workers put many
hours on that ship. Sometimes, we would work from 7:30 a.m. to
4 p.m. and then come back at midnight and work till 4 p.m. the
next day. Even though the hours were long and we rarely had off
on the weekends, we were happy and proud as we knew the ship
would again distinguish itself, as it did in World War II and
What also made us proud was knowing the great
ship was named after New Jersey. We all used to say that someday
this ship will be a historic symbol of the men who served and
died on her and the men who worked on her at the Philadelphia
I believe in my heart that the New Jersey
should be berthed in Camden, close to the people who loved her
and worked on her.
The remark by Mayor Bret Schundler of Jersey
City that 'the most decorated battleship should be displayed
in the most visible spot in all the world' is silly. Does that
mean the battleship Olympia has to move from Philadelphia to
'the most visible spot in the world,' or what about the USS Constitution,
or perhaps even the Liberty Bell?
Mayor Schundler wants the battleship in Liberty
State Park for the money the ship will bring to the area. But
we want more than that. We want to know the USS New Jersey is
close to the shipyard and the men who built and worked on her
and loved her. We want no more - or less. That is why I want
the ship in Camden.
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