July 31, 1998
personal to bring battleship back
Today, we welcome the USS New Jersey
Battleship Commission to South Jersey with a ceremony we think
appropriate for the most decorated ship in the Navy.
illustration by Clark Perks/Courier-Post
BIG ATTRACTION? This digitally created composite shows what
the battleship USS New Jersey could look like along the Camden
Our motive is straightforward - we want the
"Big J" berthed on the Camden Waterfront when the Navy
releases it to be towed from Bremerton, Wash.
The proposed Camden site is next to the popular
E-Centre and right down the way from the Aquarium. Both attract
huge numbers of visitors.
But the commission must understand our interests
go far beyond the establishment of a money-generating attraction.
To South Jersey, the battleship is family.
Many area residents were there Dec. 7, 1942,
when the battleship slid into the Delaware from the Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard after three years of construction that cost $90
Mabel Giordano of Mount Ephraim was one of
thousands who helped build it. She went looking for a job during
World War II and was told she could clean toilets or learn to
"I figured I'd like to weld," said
Recently, she was collecting signatures for
a petition to bring the ship to Camden when she ran across Jim
Mutchler of Runnemede. He also helped build the "Big J."
Joe D'Imperio of Mantua worked on the USS
New Jersey, too, but years later.
He helped prepare it for service in Vietnam
and then, a second time, he was part of a crew performing a minor
"I have fond memories of working on her,"
he said. "I remember when they first fired the huge 16-inch
guns, it knocked a whole lot of the paint off the compartments."
Russell Collins Jr. of Palmyra was an original
"I looked up and said, 'My God, I never
saw a ship that big,' " said Collins, who joined the ship
in Norfolk, Va.
"Being from Jersey and being on its namesake
ship, I felt proud of it."
USS New Jersey stories could fill a newspaper.
Everyone who helped build the ship, repaired it or served aboard
it - it had a crew of more than 3,000 - has something to say,
a memory to share. Their yarns touched us deeply.
Some stories came from among the 2,085 people
who clipped coupons from the Courier-Post and mailed them into
us. Their envelopes were wrapped in a pretty package with a yellow
ribbon and will be part of the presentation made to the commission.
Thank you for taking part.
We were curious about what the grand old battlewagon
would look like on the Camden Waterfront.
So we asked the Courier-Post's Clark Perks
to do some magic with his computer. He took a picture of the
Waterfront and a picture of the ship and digitally created a
composite. That's it on top of the page.
Even though it's a fake, we like what we see.
We hope the commission does, too, and will look favorably on
Camden as the final resting spot for the USS New Jersey, our
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