3, 1997 |
battleship should be given berth in N.J.
By LEONARD T. CONNORS JR.
recently watched the USS Constitution under sail for the first
time in 116 years, we were touched by her magnificence, her beauty
and her brave history defending our freedoms.
She last sailed under her own power in 1881.
A 3 1/2-year restoration project costing $12 million has returned
her to the sea.
Back here at home, New Jerseyans share an
equal measure of pride in our own 'Bring Home the USS New Jersey'
project. The battleship USS New Jersey lies today at a naval
shipyard in Seattle, Wash., all 887 feet and 58,000 tons of steel
- waiting to be brought home here, where she will draw 1.2 million
visitors each year.
A year to the day after the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor, the USS New Jersey was christened in Philadelphia
on December 7, 1942, by Mrs. Charles Edison, the wife of N.J.
Gov. Charles Edison, who was a former U.S. Navy secretary.
With her 2,700 crewmen, she cut through the
Pacific at 33 knots as the flagship for N.J. native Adm. William
'Bull' Halsey. From island to island, she pounded Japanese forces
with her 16-inch guns, each gun barrel 48 feet long, weighing
110 tons. A single shell from the New Jersey weighed 2,700 pounds,
shot out over the sea for up to 23 miles, propelled by a charge
of 660 pounds of TNT.
She served in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle
East. In 48 years of service, she earned 16 battle stars and
13 citations and medals, making the USS New Jersey the most decorated
warship in United States Naval history.
A united effort is under way to bring the
USS New Jersey home. The state Elks Association, Veterans of
Foreign Wars, the American Legion and many other veterans organizations,
along with the State Troopers Association, many private foundations,
businesses and at least 15,000 citizens of our great state, have
donated to this project. The leading force behind the project
is Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, a Naval Reserve captain
(ret.), who served aboard the USS New Jersey.
The four Iowa-class battleships - the USS
Iowa, USS New Jersey, USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri - are among
the greatest fighting ships in naval history. They each cost
roughly $100 million to build in World War II and today would
cost $3 billion.
The USS Iowa is laying at the decommissioned
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, waiting to be moved to the West
Coast. The USS Wisconsin is in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and
plans are to have it moved somewhere for permanent berthing in
a southern state - perhaps Florida. The USS Missouri is soon
to be moved to Pearl Harbor as a memorial to the attack that
brought America into World War II and as the ship where, anchored
in Tokyo Bay, on Sept. 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru
Shigemitsu signed surrender documents under General Douglas MacArthur's
The Battleship New Jersey Foundation and the
New Jersey Battleship Commission are committed to preserving
the great heritage and history of our nation's most-decorated
warship. The USS New Jersey will stand as a veterans memorial,
preserving the 20th century of American naval history and honoring
the brave Americans who have served to defend our freedom and
democracy around the world.
N.J. citizens can assist with tax-deductible
contributions to help bring the battleship home. Residents can
make an income tax check-off on their state tax returns, purchase
a commemorative license plate at any state motor vehicle agency
or contribute to the Battleship New Jersey Foundation, 1715 Highway
35, Middletown, N.J. 07748 (or call 732-671-6488 for information).
Since her christening, the motto of the USS
New Jersey has been: 'Fire power for freedom!'
Our state's namesake marks a proud legacy
of naval history. She served generations of Americans; we must
now join together in the common commitment to bring her home.
The writer, mayor of Surf City, is a Republican
state senator representing the 9th District, which includes parts
of Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean counties.