executive from New Jersey instrumental in naming battleship
By ARON PILHOFER
Gannett State Bureau
With 48 names to choose from, convincing the Navy in 1942 to
name one of its four new battleships the New Jersey might have
seemed harder than sailing a bathtub through a hurricane.
But the Garden State
had a master at the helm.
It's a naval tradition
to name battleships after states, and almost every state has
had a ship in the U.S. fleet bearing its name at one time or
another. But the process is hardly scientific. Usually it is
decided inside the department of the Navy and the executive branch
with plenty of politicking and influence exerted from inside
and outside Washington, says naval historian Paul Stillwell,
author of Battleship New Jersey: An Illustrated History.
New Jersey was selected
almost certainly because of efforts of one man, Charles Edison,
said Stillwell. Edison, a New Jerseyan like his father, inventor
Thomas Edison, was assistant secretary of the Navy at the time
the ship was planned.
As early as 1937, a
year before Congress officially approved the construction of
the four new Iowa-class battleships, citizens groups and politicians
already were inundating the Navy with petitions for a particular
state, Stillwell said. "In the main file for the ship, there
had been all sorts of petitions for the name," Stillwell
said. "One of the most active were veterans of the Spanish
American War, which was still in the recent past."
In July 1939, just
as the Navy was finalizing the names of the new ships, Secretary
of the Navy Claude A. Swanson died after a long illness.
For months Edison had
been acting in Swanson's stead. On July 7, he was officially
made acting secretary. Four days later, he approved the name
New Jersey for the second of the new battleships and President
Although it is unclear
the extent of Edison's influence in naming the ship, "you
can surmise that he had a lot to do with it," Stillwell
said. "At just about the same time the New Jersey was launched
there was new destroyer built named the Edison after his father.
That is pretty good indication he named the New Jersey as well."
Edison, who later became
governor of New Jersey, was present at the laying of the keel
and the launching of the New Jersey. His wife, Carolyn, christened
the ship. USS
New Jersey Home Page