mind its final berth, 'Big J' on way home, at last
The ''Big J" is on the
way and that's cause for jubilation among all N.J. residents,
be they proponents of Bayonne or Camden as the battleship's final
The most decorated ship in the Navy with 16 battle stars,
the USS New Jersey left Bremerton, Wash., at 6:45 a.m. Sunday
under tow by a single tugboat, the Sea Victory.
Fittingly, the battleship's departure from the Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard, where it joined the mothball fleet eight years
ago, was observed by members of the USS New Jersey's Veterans
The group held its annual reunion in nearby Seattle last week
and among the ship's well-wishers were a few remaining ''plank
holders," members of the New Jersey's crew when it was commissioned
May 23, 1943.
In U.S. Navy tradition, ''plank holders" hold special
rights of ownership.
Indeed, many members actually do each hold a piece of the
battleship's original teak deck, given to them when the deck
was replaced in the 1980s.
The New Jersey is traveling 5,800 miles to Philadelphia, where
it was built and launched on Dec. 7, 1942, the first anniversary
of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The journey is expected to take about 55 days, with passage
through the Panama Canal scheduled for mid-October.
It'll be a squeeze, with just 8 inches of clearance on either
side, but the New Jersey's made it before. The battleship saw
combat in the Pacific during World II and, later, off the coasts
of Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon.
The ''Big J," whose 16-inch guns are capable of hurtling
one-ton shells 23 miles, will arrive in Philadelphia around Nov.
5. The U.S. Navy Ship Donation Program Office will decide its
final berth as a museum, probably in January.
We think the Camden Waterfront is the obvious choice. It would
bring the great ship from ''birth to berth," near the Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard where it was built by Delaware Valley residents.
Other reasons why Camden is preferable to Bayonne:
-- The fresh water of the Delaware River is less corrosive
than the salt water of Upper New York Bay.
-- The Bayonne site is out of the way, while 23 million tourists
visit the Greater Philadelphia area annually.
-- Another museum ship, the much larger aircraft carrier USS
Intrepid, is already in New York City, and is likely to satisfy
visitors' curiosity without their going to Bayonne.
-- The Camden area is offering a $4.2 million financial package
to get the battleship's adventure as a museum started.
The case for Camden is conclusive, then, but the choice is
for another day.
For now, we'll avidly follow the big ship's movement and anxiously
await its triumphant return to the waters of its namesake state.
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