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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

September 30, 1968

USS New Jersey's big guns pound Red targets at DMZ

3-1/2 Minutes Equal 60 Bombers

ABOARD USS NEW JERSEY (UPI) - The battleship USS New Jersey joined the war against North Vietnam today and sent salvo after salvo from her 16-inch guns crashing into Communist shore targets with thunderous explosions of orange flame and smoke.

The great battleship, which had lain in mothballs since the Korean War, fired 2,700-pound projectiles into Communist artillery sites, bunkers and antiaircraft batteries a mile above the Demilitarized Zone.

In 3-1/2 minutes the New Jersey can equal the destruction of 60 bombing planes.

Fifteen years and 66 days after she fired her last shots of the Korean War, the New Jersey steamed slowly within range of North Vietnamese batteries a mile above the DMZ. At 7:30 a.m., the starboard rifle on the No. 2 turret fired the first shell.

23-Mile Range

Within 90 minutes the New Jersey battered two Communist artillery sites and a third complex of defense positions nine miles inland and seven miles northwest of the U.S. Marine outpost at Con Thien.

The Navy said the battleship, only one on active service in the world, would use her maximum range of 23 miles later in the day to hit targets farther inland.

The initial target was a North Vietnamese storage area.

After the first shot, the battleship's commanding officer, Capt. J. Edward Snyder of Fairfax, Va., waited anxiously by his radio in the fire control shack for a report from a Marine pilot flying above the target.

On Target

The first projectile was 300 yards off center, came the report. Three more times the New Jersey fired and the Marine pilot radioed back the supply area was destroyed.

He directed the fire against an antiaircraft base which had fired on his plane and within minutes this base was destroyed. Four antiaircraft weapons were blown skyhigh and a string of bunkers was destroyed.

In jubilation the spotter plane streaked within 100 yards of the New Jersey's starboard bow and radioed: "Welcome to the war."

The plane then dipped its wings in salute.

When Jets Grounded

Until now the U.S. Navy has been using the 8-inch guns of its cruisers for offshore attacks. Inland targets, including the antiaircraft and radar bases which have downed 900 allied planes over North Vietnam, are now in range of the New Jersey.

This was one reason former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara recalled the 56,000-ton battlewagon from the mothball fleet. Another is that the New Jersey can inflict havoc on coastal positions when monsoon rains have grounded American air power.

The Marine Corps Skyhawk jet which spotted the first blasts from the New Jersey was piloted by Maj. John Lewis Clark, Jr., 31, of Glendale, Calif. His spotter was Marine Tt. Patrick J. Morocco, 33, of Youngstown, Pa.

The two fliers were brought out by helicopter to the New Jersey shortly after the first mission was completed.

Later in the day, when returning to home base from the battleship, their helicopter was hit by gunfire near Da Nang, but there were no injuries.

Morocco said the first strike by the New Jersey "came in real tight."

And when the battleship fired on the antiaircraft sites "the rounds impacted and we just didn't get any more flak."

Clark said after the New Jersey's first two rounds bracketed the storage complex the third "came in right on the money," destroying an area 100 yards square.

Target Gone

"I told the controller to scratch it off the target list," he said. "It is not there any more."

Rear Adm. Sam H. Moore, commander of the offshore bombardment task group, said the New Jersey's presence in Vietnam will help save the lives of pilots bombing the North.

"We can hit these targets without the vulnerability of sending in aircraft under unfavorable conditions," he said.

The New Jersey received a report she was being tracked by Communist radar, but there was no fire from batteries on the North Vietnamese coast.

A few miles north the U.S. guided missile destroyer Waddell fired two rounds on artillery positions on Tiger Island. Snyder said the escort ship was "laying down suppressive cover - it keeps them too occupied to give us any trouble."

To Go North

Snyder said no special precautions had been taken to protect the New Jersey from Communist attack.

Moore said although the battleship's first strikes were concentrated in above the DMZ the operating area would extend to the 19th parallel - the current limit of U.S. aerial bombardment.

The big shells fell along the northern edge of the six-mile-wide DMZ. The DMZ is a major staging area for Communist forces infiltrating into South Vietnam.

Allied observers aid the DMZ probably will be a main target for the New Jersey, a ship seeing its third war.

The only active battleship in the world cut into the South China Sea with a crew of 1,636 and a fighting heritage of 13 battle stars.

Equal 60 Planes

Refitted at a cost of $21.5 million for her third war, the New Jersey has nine 16-inch guns each capable of hurling a 2,700 pound shell 23 miles. Each shell can pierce 30 feet of reinforced concrete.

Military spokesman said the projectiles are so powerful and so precise that even swarms of B52 Stratofortresses - America's major warplane of the war - cannot match the New Jersey's doomsday guns.

"In 3 1-2 minutes we can fire seven broadsides from our 16-inch guns, equalling the bomb load of approximately 60 planes," said the New Jersey skipper, Capt. J. Edward Snyder Jr., 43, of Fairfax, Va.

Runs 34 MPH

She's a big lady. The New Jersey weighs 56,000 tons. She is 887 feet long. She runs up to 34 miles an hour. And she puts more punch into the sometimes forgotten fact that U.S. forces shell the North Vietnam southern panhandle as well as bomb it.

Her job will be plying the Vietnam coast, providing support fire for Allied ground troops and tormenting Communist coastal gun positions and camps.

History is a crewmember. The New Jersey was the last battleship to fire her guns in combat, on July 26, 1953, a day before the Korean War armistice was signed. She has older memories.

The long low sleek ship walloped World War II Japanese forces in such places as the waters off New Guinea, the Marshall Islands and the China coast.

'42 Launch

She was launched Dec. 7, 1942. The wife of former New Jersey Governor and Navy Secretary Charles Edison slammed home the champagne bottle. The New Jersey was put to sleep in mothballs more than a decade ago, and many predicted the 50 year age of the battleship was over. But in August, 1967, Washington order her back to action, to join the 7th Fleet.

There are Communist targets far enough inland that no other Navy guns could hit, that no planes could pound so well.

Military officials, for security reasons, announced no possible specific targets.

But, at the time of her recommissioning, the New Jersey was said possibly to be used against major targets as the great Thanh Hoa Bridge, a key link in the Communist rail and road line down the North Vietnam panhandle. Planes have failed to smash the bridge.

Recommissioning came in April. The New Jersey left Philadelphia in May, 2,000 workmen working 10 months on the overhaul. She passed gently through the Panama Canal and began a six-week refresher training period in California waters in early June. Then the lady came back to the far Pacific.

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