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South Jersey

October 09, 1999

N.Y. museum director says ship shouldn't be berthed in Bayonne

Courier-Post staff

The director of a floating naval museum in New York Harbor on Friday said the USS New Jersey should not be permanently berthed in nearby Bayonne.

"It should be outside a 50-mile radius for demographic reasons so we don't eat each other alive (financially)," said Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, executive director of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. Steele, however, stopped short of endorsing Camden as a future home for the New Jersey.

The Camden site is competing with Bayonne on the North Jersey side of New York Harbor to become the memorial site for the battleship. A decision by the Navy is due by January.

Steele spoke at a luncheon meeting of the 1,000-member Philadelphia chapter of the Navy League, which in September endorsed the proposed Delaware River waterfront site in Camden as the final home for the New Jersey.

The luncheon celebrated the 224th birthday of the Navy in the city where it was born. Calling the matter a "sensitive issue," he said the battleship should come back to New Jersey and that no matter where it comes, he will "support it to honor our heroes and our youth."

Steele's predecessor, Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner, last fall expressed concerns at a congressional that a Bayonne site would force unhealthy competition for visitors and funds between the New Jersey and the Intrepid, which is an aircraft carrier. Gardner brought the $11 million Intrepid operation out of the red several years ago.

During World War II, the Intrepid and the New Jersey...the Navy's most decorated ship...fought side by side in the Pacific in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval conflict in history.

In his remarks Friday, Steele said current efforts to secure the New Jersey ultimately must be converted into a long-term effort to preserve the ship.

"You must have a great amount of energy to get them (ships), but sustaining that over the years to maintain the ship is difficult. That's the main challenge the New Jersey will face," said Steele, who recently retired as the number three man at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Celeste Maschmeyer, president of the Navy League council, said the board voted unanimously for the Camden site for many reasons. "They felt it was built in this area at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and would get more support here because of our long maritime traditions," she said.

Retired Navy Capt. William H. Lockwood, president of Interocean Ugland Management in Voorhees and a luncheon attendee, said putting the ship in Camden makes more sense.

"If you put it in Bayonne, it will compete with the Intrepid. Here, it will compliment the submarine Becuna and the Olympia (Adm. Dewey's flagship). But obviously it will be a political decision." USS New Jersey Home Page

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