November 04, 1999
Retiree hopes to see ship again
By CAROL COMEGNO
Philip Scelso is heartsick.
He longed to be in Panama last month when the battleship USS New Jersey took her final trip through the Panama Canal en route home to New Jersey.
A retired tool maker at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, he said he did not get enough information in time to make the trip to see the ship the most decorated in U.S. naval history.
“It hurt me so much not to be there,” said Scelso, 81. “Many of the people who went from New Jersey had no real connection with the ship like we did. I would have loved to be on board.”
Scelso said he worked on the battleship “from beginning to end” in the shipyard's machine shop 31, making the tools that other yard workers used to build her lathes, drills, cutters and planers.
He saw the ship under construction every day but never had the opportunity to go aboard.
“Our tools were instrumental. We were able to use tungsten carbide developed by General Electric to make the cutting edges harder for longer wear,” said Scelso, who said he also worked on the New Jersey's sister ship, the Wisconsin.
He said his shop also trained some of the ship's sailors in the use of tools and machines.
Recalling the ship's launch in 1942, he described it as jubilant.
“Tug whistles were blowing. She went down into the river quietly and then was drydocked for additional work,” said Scelso, who recently retired as a school district mail carrier.
He said his involvement during the ship's construction was a wonderful experience.
“I never realized that this New Jersey was going to be as famous as it is,” he said.
What he would most like now is to see the ship, have his picture taken with her and do his part to keep her in Camden.
“It would be like a dream.”