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South Jersey

November 12, 1999
Frequently asked questions about the USS New Jersey

Courier-Post staff

Question: What's the big deal?

Answer:, First and foremost, the USS New Jersey, as we know it today, was built at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. An Iowa-class battleship, the largest built by the United States, the work has long been remembered by those who took part in the construction - many of whom live in South Jersey.

Many who served aboard what was to become the most decorated warship in U.S. naval history also feel a powerful kinship with the New Jersey, and would like to see the ship berthed here permanently along the Camden Waterfront.

That's why many people turned out Thursday all along the Delaware Bay and River just for a glimpse of the vessel.

Q: Why is the ship so famous?

A: Launched on Dec. 7, 1942, the USS New Jersey ultimately was awarded 16 battle stars for heroic duty during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Moreover, during World War II, the New Jersey served as the flagship for famed Adm. William F. ''Bull'' Halsey of Elizabeth.

Q: Why Philadelphia?

A: The USS New Jersey hasn't been in Philadelphia since it was overhauled there in 1968. It is now in Philadelphia only temporarily while the U.S. Navy decides which New Jersey city will be the ship's final home. Both Camden and Bayonne are vying for the honor of hosting the battleship as a museum and memorial for tourists.

The Navy is to make a decision by the end of January.

Q: How can I visit the battleship while it's in Philadelphia?

A: You can't. While docked at the former shipyard, the battleship will be off-limits to everyone. The pier where the battleship is docked provides only obstructed views except from the water and private property on the South Jersey side of the river.

It will be open to visitors only after the Navy awards it to one of the two cities and it opens as a tourist attraction.

Q: What happens if the ship is awarded to Camden?

A: The Home Port Alliance, which was instrumental in the work to submit an application to the Navy to bring the battleship to South Jersey, has identified a site along the Camden Waterfront where the ship would be docked and marketed to South Jersey and Philadelphia tourists as a museum and memorial. The ship would join a number of other attractions, including the E-Centre, the State Aquarium and a future ballpark.

Q: What shape is the battleship in?

A: The USS New Jersey was mothballed for eight years before being towed 5,800 miles from Bremerton, Wash., through the Panama Canal, and on to the Delaware River.

When the ship was decommissioned in 1991, its operating and propulsion systems were rendered inoperable - that's why tugboats were used to bring the ship around the continent. The battleship's famous 16-inch guns also have been disengaged and capped.

The interior of the ship has been protected with dehumidifiers except during its recent tow from the West Coast. Repairs will take place once the Navy decides which city will host the ship.

Q: Just how big is the USS New Jersey?

A: The Iowa-class battleship is 887 feet 7 inches long, 108 feet 1 inch wide and displaces 45,000 tons of water. One anchor alone weighs 30,000 pounds with a chain 1,122 feet long. The ship's nine 16-inch guns fired shells weighing 2,700 pounds apiece with a range of 23 miles.

With full tanks, the ship could carry 2.5 million gallons of fuel. Top speed was faster than 33 knots.

During World War II, the USS New Jersey carried 120 officers and 3,000 enlisted men. During Vietnam, the ship carried 80 officers and 1,556 enlisted men.

Q: How much did it cost to tow the ship?

A: Nearly $2 million - funded by the state of New Jersey. The state also has set aside $6 million for refurbishment and acquired a $2 million economic development loan to prepare its eventual home.

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