November 30, 1999
'Big J' will be backdrop for Dec. 7 ceremony
By CAROL COMEGNO
PHILADELPHIA -- The public will be able to take its closest look yet at the battleship USS New Jersey next Tuesday during a Pearl Harbor observance at the former Naval Shipyard.
U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., is sponsoring the 10 a.m. ceremony at the former shipyard, where the New Jersey is moored until the Navy decides whether to place it in Bayonne or Camden as a naval museum.
The ceremony, open to the public, will commemorate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii., on Dec. 7, 1941, which drew the United States into World War II. It will be held on Pier 4, between the New Jersey and the aircraft carrier USS America. Neither ship is open to visitors.
This is the ninth annual observance sponsored by Andrews at the former shipyard, which is at the foot of Broad Street.
"It is always special, but this year it is even more special because it is next to the New Jersey. For many people, it will be the closest look yet,'' Andrews said Monday. ``And we hope by 2001 everyone will get to have a closer look at it in Camden.''
Warren Christensen, a naval spokesman in Philadelphia, said he expects the event will attract up to 1,000 people -- more than traditionally attend the yearly event.
The USS New Jersey was built at the former Navy yard and launched into the Delaware River in 1942 -- and went on to play a major role in naval combat in the Pacific during World War II, earning nine of its 16 battle stars in that war. The inactive ship arrived under tow in Philadelphia this month.
Andrews said this event may be the only time the public will be permitted so close to the battleship until after the Navy awards the ship to either the Home Port Alliance of South Jersey or the New Jersey Battleship Commission, which favors Bayonne.
Al Matthews, 76, of Somers Point, treasurer of Garden State Chapter 3 of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, will be a guest speaker.
"It would be great for the region if the New Jersey came to Camden," he said.