July 2001: We visit the U.S.S. New Jersey

Digital Originals

(WHTM) — Rob Dixon and I visited the New Jersey in July of 2001, while work was underway to prepare her as a museum ship. She opened to the public on October 15, 2001.

(NAT SND- Bosun’s whistle)

“This ship is what we call birth to berth. It was born here, it’s going to be berthed here forever.”

For nearly fifty years, the battleship New Jersey has been an icon of the U.S. Navy. She’s fought in more wars, more engagements, than any ship flying the American flag.

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“This ship has participated in the entire spectrum of naval history, from 1943 to present day.”

While the days of the battleship are over, the Big J goes on. Instead of scrapping her, the Navy awarded the ship to Camden, New Jersey.

“And it’s a very, very special thing, it was built by the people here in the area, manned by the people here in the area, 55,000 veterans out there, who have served on this ship.

Now some of those veterans are helping to scrape off the rust and bring the New Jersey back to the way she once was.

“This is a telephone, we’ve covered in, anything we don’t want white paint on we cover.”

“I’ve been here since the first part of January, and I work five days every week and sometimes six, and we have a lot of people here, somedays we go up well over a hundred volunteers that work here at one time.”

So far over twenty thousand man-hours have gone into the New Jersey, all of it from volunteers. For them, bringing the Big J back from mothballs to a floating museum brings back fond memories of a proud ship.

“And you remember certain things, certain fellas, that served along with you, and you wonder where they’re at.”

“And I’ll tell you what, it gives you goose pimples to see how nice that ship is compared to when we took over.”

In a way, history is repeating itself, especially for the volunteers that remember building the battleship.

“That’s nice.”

“I spent eight hours a day grinding the hatches so they would fit perfectly. And they’re eight inches thick, of metal.”

“Once refitted, the New Jersey will sail one last time, up to a permanent pier, where she will remain. A tribute to once and future sailors,” Rob Dixon, abc27 News, said.

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