The Last Post from New Jersey… at the New Jersey.

Despite my wanderings to fifteen different states, this blog’s home has always been New Jersey. Although there have been trips to the Midwest, the southern Atlantic states, and New England, the Garden State has been the focus of many of my journeys. Atlantic City, Batsto, Wheaton Village, Cape May, Sea Girt, Barnegat, and Wildwood, among others, this blog has focused much of its attention upon my home state. It seems fitting, then, that my final post in New Jersey would be to the Battleship New Jersey.

I recently accepted a job offer in New England, which means DH and I will be relocating and leaving New Jersey. With one last free Saturday before my life is consumed with packing boxes, running errands, and preparing to move several hundred miles away, I decided to take a journey to one of the most famous museum ships on the East Coast.

A member of the Iowa-class fast battleships, the USS New Jersey (BB-62) was commissioned in 1943. The ship is 880 feet long, 108 feet wide, and weighs 58,000 tons. Among the most powerful warships at the time of her construction, the New Jersey’s primary armament are nine 16″ guns, mounted in three turrets (two forward, one aft). Able to hurl shells that weigh as much as a Volkswagen Beetle up to 24 miles away, the Iowa-class were designed to attack enemy battleships, as well as to bombard coastal targets on land. At the time of her construction, the New Jersey also held twenty 5″ guns mounted in ten turrets around the middle of the ship, to attack aircraft and smaller vessels, and the ship also had a number of machine guns. With all this firepower, the New Jersey was designed to help control the oceans. The armor protecting the ship is solid steel, covering every vital space of the ship, with armor thickness ranging from 7 inches to over 2 feet thick! All of this weight comes at a price, however. The ship isn’t exactly fuel efficient: it takes 128 gallons of navy-grade fuel oil to move the ship 1 mile (as the docent on board told me: “It gets 128 gallons to the mile!”). Fortunately, it carries 2.4 million gallons of fuel, so trips to the gas station are few and far between.

The New Jersey saw combat action in the Second World war, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war. Decommissioned in 1969, the New Jersey sat in mothballs for years until a new threat emerged in the early 1980’s: the Soviet Navy’s Kirov-class battlecruiser. These new Russian vessels were the largest warships afloat (excluding aircraft carriers) with seemingly every inch of deck space covered with guns and missiles. Removing many of its antiquated weapons, the New Jersey and her sister ships were refitted, equipped with modern missiles and anti-missile systems in order to counter the new Soviet warships. Active in the US Navy once again from 1982-1990, the New Jersey saw over four decades of service before finally being decommissioned at the end of the Cold War. In 2001, the great ship returned to its home state, where it was converted into a museum ship in Camden, New Jersey (via Wikipedia).

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The USS New Jersey museum, located along the Delaware River in Camden, NJ. Across the river is Penn’s Landing, which was the subject of this post.
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The USS New Jersey. The photo was taken in the 1980’s, after its major refit (image via Wikipedia).
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The Soviet Kirov-class battlecruisers, the appearance of which caused the US Navy to bring the New Jersey out of retirement (photo via Wikipedia).
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Obligatory DH photo.
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As you walk across the pier, the first thing you see is a sculpture of the iconic V-J Day “Kiss” photo from Life magazine. The pillars in the background commemorate each campaign in which the New Jersey fought.
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The pier takes you to midships. I always find the sheer massiveness of this vessel imposing.
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Crossing the gangplank to board. The Ben Franklin bridge is in the distance. Remember this bridge for later…
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How do you raise and lower two anchors that weight 30,000 pounds each? With lots of machinery.
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Enlisted personnel bunks.One nice thing about a ship this size: everyone gets their own sleeping space.
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The ship version of a “You are here” map. Let me translate it for you: Deck 2. Frame 36. Centerline Compartment 0. L means a Living Space. FR 36-43 indicates that ship frames 36 to 43 pass through this compartment. 2nd division indicates which unit is responsible for keeping this compartment clean. The bottom series of numbers (A-208-L) is the Navy’s old way for numbering ship spaces. Give this information to any sailor on board, and they’ll know exactly where they are.
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And how do you get around a big ship? Ladders. Lots and lots of ladders. No need for me to go to the gym today…
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Looking across the river at Philadelphia. If you look closely, you can see Penn’s Landing and the USS Olympia.
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One of the massive 16″ guns from the forward turret.
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An officer’s quarters.
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The captain’s quarters.
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The Combat Engagement Center, fitted into the ship after its modernization, where radar and missile systems were monitored. All of the computers still work, despite their 30+ years of age.
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Looking out the windows of the bridge, turrets #1 and #2 directly in view.
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17 inches of armor protect the fire control center for the forward two gun turrets. It is designed to survive a direct blast of 1 ton of explosives. The door alone weighs over 2000 pounds.
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Installed during the ship’s refit in the 1980s, the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS) is a radar controlled machine gun designed to shoot down enemy missiles and airplanes. It fires almost 4,500 rounds per minute.  Because of its design, sailors nicknamed it R2D2.
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SRBOC launchers which are designed to fill the air with strips of aluminum foil in the event of a missile attack. Does it sound primitive? It might be, but it works. The foil can confuse the radar system of the incoming rocket.
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Tomahawk missiles. Designed to strike enemy ships or land-based targets from hundreds of miles away, these were also added to the New Jersey in the 1980s.
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During WWII, the New Jersey and her sister ships were among the most powerful of their time, eclipsed only by the Yamato-class from Japan. On the left is a 16″ round from the New Jersey. On the right is an 18″ round designed for the Yamato-class.    
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With a crew of almost 2,000 sailors and officers, the kitchens worked around the clock.
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Hungry? Grab a tray and get in line. Fun fact I learned: calling coffee “A Cup of Joe” came from the Navy, after sailors were angered by Secretary of the Navy Joe Daniels, who banned liquor from warships in 1913. Fun fact #2: Navy coffee is strong. REALLY strong. It’s typically brewed with 1.5 to 3 times as much coffee grounds as normal coffee. Just… wow.
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The enlisted crew’s galley, which reminded me of my high school cafeteria, except my high school didn’t have 7 inches of steel armor protecting me during meals.
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A small chapel.
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2,000 sailors means lots of laundry. These are the dryers.
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And after the dryers, uniforms need to be ironed. This seems like a much better idea than the hand iron I use now. Can I get one for my next apartment?
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The rear turret (#3), which was open to visitors.
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I imagine that if you were not in great shape when you first became a sailor, all of the ladders and stairs on board would very quickly whip you into shape. This is the entry into turret #3.
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Looking down into the loading area for one of the guns.
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I had the turret to myself. The space is tiny, and I read that 47 sailors had to work together in each turret. During battle, the turret was hot, deafeningly loud, crowded, and extremely dangerous.
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Walking along the Delaware River after exiting the ship.

To quote Steve Jobs: “But there’s one more thing.” Near the battleship is the Ben Franklin Bridge. A steel suspension bridge that opened in 1926, the Ben Franklin is one of the primary ways to cross the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. From 1926 to 1929, the Ben Franklin’s 1,750-foot long span was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Cars and trucks traverse it every day, as well as the PATCO light rail trains, which run along the outside of the bridge. Elevated pedestrian walkways are on both outer sides of the bridge, and today I decided to fight off my fear of heights and finally walk across the bridge. One small step for humankind, one giant leap for my acrophobia.

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(gulp). Steps up to the pedestrian walkway. The metal ramp along the right side is for bicycles.
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Cars and trucks traverse the middle of the bridge. The pedestrian walkways are along the sides of the roadway. And the PATCO trains run along tracks that are outside and below the walkways.
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Going further. This is probably not a big deal for most people, but it is a HUGE deal for me.
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It was a beautiful view of the Philadelphia skyline. For the record, at the highest point of bridge span, you stand 135 feet above the Delaware River.
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And this was my reason for the walk. For you, dear readers. The large ship in the river is the USS New Jersey.
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The view walking back toward Camden was equally impressive.
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One more Jersey sunset for DH and I.

The Battleship New Jersey museum is open from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm May 1st – September 30th. During the fall, winter, and spring, it is open during weekends from 9:30 am – 3:00 pm. Self-guided tour tickets are $21.95 for adults, while seniors, veterans, and children ages 5-11 are $17.00, and children 4 and under can enter for free. While I will be leaving New Jersey in a few weeks, the Voyage of DH will most certainly continue, just in a new home state! I look forward to now taking the time to explore New England, and to bring you more adventures from the road. Thanks for coming along on yet another Voyage of DH, and stay tuned for more adventures!

‘Til next time.

3 thoughts on “The Last Post from New Jersey… at the New Jersey.

  1. 128 gallons to the mile! That thing is thirsty. The leather sofa in the captain’s quarters looks cozy, and the engineering overall is impressive. I like how they put a bicycle ramp alongside the staircase!

    Like

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