Battleship New Jersey Leaves Her Pier For First Time In Over 30 Years

The decommissioned Iowa class battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62), the most decorated battleship in U.S. naval history and the second-built of four of her kind, left its dock for the first time in over 30 years earlier today for an extensive maintenance overhaul.

Imagery and videos of the historic warship — which has been permanently berthed as a museum ship at a ceremonial pier on the Camden waterfront in New Jersey since 2001 — have proliferated online this afternoon. These show it on its short journey down the Delaware River to the former Philadelphia Navy Yard, where essential maintenance work on the ship will take place.

A short departure ceremony was held for New Jersey on the Camden waterfront at 11.00 A.M. ET, attended by U.S. Navy personnel, veterans, and members of the public, as well as Phil Murphy (D), Governor of New Jersey, and Congressman Donald Norcross (D), South Jersey.

“There’s no battleship in our history that comes close to the legacy [of New Jersey],” Murphy said at the ceremony.

From there, pulled by tugboats, it headed south under the Walt Whitman Bridge, seen in this article’s feature image, before docking at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal in the afternoon. There, according to WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, it will be balanced for dry docking, before heading to the Naval Yard’s dry dock number three in six days time.

That the dock maintenance will occur at this particular dry dock represents something of a homecoming for New Jersey; as it was there that the battleship was built during the late-1930s to early-1940s and launched on December 7, 1942, the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor. When the contract was awarded for the battleship in July 1939, Charles Edison, acting secretary of the Navy, chose to name the Philadelphia-built ship after his home state of New Jersey.

Overall, the maintenance is “vital for the Battleship’s longevity,” New Jersey‘s museum website notes. The work is expected to take around two months in all to complete, which includes repainting the hull of the ship, mending its anti-corrosion system, and various inspections.

According to the battleship’s curator, Ryan Szimanski, moving New Jersey might well be a “once in a generation occurrence” due to its age, WPVI-TV reported. Szimanski further told the outlet that the battleship represents “one of the most impressive man-made objects ever,” displacing some 57,500 tons.

Iowa class USS New Jersey firing its nine 16-inch guns simultaneously during a demonstration in 1984. USN

The operational history of New Jersey is just as impressive as its size. After its launch in 1942, it went on to “steam more miles, fight in more battles, and fire more shells in combat than any other battleship in history,” the museum’s website notes.

“In World War II, the New Jersey led the Pacific Fleet under Admirals Spruance and Halsey and fought in the two largest naval battles in history. She was reactivated to fight in the Korean War, and again to fight in the Vietnam War, when she was the world’s only operating battleship. She was reactivated for a third time in the Cold War to halt Soviet expansionism and resolve conflicts in the Middle East. After fighting fascism, communism, and terrorism, she was decommissioned for the final time in February 1991.”

“She was towed to Bremerton [Washington State], where she served as a part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. President Bill Clinton had all the battleships struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995, but Congress in 1996 required that two battleships be reinstated to the reserve fleet so they could be reactivated if needed for amphibious operations. The New Jersey and Wisconsin were selected, and the New Jersey remained in the reserve fleet until 2000. Missouri opened as a museum in 1999.” You can read the full history of the battleship here, which has been put together by its museum.

Crew members man the rails aboard the battleship New Jersey, California, January 8, 1985. DoD

Today’s events, as much as they underscore the amazing history of the vessel, are really a celebration of those who served on board New Jersey during its illustrious career. Capt. Walter M. Urban Jr., who served with both the Army and Navy Reserve and worked aboard the ship between February 1985 and February 1991, had this to say after attending the departure ceremony this morning:

“You always felt the presence of those who walked the decks before you. She [New Jersey] was born in a time of war, was a symbol of our great country at that time…. to be part of that history and see her today about 81 years later is fascinating.”

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Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent’s Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone‘s military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.