Final Voyage News Articles about the Battleship New Jersey

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11/17/99   Courier Post Feature Articles on Big J's Homecoming (Offsite)
11/02/99   Ailing Tugboat could be back towing Battleship by Week's End
10/29/99   Tug Trouble Slows Ships Trip
10/20/99   USS New Jersey Poised to Enter Caribbean Sea Today
10/19/99   Hughes Thrilled to be on `Big J'
10/19/99   Passengers Impressed by Canal Voyage
10/19/99   Battleship Halfway Through Canal
10/18/99   Whitman, Officials Tour Battleship
10/17/99   'Big J' Enters Panama Canal
10/17/99   Sight of Battleship Awes South Jersey Residents
10/17/99   Whitman Sends off USS New Jersey Through Panama Canal
10/16/99   State Leaders, Veterans Greet Battleship in Panama
10/16/99   In 1968, the New Jersey Barely Squeezed Through Canal
10/10/99   Battleship Nears Panama Canal for a Final Time
10/10/99   Panama Canal's Locks are a Product of Ingenuity
10/10/99   Dignitaries to Give Ship a Proper Send-Off
10/09/99   NY Museum Dir. Says Ship Shouldn't be Berthed in Bayonne
10/05/99   Navy's Got Another Reason to Award 'Big J' to Camden
10/03/99   Bayonne Battleship Site Lacks Crucial Approval
09/28/99   No, Duh ... In North vs. South, We Can't Win Numbers War
09/25/99   Camden Should be the Only Place to Seat the New Jersey
09/25/99   A Battle in N.J.'s War Within the State
09/16/99   Never Mind its Final Berth, 'Big J' on Way Home, at Last

09/13/99   The "Big J" is Homeward Bound
09/13/99   Battleship Starts Journey Home
09/12/99   USS New Jersey's Last Launch Stirs Memories of its Crews
09/11/99   Veterans Say a Last Farewell to the USS New Jersey
09/11/99   USS New Jersey's Past and Future Honored
09/10/99   Long Journey Ahead for Tugboat Crew and Battleship
09/10/99   Skipper Set to Bring Battleship Home

 

Ailing Tugboat Could be Back to Towing Battleship by Week's End

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
November 02, 1999

It appears mechanical problems on the tug towing the Battleship New Jersey to Philadelphia are relatively minor and the ailing Sea Victory will be back to full power by tonight. No one will commit, however, to an arrival date.

"The engine looks to be in good shape, and the engineers suspect that the turbo's clutch had seized," said Ryan Malane of Crowley Maritime Services.

Seattle-based Crowley is towing the Navy's most decorated warship from the mothball fleet in Bremerton, Wash. The New Jersey will stay in Philadelphia until the Navy decides where the ship will become a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country. Camden and Bayonne both want it.

On Oct. 23, two days after the tug and ship left the Panama Canal, a turbo - a device used to boost engine power - malfunctioned. The 1,800-pound turbo was replaced, but the spare, too, malfunctioned.

Crowley sent the tug Mariner from Lake Charles, La., to rendezvous with the Sea Victory. The Mariner, a little smaller than the Sea Victory and with less forward thrust, took over the tow Sunday morning after the ship and tugs were positioned near Cuba to give some protection from high wind and seas.

Even so, the exchange - a delicate maneuver involving the two 150-foot tugs and the mammoth 45,000-ton battleship - took place in eight-foot swells.

"The guys made sure that the ship was taken care of and they didn't take any risks. This is truly a commendable effort to pass off a tow and not bend to the time pressure to try it in bad weather," Malane said.

The Mariner continued pulling the "Big J" on the course set by Sea Victory Capt. Kaare Ogaard while he, his tug and crew, and an engineering specialist brought out on the Mariner proceeded on one of its two engines to Miami for repairs.

Plans call for the Sea Victory to meet the Mariner in the Gulf of Mexico later in the week and take back the tow.

Originally, the ship was to ends its final voyage, a 5,800-mile journey, in Philadelphia Nov. 7. After the malfunctions, Crowley said it would be more like Nov. 10. Now, it could be Nov. 11 or Nov. 12 or even later. "It depends on many factors," Malane said.

The 877-foot-long dreadnought, recognizable by the huge "62" emblazoned on its bow, left Bremerton Sept. 12 for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it was launched Dec. 7, 1942, one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It is one of four ships in the Iowa class. The others are the Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Since the New Jersey was the flagship of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the surrender of Japan should have occurred on the "Big J" but the Missouri was chosen for that. The Missouri was named for the home state of the man who gave the order, President Harry S. Truman.

The grand old battlewagon went on to serve in Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon. It won 16 battle stars and numerous other awards.

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Tug Trouble Slows Ships Trip

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
October 29, 1999

Trenton - The Battleship USS New Jersey will not arrive in Philadelphia on Nov. 7 as scheduled because the tug towing it, the Sea Victory, is experiencing engine trouble, a spokesman for Crowley Marine Services said Wednesday.

"One of its engines blew a turbo.   That was replaced, and then the replacement turbo blew," Ryan Malane said.   "Another 7,200-horsepower tug from our Lake Charles, LA, facility has been sent to help."

The malfunction, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, will delay the ship's arrival in Philadelphia at least three days.

The Sea Victory left Bremerton, WA, on September 12, with the famed Battleship in tow enroute to Philadelphia, where the ship will wait for the Navy to decide whether Camden or Bayonne will be home to the "Big J" in its new role as floating museum.

The malfunction reduced the Sea Victory to running on one engine at 2 or 3 Knots, about half its usual speed in the open sea.  A Knot is equal to about 1.15 MPH.

"This is not unusual," Malane said.  "These things happen."

Originally, the Navy's most decorated Battleship was scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia on November 4th or 5th.  However, the arrival was delayed so that celebrations could be organized on and along the Delaware River.

Governor Christie Whitman planned to rent a Cape May-Lewes ferry boat, the MV Twin Capes, for an invitation-only ride up the Delaware to view the ship November 7th.  Among the invited guests on the 1,000-person vessel were about 600 veterans.

In general, tug Captain Kaare Ogaard described the trip as routine and uneventful.

The tug has an eight man crew and is attached to the New Jersey with a 2 3/4 inch thick cable 2,700 feet long.  No one is aboard the Battleship.  The trip from Washington state to Philadelphia is about 5,800 Miles.

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USS New Jersey Poised to Enter Caribbean Sea Today

By Carol Comegno
Courier-Post Staff
October 20, 1999

Panama Canal - The Battleship USS New Jersey inched its way, under tow, through the Canal Tuesday, the second day of a three-day journey, and was to reach the Caribbean side today.

While most of the New Jersey delegation that came to see the World War II-era ship enter the Canal on Monday left Panama City on Tuesday, a group from South Jersey stayed to catch a final glimpse of the ship and to tour Panama.

Tuesday morning, they spotted the ship - the most decorated vessel in Navy history - in Miraflores Lake near the second of three sets of locks in the Canal.  At the first sight of the ship, the group cheered and the tour bus stopped for picture-taking along the lake's edge.

"Take it to Camden! And don't run into the mud in that narrow channel!" Bernie Moran, 59, of Haddon Township, yelled to the canal tug pulling the "Big J" as he pointed Northward, in the direction of New Jersey.

Moran, a retired Philadelphia Naval Shipyard worker who once prepared pumps and other machinery used on ships like this one, embraced his son, Chip, 38, as they said their last goodbye until the ship arrives in the Delaware River in early November.

"We want to keep alive the history of the shipbuilding industry in South Jersey and Philadelphia by bringing the Battleship back to where she was built in the 1940s and overhauled in 1968," said Moran.  He supports a Camden site for a naval museum and memorial instead of placing the ship in Bayonne on New York Harbor.

The Battleship entered the Pedro Miguel Locks Tuesday afternoon and traversed Gatun Lake before anchoring at dark outside the final set of locks.  The normal transit through the canal is one day for a ship moving under its own power, but the Canal Commission will not allow a ship to be towed at night.

The total rise from the Pacific and drop into the Caribbean Sea is 85 Feet. On Tuesday night, the ship was 85 Feet above sea level.   It will be lowered today to sea level.  The 50 mile journey is being made at about 4 to 5 Knots an hour.

A Canal official said the transit of the "impressive old girl" has been flawless so far.

"She behaved so well.  We were expecting problems, but they didn't happen," said Sandor Litai, Marine Traffic Control Supervisor for the Canal Commission.  "Too bad progress has made her into a dinosaur that must be towed."

He said the ship should enter the Atlantic breakwater outside Cristobal by 3 p.m. today.

Litai said much planning preceded the transit because the Battleship is so wide and was not under power.  But he said that as far as river traffic is concerned, the ship is "just another vessel."   He said other ships are continuing to travel in both directions while the New Jersey is in the Canal.  The commission is charging the state of New Jersey $300,000 for the tow - the largest amount ever paid for a Naval vessel.

For most of the 200 New Jerseyans who came to see the ship enter the Canal, it was the first time they had seen the Battleship in person.

"I came because of my dad, and I'm living this through his eyes," said Chip Moran, also of Haddon Township, during the tour of the Canal and the stone ruins of Old Panama.  "This experience has been great, and to see the pride on the military veterans' faces yesterday as they watched the ship was really something."

Chip Moran is also a former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard worker.  Others in the contingent included Camden County Freeholder Patricia Jones, Camden County Improvement Authority Executive Director Philip Rowan and Gloucester County College business professor Frank Fletcher.  "I am so filled up every time I've seen her the past three days,  I can almost cry every time," said Jones, co-founder of the nonprofit alliance that hopes to bring the ship to the Camden waterfront.

Some in the group were not among the 60 people invited by Governor Christie Whitman to be aboard the ship when it entered the locks Monday. While some were disappointed, others who watched the ship from an observation tower at the canal said they were not upset.

"I would have rather been outside the ship anyway, because you couldn't get good pictures of it coming in if you were on board," Fletcher said.

Two couples from Toms River - lawyer Bob Paschon and his wife, Karen, and Realtor Byron Kotzas and his wife, Mary - were not lucky enough to be on the ship Monday, but came aboard for a tour Sunday.

"We loved it," said Karen Paschon, who teaches high school in Toms River.  "Watching it from the tower was fascinating, but we feel everyone from New Jersey who came here should have been able to get on board. There seemed to be room."

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Hughes Thrilled to be on `Big J'

By Carol Comegno
Courier-Post Staff
October 19, 1999
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Aboard  the USS New Jersey - Cruising the Panama Canal is not a novelty for William Hughes.

As former U.S. Ambassador to Panama, the South Jersey resident made at least a dozen transits of the Canal on cruise and cargo ships.

However, Monday's trip was like no other for Hughes.  He and his wife Nancy were aboard the battleship New Jersey, making its final trip through the Canal.

"I have made a lot of transits, but this is unquestionably the most exciting for me or anyone," said Hughes, 67, of Ocean City.

"This is the USS New Jersey … the most decorated Battleship in the U.S. Navy.  That makes a lot of difference."

Hughes served as U.S. ambassador to Panama from 1995 to 1998, after a 22-year career as a Democratic Congressman.  He currently is a professor of public policy at Stockton State College in Pomona and at Rutgers University.

Before he was confirmed as Ambassador, Hughes recalled, he received a call from Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth.   Azzolina, chairman of the New Jersey Battleship Commission, told Hughes the commission would want to bring the ship through the Canal so it could return to New Jersey as a floating museum.

This, however, was several years before the Navy decided to donate the ship.

Hughes said he mentioned the issue of the ship while attending his first meeting of the Panama Canal Commission as ambassador.   Hughes said the commission members raised their eyebrows "and I could see a lot of pained expressions on their faces because of the challenges that would present."

The Battleship is not moving under its own power, but is being towed to a temporary home at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.   The Navy will decide on its ultimate destination … either Camden or Bayonne.

Eventually, the U.S. government won approval for the ship's transit through the Canal.

"I wanted it to come back during my watch as ambassador, but the important thing is that it's happened," Hughes said.

He and his wife said it feels great to be back in Panama.  The couple said they especially missed the people, whom they described as friendly and loving the United States.

Panama, said Hughes, "is more Americanized than any other Latin country.  They even use U.S. currency."

Hughes noted that he served in Panama during a challenging time, when U.S. officials were negotiating the transfer of the canal and American military facilities to the Panamanians.

While some Panamanians do not want the United States to leave when it turns the Canal over to them Jan. 1, Hughes said he believes the United States made the right decision.

"There's no question it makes abundant sense.  The Canal has become a target of terrorism and U.S. ownership created unrest."

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Passengers Impressed by Canal Voyage

By Carol Comegno
Courier-Post Staff
October 19, 1999

Canal Zone, Panama - Joseph Balzano stretched his neck over the railing of the Battleship New Jersey and looked down.

The water level more than 20 feet below him rose slowly and without a sound in the first Panama Canal lock on Monday as the ship silently entered on the Pacific Ocean side.

Like all the temporary passengers aboard the ship for its last trip en route home to its namesake state, Balzano and other members of the South Jersey group hoping to bring the ship to Camden were impressed by the smoothness of the Canal transit and thrilled to be aboard for part of a historic event.

"Boy, oh boy.  Fantastic.  So exciting to be here," said Balzano, vice president of the South Jersey Port Corp. and a member of the New Jersey Battleship Commission.

Balzano is also a board member of the Homeport Alliance, a nonprofit group that is seeking Navy approval to dock the ship at the Camden Waterfront as a floating museum.

He and nine others from South Jersey were lucky enough to be among the 60 people chosen by Governor Christie Whitman to board the ship in the first two locks of the canal as it started on a three-day trip through one of the man-made wonders of the world.  The ship will continue today to be raised the 85 feet above the level of the Pacific and then be lowered back to sea level into the Caribbean Sea via another set of locks by Wednesday.

State Senator John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, and Democratic Camden County Freeholder Patricia Jones, co-founders of the alliance, were equally impressed.

"Is this a cool feeling or what?   This is extremely smooth.  You can see the water bubbling along the stone walls of the canal as it rose ever so slowly, but you don't hear anything or feel anything when the ship is floated higher," Matheussen said as he and most others lined the port side railing of the ship in the first lock and then watched as the gates swung open to accept the ship into the second lock.

He and some others said they heard the ship scrape its hull at the beam … the widest part … on the canal wall only once or twice, creating a few puffs of smoke from friction, but otherwise the ship's silence was broken only by conversation.

Jones said she hoped she could find the words to describe the experience to people who did not board the ship at Balboa for the three-hour trip.

"It's incredible to be here with the veterans who served on her and to see the technology of the canal operation," she said as she marveled while roaming the ship.

John Horan of Cherry Hill, one of eight World War II and Korean War crew members aboard, said the trip felt a little different from when they went through the canal under the ship's own power because there was no engine rumble.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," he said, describing it as more than he expected.  "It also gave me the chance to meet with some of the old boys and trade war stories," said Horan, a signalman during World War II.

Battleship Commission member Walter Olkowski, also a World War II veteran, said as he left the ship in the second lock, "My heart is finally starting to slow down now."  He said the transit was a first-class "professional job" and that the ship was towed more quickly at 4.2 nautical miles than during its first canal trip in 1944.

Donald Norcross of Voorhees, vice president of the Homeport Alliance and president of the South Jersey Council of the AFL-CIO, said it was an exciting event and marveled at how the mule locomotives on either side of the ship kept her steady.  He was impressed by the entire Canal operation.

The South Jersey contingent and supporters of the other proposed Battleship site, Bayonne, mingled on the ship despite their differences.

Some Homeport supporters like Balzano and Matheussen conversed during the trip with Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, Chairman of the Battleship Commission, although he and the majority of Commissioners want the ship in Bayonne as a floating museum and memorial.  The Navy is currently reviewing the two competing applications.

"It's unbelievable how smooth this passage is.  I went through the canal 16 years and one month ago (as a reserve captain on temporary assignment), on our way to Beirut.  I feel exhilarated and consider this my greatest accomplishment," Azzolina told some people on the ship.

Most of the New Jersey delegation of about 200 that came to Panama for several days of battleship events watched the ship's canal transit from an observation tower along the canal because of restricted space on the ship.

Thomas Foy of Burlington Township, a lobbyist for bond counsel Blank, Rome, Comisky and McCauley of Cherry Hill, called the passage "stirring" even though he was not able to be aboard.  His wife, Jamie, said the experience "gave me goose bumps."

"It makes you proud to be a New Jerseyan and an American," said her husband, a former State Democratic assemblyman.

What captivated multimillionaire Henry Rowan, president of Inductotherm Industries of Westampton and the benefactor who has given Rowan University in Glassboro more than $100 million, was the engineering of the canal operation.

"It's a massive piece of engineering.   What fascinates me most is the engineering of a century ago is still applicable and working here today," said Rowan, an electrical engineer.  "I've had some unusual experiences in my life and this was one of them.  This was great and a beautifully organized event."

It was the second Canal trip for Rowan, who flew here on his private Lear jet because he said he thought this would be a part of history and an opportunity of a lifetime.

"The first time, my mother put me on a banana boat when I was in the eighth grade, on a trip from New York to Peru.  But I really don't remember much about it except I had a lot of fun."

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Battleship Halfway Through Canal

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
October 19, 1999

Aboard the USS New Jersey - The engines are idle and the massive guns silent, but this grand old Battleship - making its 10th and last trip through the Panama Canal Monday - still has the power to bring a crowd to its feet.

Weathered decks and peeling gray paint were largely unnoticed as three tugs eased the behemoth out of the Port of Balboa into the canal en route to the first chamber of the Miraflores locks, a marvel of engineering that raised the ship 28 feet in a mere eight minutes as 26 million gallons of fresh water rushed in.

"It's awesome in a lot of ways," said Governor Christie Whitman, who led a delegation of civilian and military officials, former sailors on the ship and citizens who worked to bring the "Big J" to its namesake state.  The Navy will decide whether it will be berthed in Camden or Bayonne as a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country.

Whitman was clearly caught up in the moment, handing out "New Jersey and You" buttons to those aboard and to dock workers, and photographing the scenery.

"To be standing on her deck when she moves, although it's not under her own power, is something that few people who weren't serving on her get to experience.  Then, of course, to see her going through these locks is very exciting," the governor said.

It was also a challenge for the canal workers, who had been readying themselves for this day for months.  There is about eight inches of clearance on either side of the concrete locks and the ship.  One canal pilot scheduled for vacation said he would work for nothing for the honor and challenge of getting the New Jersey through.

Capt. Arcelio Hartley, senior canal port captain, said bigger ships pass through the locks, but the New Jersey is the largest to go through without its engines running - a "dead ship" in nautical terms.

When the "Big J" reached the locks, men in rowboats ferried lines from the ship to 10 electric locomotives, five on each side. Their job was to keep the ship centered.  A tug boat in front of the ship had the task of slowing the New Jersey so it didn't ram the massive 350-ton doors that close in front and behind a ship before the lock is flooded.

The operation was so quick and quiet that few realized how far the ship had risen.  When the ship entered the chamber, the deck was even with the locomotives, called "mules."  Minutes later, the mules were almost three stories below.

While the locks flooded, people from different generations and backgrounds seized the moment to share New Jersey stories.

One was Joseph L. Malpica, formerly of East Bergen, who works in the U.S. Embassy in Panama.  His father-in-law, George Thau, a career sailor and Camden native, was sent a state flag in 1968 by Ed Lombardo of Woodbury, while Thau was serving on the famed battleship off Vietnam. Later, the flag accompanied Thau to Antarctica, Guam and other assignments.

When Malpica married Thau's daughter, Thau gave the flag to Malpica, then a young naval officer, in hopes the banner would continue to travel around the world.  Ironically, Thau, who was ready to retire, was sent to the Gulf War, but the son-in-law stayed in the states.

Whitman autographed the flag and Malpica promised to bring it aboard the New Jersey again when the ship is a museum.

Walking the decks brought back fond memories for Dick Esser, president of the USS New Jersey Battleship Association and one of seven original crew members aboard.  Even though the Lorraine, Ohio, resident served on the "Black Dragon" for two years, Monday was the first time he had been on the deck, where observers stood for this canal passage.

"All us machinist's mates were on the stern," he said.  "They didn't want us to come up here because we had greasy shoes.  They wanted us to stay aft."

Bob Ross of Ringoes, Hunterdon County, was aboard the New Jersey for the first canal passage during World War II.  He manned anti-aircraft guns, which have since been removed.  Being aboard for this final voyage reminded him of his first time he saw the ship.

"My eyes almost popped out of my head," he recalled.  "Look at that thing.  It's big.   Unbelievable."

Whitman and the others left the ship after it moved through the lock's first chamber.  The New Jersey proceeded through the second chamber into Miraflores Lake.  The Pedro Miguel locks are next, and then it will be pulled by the tug Sea Victory, which has towed it from Bremerton, WA, across Gatun Lake - a source of fresh water for the locks and 85-feet above sea level.  After that, it proceeds through the three-step Gatun locks before emerging into the Caribbean, back at sea level.  The journey will take two more days.

The Sea Victory will then tow the "Big J" up the Eastern Seaboard to the Delaware River for a scheduled Nov. 7 arrival in Philadelphia, ending the 5,800-mile Final Voyage where it was launched Dec. 7, 1942.

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Whitman, Officials Tour Battleship

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
October 18, 1999

Canal Zone, Panama - Governor Christie Whitman on Sunday praised the Battleship New Jersey as a gallant warrior and paid tribute to the Panama Canal, calling it a true marvel of engineering.  She spoke just a few feet away from both.  Today, the Battleship will enter the first lock of the Canal.

"Over the years, the New Jersey distinguished herself as no other," Whitman said.  "The most decorated Battleship in Naval history, she earned 16 Battle Stars and numerous achievement awards in four wars over a span of five decades.  Her effectiveness in war helped build a legacy of peace."

The governor toured the ship's deck with Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and others, posing briefly in front of the "Big J's" huge 16-inch guns, which could fire a shell with the mass of a compact car 23 miles. They created so much smoke when they fired, the ship was also known as the "Black Dragon."

The governor said the deck stroll connected her to the ship's past and those who served aboard the vessel.

"As I walked across her sleeping deck and through her quiet passageways just a few minutes ago, I could feel the presence, the living presence, of the thousands of men who, over the years, served on this ship with honor, courage and commitment," she said.

"And now, like a victorious warrior returning from battle," the governor told an audience seated under tents in the blazing heat, "the USS New Jersey prepares to make her last passage through the canal, on her final journey home, in a world blessed with the bounty of a peace she helped secure."

The Battleship is being towed to Philadelphia, PA where it will await a decision from the Navy on where in New Jersey it will be anchored as a floating museum and tribute to people who have served their country.

Whitman noted this will be the grand old Battlewagon's 10th trip through the canal, which she praised as a living monument to the vision of those who conceived it, the sweat and toil of those who built it, and the dedication of those who have operated it."

The United States will turn over the canal to Panama at the end of the year, an event made possible, Whitman said, by a world with an increased sense of security.

"The achievement of this security would not have been possible without the contribution of this great ship, which now lies peacefully behind me and the achievement of those who served on her."  The governor was eloquent.  But Lautenberg displayed his quick wit, often poking fun at himself.

"The New Jersey was launched Dec. 7, 1942, and I don't know who looks the worse for wear, but that was the week I enlisted in the Army.  We're both stilling going … and I'm going under my own power."

The audience roared with laughter.   Then, he turned to the Spanish language translator and quipped,  "Do you have to translate or shall we let it go?"

The State's Senior Senator also joked about the size of the ship in relation to the locks on the canal.  There is a clearance of about eight inches on either side of the ship.

"It's a tight fit, but New Jersey is a tight fit anyway, between New York and Philadelphia.  We always managed to come out on top."

He recalled the ship motto, "Firepower for Freedom," and recalled, I saw her firing those `Volkswagens' she used to shoot in Lebanon.  It was a frightening thing to just witness, but it was a comforting thing to know that that was our ship and those were our people who were out there defending the free world."

Lautenberg introduced legislation to take the Battleship off the Navy's active duty register so that it would be available as a floating museum.

"I know that all of us who helped make this voyage possible are thrilled that the New Jersey will be spending her later years in the state for which she is named."

He praised the New Jerseyans who have worked to bring the ship to its namesake state and predicted hundreds of thousand of tourists will visit the ship and learn about history.

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'Big J' Enters Panama Canal

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
October 17, 1999

Panama City, Panama - The historic Final Voyage of the Battleship New Jersey was smooth sailing until the night before it was to enter the Panama Canal.

The weather suddenly turned - as did the famed Battleship, which acted as if it wanted to break free and go with the wind.

"We thought we would take it easy and have a nice night of it, but when the winds rose we forgot about that.  They were near gale-force with rain," said Capt. Kaare Ogaard, master of the tug Sea Victory, which is towing the New Jersey from Bremerton, WA, to Philadelphia, PA.

There the New Jersey will await the Navy's decision on a final berthing place in its new role as a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country.

At first, the captain thought he could merely re-anchor the ship.  Then he realized the 887-foot, 45,000-ton behemoth was quickly closing in on the much smaller tug.

To save the tug and its valuable tow, the captain abandoned the re-anchor plan, ordering the tug's 7,200-horsepower engines throttled up. He spent the night jogging about in Panama Bay, holding the ship into the wind.

That worked, but the next day, Saturday, another problem forced the tug's air conditioning off.

Before he left Washington, the captain said he thought the Panama Canal would be the most stressful part of the 5,800-mile journey because of all the rigging that had to be done amid the heat and humidity of the tropics.

High winds and humidity notwithstanding, the crew kept to schedule and at 9:33 a.m. Panama time, the grand old Battleship went under the Bridge of the Americas for the final time.  The bridge marks the beginning of the canal.  Locals call the area La Boca - Spanish for "the mouth."

When the ship arrived at piers 14 and 15 about 10 a.m., even dock workers accustomed to seeing much bigger ships stopped what they were doing to gawk in wonder at the Navy's most decorated vessel.

Also on hand to welcome the "Big J" were about 25 New Jerseyans, a fraction of the Garden State residents in Central America last week.  A series of receptions with Governor Christie Whitman and other officials will mark the ship's historic Canal passage and the passing of the Canal's control in December from American to Panamanian hands.

"As a Vietnam vet, I benefited from her firepower," said Ira Drucks, 54, of Livingston, Essex County, who came here with a group of 60.  "But I understand better her impact having seen her up close."

"It was breathtaking," said Carol Beske of Princeton, a Delaware River Port Authority commissioner.  "It was so exciting to see her.  She is so huge."

Naval reservist Rear Adm. Tim Beard of Westfield, Union County, summed up his feeling upon seeing the ship pulled to the pier in one word: "Magnificent!"

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, who invested 30 years in trying to get the grand old Battlewagon to its namesake state as a museum, was pleasantly surprised at how good the "Black Dragon" looked.

"I'm amazed at the condition of the ship from the bow forward.  I think it looks great.  I hope when it gets to Philadelphia they will scrape off the rust and touch up the paint.  But I feel really proud," said Azzolina, smiling broadly.

The last time Azzolina was at this dock was in 1982, when he rode the New Jersey through the canal en route to Beirut, Lebanon, where the famed 16 inch guns gave fire support to U.S. Marines.  Azzolina, a retired Navy man, served as a special assistant to the ship's skipper.

"I have a great sense of accomplishment and pride," said New Jersey Veterans Affairs Administrator Michael Warner.   "It brings to culmination this part of the trip.  The next great step is going to be Nov. 7, when we bring her up the Delaware."

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Sight of Battleship Awes South Jersey Residents

By Carol Comegno
Courier-Post Staff
October 17, 1999

Balboa, Panama - The Battleship New Jersey, which arrived Saturday at the Panama Canal entrance here, has been in the hands of a retired Army colonel from Burlington County since before it left on its 5,800-mile journey from the State of Washington.

And another county resident is handling public relations for all of the trip events such as today's scheduled tour of the ship by more than 200 New Jerseyans who came to witness the ship's final historic crossing of the Canal.

Retired Army Col. Michael Warner of Southampton, Veterans Affairs administrator for New Jersey, and Liz Thomas of Thomas Boyd Associates in Moorestown were dockside in Balboa when the New Jersey was eased into a pier by several tugs.

"It took my breath away," said Thomas, who was seeing the ship for the first time.  "I've been working on this for so many months, and I've only seen her in photos.  So to finally see her in person and safely in Panama is a thrill."

Warner, who has been coordinating the ship's towing in his state post, said as he gazed at the ship that this has been a "totally different experience" for him.

"When I was in the Army, no one would have ever believed I would be towing a Battleship.  I never even owned a boat in my life.  It has really been interesting, and I've had to learn a lot about ships very quickly," said Warner, Commander of the Army training post at Fort Dix from 1992 until he retired in 1994 to take the State job.

What has amazed Warner has been the state and worldwide interest in not only the future home of the ship, but in its historic voyage from Bremerton, WA, to Philadelphia, PA where it will arrive next month and stay pending a Navy decision by January on its future home.

"I am absolutely flabbergasted by the amount of interest - even when it left Bremerton - and the number of people going down to Panama just for this," he said.

Warner said a battleship Internet site set up by the state has had more than 42,000 hits since it went on the World Wide Web a month ago.

People have come from as far away as California, Texas and Ohio to watch the ship's Canal passage.

Although the Navy still owns the New Jersey, it gave the State Military Affairs Department total responsibility for the ship during its voyage, including its three-day transit of the canal that is to begin Monday.

Warner said he was relieved when the ship arrived here after a smooth journey from Bremerton, because it now has completed the longest leg of its journey.

Warner and Thomas were in a group of 25 New Jerseyans who were here to welcome the gray war hero as she came into port with the sun poking through storm clouds on a humid, 92-degree day.  The New Jersey's hull paint was marred only by a few streaks of rust.  A backdrop of mountains across the harbor framed the ship.

Panamanian canal workers, in awe, called the ship "bonita" and "grande," which mean beautiful and large in Spanish.

William J. Doyle, 68, of Edgewater Park, said he was excited to see the ship for the first time.

"I wanted to be here for what is a historic moment," Doyle said.

Warner and Thomas met Saturday alongside the ship with Arcelio Hartley, Panamanian captain and acting manager for transit operations at the canal to discuss the pending trip through the locks.  Hartley said the transit will take three days because the ship will move only during daylight.  He called it an exciting event that presents a challenge to the Canal Commission because of the Battleship's size.

It was Hartley's department that hired Crowley Marine Services of Washington to tow the Battleship - the most decorated ship in the U.S. Navy with 16 battle ribbons in several wars - back to its namesake state. The state also is paying for the towing, which is expected to cost less than the $2.2 million budgeted.

While the ship makes its last Canal trip, the Navy is in the midst of reviewing two competing applications seeking the ship for a floating memorial and museum.  The Homeport Alliance of South Jersey proposes to put the ship on the Delaware River at Camden, near Philadelphia, where it was built.  The New Jersey Battleship Commission wants it in Bayonne, where it was stored after World War II and the Korean War.

Meanwhile, the historical significance of the Canal crossing goes beyond New Jersey and the ship, Warner said.

"It is a U.S. story, because it is the last significant Navy vessel to go through the canal while it is still under U.S. control," he said.

The South Jersey group in Panama includes veterans, politicians, businessmen and members of nonprofit groups who came mostly at their own expense and are staying at the state's headquarters at the Marriott Panama City.

They were to include State Senator John Matheussen, R-Gloucester; Joseph Balzano, Executive Director of the South Jersey Port Corporation; Robert Yancey of Florence, Commander of the State chapter of the Disabled Veterans of America; former Democratic Assemblyman and Cherry Hill lawyer Thomas Foy; Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones, and Donald Norcross, President of the AFL-CIO, Southern New Jersey Labor Council.

Camden Mayor Milton Milan was on the guest list, but canceled.

Hurricane Irene prevented some of the state residents from arriving, because U.S. flights out of Miami were canceled.

"There has been phenomenal interest in the ship," said Thomas, 40, co-owner of the Thomas Boyd Associates public relations firm, who was busy in Panama this weekend finalizing events and answering media questions.

"So far, everything has gone like clockwork," she said.

More planning is taking place for a welcome event when the ship comes up the Delaware River - now projected for Nov. 7.

"That date is really being set by the towing company.  It could change depending on weather or any problems, but that is the date they are now telling me," Warner said.

Everyone who came from New Jersey will be allowed on the deck of the ship today for a tour conducted by the Navy, Warner said.

Some will be able to ride partway through the first lock with Gov. Christie Whitman Monday.

"They will be able to walk through and touch the ship and get a sense of the history," Warner said.

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Whitman Sends off USS New Jersey Through Panama Canal

By Juan Zamorano
The Associated Press
October 17, 1999   8:34 PM EST

Panama City, Panama (AP) - Gov. Christie Whitman on Sunday sent off her state's Battleship USS New Jersey - the most decorated vessel in the U.S. Navy - on its historic last voyage through the Panama Canal.

Addressing some 200 guests and officials who accompanied her to Panama, Whitman recalled some of the ship's battles and its many passages through the waterway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

"Now this valiant and victorious warrior is returning from the wars," Whitman said. "The New Jersey is preparing to undertake its last crossing through the canal, on its way home, in a world blessed by plenty and peace this ship helped guarantee."

"Today, its engines are silent, and it's guns will never roar again," she added. "Yet, when I walked the deck a few minutes ago, I could not but feel the living presence of the thousands of men who served on this ship with valor."

The New Jersey will begin its crossing early Monday carrying about 100 veterans who served aboard the ship.  Whitman and several other guests will also board on Monday and sail for a short time before returning to Panama City.

The battleship tied up Saturday morning at the port of Balboa, a couple of miles from Panama City.  It will take three or four days to pass through the canal - instead of the usual 10 to 12 hours - because its wide 108 foot beam is going to barely scrape through some of the narrower locks.

The 800 foot long, 45,000 ton USS New Jersey was towed by a special tugboat, using a 50 ton chain-and-cable line stretching nearly a mile, on the trip from Bremerton, WA, where it had been mothballed.

It lacks working engines or ammunition loads, and even the doors are welded shut.  The ship is due in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, its birthplace, in the first week of November.

Eventually, it will be berthed in New Jersey as a floating museum, although the Navy has not decided where - in Bayonne or Camden.

All in all, the trip will cover around 5,800 Miles.

Among the party of some 200 visitors accompanying Whitman on the trip are Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding Township, and State Sen. John Matheuseen, R-Gloucester.

Launched in December 1942, the New Jersey took part in several armed conflicts, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  It has earned 16 combat awards and 15 medals.

The canal, built by the United States at the turn of the century, will be handed over to Panama at the end of this year under treaties the two countries signed in the 1970s.

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State Leaders, Veterans to Greet Battleship in Panama this Weekend

By Aron Pilhofer
Gannett State Bureau
October 16, 1999

When the Battleship New Jersey passes through the Panama Canal this weekend it won't do so unnoticed.

More than 160 New Jerseyans will watch the ship cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.  Among them will be Governor Christie Whitman, several members of Congress and State legislators.

"This is a long-awaited and proud moment for the citizens of New Jersey, and I am looking forward to witnessing history being made as our namesake Battleship travels through the locks of the Panama Canal one final time on her way back home," said State Senator John J. Matheussen, R-Gloucester.

The governor's personal entourage will include a half-dozen staffers and her state police security detail.  The trip will cost the governor's office $10,000.

All other participants will pay their own way.

They include: Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, D-N.J., State Senate President Donald DiFrancesco, R-Union, and Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, D-Monmouth, Chairman of the New Jersey Battleship Commission.

The governor invited 100 New Jersey veterans to make the trip, but only a handful could afford to take the time and spend the money.   Lautenberg announced Friday that he will pay to bring 10 veterans along.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in Balboa, Panama, today.

On Sunday, the governor will tour the ship with reporters.  A speaking program will follow.  On Monday, Whitman will board the New Jersey for its entrance into the Canal.

The ship will exit into the Atlantic ocean on Thursday on its way back to the Garden State, where it will be permanently berthed in either Camden or Bayonne as a floating museum.  The Navy has yet to decide which port will be the New Jersey's final home.

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In 1968, the New Jersey Barely Squeezed Through Panama Canal.
As Battleship heads to Canal, Admiral Recalls Close Quarters

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inquirer Staff Writer
October 15, 1999

McLean, Va. Tight, very tight.  That is how retired Rear Adm. J. Edward Snyder recalls passage through the Panama Canal when he was captain of the USS New Jersey during the Vietnam War.

"The boatswain looked at me and said, "Hey, Skipper, you better grease this slick pig 'cause we're going to have trouble going through here," Snyder said. "We got stuck in one lock."

This weekend, Governor Whitman will lead a delegation to Panama to watch the dreadnought make its last passage through the canal on its way to a home in its namesake state.

The event is, all say, historic because the New Jersey will be the last American Battleship to make the crossing before the United States turns over control of the canal to Panama at the end of the year.  In addition, the 887-foot, 45,000-ton ship, which is due at its temporary berth in Philadelphia on Nov. 5, will become the biggest vessel to go through the canal under tow as "cold iron" - that is, with its engines off, the four giant propellers locked in place.

And as Snyder recalled, it was the ability to turn his propellers two rotations a minute that helped him get the stuck battleship out of the lock.  Snyder's story of the New Jersey offers both a bit of history and an insight into the attachment the people of the state and the Philadelphia area have for the Battleship.

In January 1968, Snyder, a captain assigned to the Navy's Research and Development section in the Pentagon, was hours away from flying to the West Coast to take command of the St. Paul, a gun cruiser headed to Vietnam, when his orders were changed.

He was sent instead to Philadelphia to reactivate the New Jersey, which had been in mothballs since 1957.  The ship was, Snyder said, rusty.

"I was given something like $28 million," Snyder, 74, said this week in an interview at his McLean home.   "It was to be a cheapie overhaul."

In addition, the ship was limited to a crew of 1,556, half its World War II complement.

With the Battleship 13th on the work list at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Snyder resorted to the public-relations skills that would make him a legend.

"Every shop master there had been an apprentice boy when the ship was built in 1942," he said, "so I brought them all over to the so-called Admiral Halsey suite for lunch, and they said, 'What are you asking for?"

"Workers", he told them, and he got them.  Laboring side by side, Snyder's crew and shipyarders readied the New Jersey for its third war.

"Everybody in the Philadelphia shipyard fell in love with her, and they all wanted to come over from the big carrier Saratoga and see what was going on on this old relic that they'd built many years ago."

The work included modernizing bunks, installing air conditioning, and removing 20mm and 40mm antiaircraft guns.

Snyder, the ship's "Old Man" at 43, also went out and bought a claw-and-ball bathtub for $16 at a city junkyard and installed it in the captain's quarters, where his daughter Anne painted it navy blue.   The claws, however, she painted nail-polish red.

Antiwar sentiment was growing at the time, and the New Jersey soon became a symbol of Vietnam.

"We got bomb threat after bomb threat," each one requiring the evacuation of civilian workers, Snyder said.

But at the same time, he said, he and his men were overwhelmed by the support of the state and people of New Jersey.

"I had never ever seen such attention up until that time in my career," said Snyder, a World War II Naval Academy graduate who saw action in the last days of the war in the Pacific.

He recalled how then Governor Richard Hughes offered him the Battleship's silver service, which had been bought through a fund-raising campaign and given back to the state when the New Jersey was decommissioned in 1957.

"I told him, 'I want to take part of it, but I can't afford to take all of it,' " said Snyder, the son of a Methodist preacher from Grand Forks, N.D.

Two state troopers delivered a service for 16 and some serving dishes and punch bowls within days.

"It was enough to make a nice display," Snyder said, adding that the silver depicted scenes from the state's past up through the start of World War II.

Snyder said the state, using money left over from the silver fund-raising campaign, also bought the New Jersey a closed-circuit television system that allowed the crew to operate a virtual television station.

"The kids [sailors] got a lot out of it, courtesy of the state of New Jersey," he said.

"Every free moment I had, somebody in some city in the state of New Jersey was having a parade or doing something for the Battleship New Jersey," Snyder said.  "It was unbelievable."

"Next thing I know, I get this call from somebody in the Motor Vehicle Department" saying, 'It's thought that you need to have a license plate with the numbers BB-62 on it," Snyder said.  BB-62 is the New Jersey's designation.

Although not a resident of the state, he reported to the department and received the plates - but not until he had taken the written driver's test to get a license.

"It made a big hit at the shipyard," he said, noting that many, if not most, of the yard's workers lived in New Jersey.

"And," he said with a laugh, "it saved my butt twice" when he was stopped for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike.

While in Philadelphia, Snyder opened up the ship to military reservists, scouts and other organizations from New Jersey, and after the dreadnought was recommissioned on April 6, 1968, he invited all the shipyard workers who had worked on it to bring their families on board.

"This helped my crew understand that what they were doing was worthwhile," said Snyder, who acknowledged that at that time he did not believe the war could be won. "That started something with the crew that every time we went into port - anywhere - we had what was called open house.  We would have 20,000 to 30,000 people walk on and walk off."

Crew members gave up liberty to hand out leaflets with the state's seal and the ship's seal, said Snyder, who flew the state flag on the quarterdeck.

"The kids all began to be proud of New Jersey," he said.  "They began to associate the ship with the state, which I thought was unique, because we hadn't had a Battleship in many, many years."   At that time, the only Navy vessels named after states were battleships.

The New Jersey left Philadelphia on May 16, 1968, en route to its new home port in Long Beach, Calif., and then Vietnam, where it was due Oct. 1.

Snyder decided to take the Panama Canal to save time.

"I didn't like the idea.  The narrowest lock in the Panama Canal is 110 feet, zero inches.  The New Jersey was 108 feet and 3 inches. It was less than two-foot clearance.  In some of the locks they had put in water-cooled fenders that in effect narrowed the locks to 108 feet, 4 inches."

"When we got to the canal, I sailed with low fuel to be very high up,"he said.  "I figured I'd have just enough fuel to get through the canal."

The crew also had to cut off metal pipes, scuppers and handrails on the ship's sides.

Despite the preparations, the Battlewagon got stuck in one lock.  Snyder said the train engines, called mules, which help pull boats through the locks, "were spinning their wheels."

Snyder ordered the ship's inboard propellers to turn at a rotation of twice a minute "to give it some torque, to give a little extra push."

"Probably what did it more than anything else was that we were probably pumping water out of the lock, and the ship probably fell in," he said.

Off the coast of Vietnam, the ship bombarded inland targets with its 16-inch guns and served as a weekend getaway for ground troops, earning it both their respect and the nickname "The New Jersey Hilton."

To high-flying bombers, the ship was known as "Baby Blue Eyes" because Snyder had turned two 40mm gun tubs into swimming pools and painted them sky blue.  The pools also attracted low-flying Soviet bombers, apparently curious about what they could be.

While back in Long Beach for repairs and to take on ammunition, the New Jersey was ordered out of service for what was described as economic reasons in August 1969.  But Snyder said a top senator had told him - and some historians have said - that the ship's psychological impact was such that the North Vietnamese demanded its removal as a condition for negotiations.

Snyder went on to other high-level jobs in the Navy and retired in 1979. The New Jersey was his last ship, and like many who served on it, it has a strong hold on him.

"It was the highlight of my Naval career, Admiral or no Admiral," he said.

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Battleship Nears Panama Canal for a Final Time

By Aron Pilhofer
Gannett State Bureau
October 10, 1999

Next week, the USS New Jersey will, for the final time, leave the Pacific Ocean... stage to some of its greatest victories.

It was to the Pacific that the New Jersey, winner of 16 battle stars, returned again and again in its storied career spanning five decades.  In the Pacific Theater during World War II, the New Jersey helped defeat the Imperial Japanese fleet.  In Korea and Vietnam, the ship cruised the Pacific, the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan to support American troops fighting inland.

In 1982, the New Jersey patrolled the Central American coast before the Navy dispatched "The Big J" to aid Marines in Lebanon.

A week from Monday the ship will be eased into the first of the Panama Canal's six locks.  Each of the half-dozen times the New Jersey made the passage before, it was enroute to a new assignment... or to await the next call to duty.  But this will be the last Canal crossing for "The Black Dragon" as it makes its way to its permanent home in its namesake state and a new career as a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country.

This time, when the New Jersey leaves the stage there will be no curtain call.

"It marks the end of the road," said naval historian Paul Stillwell, author of the definitive history of the New Jersey.   "She's coming home at long last to the state for which she was named."

The Canal is just past the halfway point in the ship's 5,800 Mile journey home.  So far, everything has gone according to plan, said Kaare Ogaard, captain of the tug Sea Victory, which is towing the mothballed Battleship.

"We are actually ahead of schedule, so we are slowing down to meet the arrival date," Ogaard said in a telephone interview from a point off the coast of Mexico.  "There have been no problems at all.   The weather has been good, everything has gone well."

The ship is scheduled to reach Balboa, Panama... just outside the first set of canal locks... on Oct. 16, and arrive in Philadelphia around Nov. 5, where it will be moored at the Philadelphia Navy Yard temporarily.  In the following months, the Navy will decide the ship's final home... either Bayonne or Camden.

Getting the massive vessel through the canal will be the trickiest part of the journey, Ogaard said.

"I think it's the sheer size of the ship that can cause problems.  It's quite a handful to get through six locks and tow across a narrow lake," he said.

Once it reaches Balboa, the New Jersey will be docked until Oct. 18, when it enters the Miraflores Locks to begin its 50 mile passage across the Continental Divide to the Atlantic Ocean.  The arrival of a ship such as the New Jersey once would have been quite an event in the Canal Zone, said Paul Louis Elia Jr., of Manchester Township, who grew up in Panama in the 1950s.

"Anything out of the daily routine was an occurrence," said Elia, whose father, uncle and grandfather were among the thousands of Americans who lived and worked in the Canal Zone over the years.   "When you live in a place like the Panama Canal, the entire community is geared to make everything run and be efficient.  Anything differing from that routine is a big deal."

When Elia lived there and a special ship such as the New Jersey would come through, "they would have practically made a major holiday out of the thing.  People would have been skipping school to see it," he said. "Everyone and their grandmother would have been down there to get a look at it."

But now, with the United States set to hand over the Canal to Panama in December, Elia said he hopes the New Jersey gets the reception it deserves.  "I don't know what the Panamanian response will be because many of the Americans are now gone," he said.

Coaxing a 45,000 ton ship through six locks, as well as the more than 27 Miles of inland lakes and canals, will be especially difficult because the ship will not be under its own power, a "dead ship" in nautical terms.

At first, Panama Canal officials were unsure whether they would allow the ship to pass through, said Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, who is chairman of the New Jersey Battleship Commission.

"Their main concern is damaging the canal," he said.  "But they figured out a way to do it, so they let us take her through."

The New Jersey was designed specifically with the canal in mind.  Each lock is 110 Feet wide and 1,000 Feet long.  That leaves less than 100 feet clearance fore and aft, and about 7 Inches clearance to port and starboard.

The process to get a ship through is the same today as it was in 1914, when the canal opened.  Tugs will bring the ship to the gates, where the New Jersey will be attached to specially designed tractors that run on tracks along either side of the lock.  The tractors keep the ship centered and slowly pull it through.

The ride, however, is never smooth.   Frank Blair was a lieutenant aboard the New Jersey when it made its first canal crossing in 1943 on the way to the Pacific Theater.

"If it was at a slight angle, say just a little to the left, the port bow side of the ship would scrape and so would the starboard stern," he said.  The captain then ordered sailors to coat the hull with a thick layer of grease to minimize the damage.

"And even with that, there were big sparks flying up.  It was quite an event," he said.

In 1982, the last time the ship went through, Capt. William M. Fogarty hung thick ropes along the hull to serve as bumpers. The friction was so severe that several of the lines caught fire and had to be doused by crew members.

Once out of the two-step Miraflores Locks, the ship will be towed a short distance to the last of the three Pacific Ocean-side locks.   Once through there, the New Jersey will be some 85 Feet above sea level when it exits into the Gaillardo Cut, the narrowest part of the canal, just 300 feet wide in some parts.

When construction began in the late 1800s, this section was the most significant engineering hurdle to overcome.  Originally, this region was more than 330 feet above sea level.

The French, who first attempted to build the canal, planned to construct a tunnel through this section.

After their efforts failed, American engineers took over and lowered the cut to a level reachable by locks... a remarkable achievement.  In all, more than 260 million cubic yards of dirt and rock were removed from the Canal route, much of it from the Gaillardo Cut.

The ship will be towed by the Sea Victory and at least two other canal tugs through the cut and into Gatun Lake, a 26 Mile long inland waterway that crosses the Continental Divide.

The Battleship will overnight near the three-step Gatun Locks before emerging into the Atlantic.  In all, the journey across the canal will take two days, Ogaard said.

Once out of the canal, the remainder of the trip should be easy, he said. "The rest of it is just a long boat ride."

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Panama Canal's Locks are a Product of Ingenuity

By Aron Pilhofer
Gannett State Bureau
October 10, 1999

The system of six locks that allows ships to cross from one ocean to another is as much a feat of engineering as the Panama Canal itself.

The earliest French plans called for a sea-level canal that would not require locks at all.  But when that plan proved impossible, American engineers devised a system of six locks to raise ships to 85 feet above sea level, where ships would cross the 50-mile Isthmus on a man-made inland lake.

The canal has six sets of locks, three on the Pacific side and three on the Atlantic side.

At the time construction began in 1909, nothing like it had ever been attempted.

The locks were designed to be 110 Feet wide by 1,000 Feet long... large enough for most cargo ships and Navy vessels.  The doors would have to withstand enormous water pressure, yet be light enough to swing easily open and closed.

Each lock has a pair of double doors, which taper at the bottom forming a `V' shape.  The gates were built hollow, so the doors were partly buoyant in water, relieving pressure on the hinges.  Each of the gates is 64 Feet wide and 7 Feet thick.  They range in height from 47 to 82 Feet.

Water levels are raised and lowered without the use of pumps.  Once a ship enters the lock and the doors are closed, electric motors are used to open valves upstream or downstream to allow the surface level to rise and lower.

Ships are towed through the locks by a specially designed electric locomotive, which runs on tracks alongside.  Each series of locks can be controlled from a central command station.

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth and chairman of the New Jersey Battleship Commission, went through the locks for the first time in 1982 when he served as a special assistant to the captain on board the New Jersey.

It was an unforgettable experience, he said.

"I had never gone through any lock before, and it was a thrill," Azzolina said.  "We stayed on deck the whole time there was daylight to watch.  I think it's amazing how they build them."

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Dignitaries to Give Ship a Proper Send-Off

By Aron Pihofer
Gannett State Bureau
October 10, 1999

The USS New Jersey will not make its final passage through the Panama Canal without a proper send-off.

A State delegation, led by Gov. Christie Whitman, will meet the ship when it reaches Balboa, Panama, and participate in two days of ceremonies.  More than 160 people, including members of the governor's staff, are expected to make the trip.

Among the dignitaries expected to attend is newly elected Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who will take part in the proceedings, although her participation is not certain yet, said Peter McDonough, Whitman's chief spokesman.

"A lot of this is still up in the air," he said.

On Oct. 17, the day after the ship reaches Balboa, the governor will tour the ship along with members of the press, with a short speaking program to follow.  The next day, Whitman will be on board as the New Jersey is moved into position to enter the canal.

Moscoso and Whitman share something in common:  Moscoso is that country's first female chief executive and Whitman is New Jersey's first female governor.

Moscoso was elected in May in a close race.   She is the daughter of a schoolteacher who grew up in rural Panama.

She is the widow of former Panamanian President Arnulfo Arias, an eccentric nationalist leader who was elected three times and removed from office three times.

Moscoso, 53, will be the first Panamanian president to lead a fully sovereign nation after the United States hands over the Panama Canal and the zone surrounding it in December.  The US has controlled that territory since the administration of President Teddy Theodore Roosevelt.

Panama was a province of Colombia until it declared independence Nov. 3, 1903.  American support of the movement was crucial.   Shortly after that, a treaty was signed that granted the United States sovereignty over the Canal and the zone five miles on either side in perpetuity.

In 1979, President Carter agreed to turn the canal over to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.

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N.Y. Museum Director Says Ship Shouldn't be Berthed in Bayonne

Courier-Post Staff
Gannett State Bureau
October 9, 1999

The director of a floating naval museum in New York Harbor on Friday said the USS New Jersey should not be permanently berthed in nearby Bayonne.

"It should be outside a 50-mile radius for demographic reasons so we don't eat each other alive (financially)," said Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, Executive Director of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. Steele, however, stopped short of endorsing Camden as a future home for the New Jersey.

The Camden site is competing with Bayonne on the North Jersey side of New York Harbor to become the memorial site for the battleship.  A decision by the Navy is due by January.

Steele spoke at a luncheon meeting of the 1,000-member Philadelphia chapter of the Navy League, which in September endorsed the proposed Delaware River waterfront site in Camden as the final home for the New Jersey.

The luncheon celebrated the 224th birthday of the Navy in the city where it was born.  Calling the matter a "sensitive issue," he said the Battleship should come back to New Jersey and that no matter where it comes, he will "support it to honor our heroes and our youth."

Steele's predecessor, Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner, last fall expressed concerns at a congressional hearing that a Bayonne site would force unhealthy competition for visitors and funds between the New Jersey and the Intrepid, which is an aircraft carrier.  Gardner brought the $11 million Intrepid operation out of the red several years ago.

During World War II, the Intrepid and the New Jersey... the Navy's most decorated ship... fought side by side in the Pacific in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval conflict in history.

In his remarks Friday, Steele said current efforts to secure the New Jersey ultimately must be converted into a long-term effort to preserve the ship.

"You must have a great amount of energy to get them (ships), but sustaining that over the years to maintain the ship is difficult.  That's the main challenge the New Jersey will face," said Steele, who recently retired as the number three man at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Celeste Maschmeyer, president of the Navy League council, said the board voted unanimously for the Camden site for many reasons.   "They felt it was built in this area at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and would get more support here because of our long maritime traditions," she said.

Retired Navy Capt. William H. Lockwood, president of Interocean Ugland Management in Voorhees and a luncheon attendee, said putting the ship in Camden makes more sense.

"If you put it in Bayonne, it will compete with the Intrepid.  Here, it will compliment the submarine Becuna and the Olympia (Adm. Dewey's flagship).  But obviously it will be a political decision."

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Navy's Got Another Reason to Award 'Big J' to Camden

Courier-Post Staff
Gannett State Bureau
October 5, 1999

If fresh water, historic importance and the many other well-known reasons for locating the USS New Jersey in Camden aren't enough for you, here's another.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the N.J. Battleship Commission hasn't bothered to apply for a construction permit for a permanent mooring in Bayonne.

That should be it.  Camden should win.  For two primary reasons, this latest snafu should once and for all, without reservation, unequivocally persuade the Navy to send the "Big J" back home to Camden:

The Navy will pick the final berth site by early January.  It takes about two months for the proper agencies to review sites.   Camden already has its construction permit.

Right now, nobody even knows if Bayonne qualifies for a construction permit or if a review can be completed in time for the Navy.   And there are serious questions about Bayonne, including the ability of harbor pilots to maneuver around the Battleship and the timetable for a necessary dredging program.  Those are in addition to salt-water corrosion, a desolate location and other factors that weigh heavily against Bayonne.

The other reason that Camden now should emerge victorious is simply the sheer idiocy of not having - at this stage of the process - a basic permit.  This Battleship thing didn't just creep up overnight.   Everyone fighting for the honor of bringing the ship home knew all along that there are regulatory hurdles to clear.

If what the Corps says is true, what does this say about the Bayonne backers' ability to handle a project of such magnitude?   Do they have the necessary talent to ensure that the ship becomes a successful tourist attraction?  When something this major - a permit to allow construction at the site that you've been supporting all along - slips through the cracks, a lot of legitimate questions have to be answered.

The Navy already is working its way through the two applications. There's no doubt that it will do a thorough job and ask a lot of tough questions regarding both potential sites.  That's how it should be.

And, in the end, we're confident that the Navy will make the right choice. All of the evidence points to Camden as the right place for the "Big J."

Bring the magnificent ship home to the people who built it and will take good care of it for generations to come.

And bring it home to the one site that had the wisdom to secure the necessary permits well in advance.

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Bayonne Battleship Site Lacks Crucial Approval

By Carol Comegno
Gannett State Bureau
October 3, 1999

Mount Holly - The New Jersey Battleship Commission lacks a critical approval necessary to place the state's namesake Battleship at a pier in Bayonne, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Without Corps approval, the commission's quest to obtain the ship from the Navy for a floating museum at Bayonne - the only competition for a site along the Camden Waterfront - could be in jeopardy.

"It (the commission) has not even applied for a construction permit for permanent mooring," said Joe Seebode, chief of regulatory operations for the corps' New York District, which includes North Jersey.

"We have been notified by the commission that they will likely be seeking approval of a permanent mooring on the south side of the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne on the Port Jersey channel, but they have not made a formal request yet.  We understand the Camden site already has its approvals."

The Battleship left Bremerton, WA, last month under tow and is now along the Pacific coast of Mexico en route to the Panama Canal and its temporary berth in Philadelphia.  It will remain on the Delaware River, where it was built at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in the early 1940s, until the Navy decides which city will become its permanent home.

The Navy requires a docking site meet all technical requirements, including regulatory approvals from the agency that controls the navigable waters in that location.

Navy officials said they give each applicant "sufficient time" to respond to questions during the application review process, but can eliminate any applicant that does not meet the minimum requirements for local, state or federal approvals.

Retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler said the Camden site proposed by the Homeport Alliance, a regional nonprofit group that submitted the Camden application, has the necessary regulatory approvals.  He declined comment on the commission's Bayonne application.

Seebode said the review process for a battleship mooring in Bayonne could take anywhere from six weeks to months if environmental or navigational questions arise.

Because the Navy has set a deadline of early January by which to make its decision, it is unclear whether the commission could obtain its approvals in time - or even if the site will qualify for such a permit.

Apparently, the state-sanctioned commission submitted its application to the Navy May 17 without full regulatory approvals.

Recently, Battleship Commission Chairman Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, appeared before the Harbor Safety, Navigation and Operations Committee, an advisory group representing maritime interests in the New York - New Jersey port, and asked for its blessing on the Bayonne berth.

Harbor pilots, however, questioned the difficulty of maneuvering around a Battleship in the Port Jersey channel.  They said shallow water on one side of the entrance from the main harbor channel, coupled with the larger size of today's container ships, already makes it tricky to enter the Global/Auto Marine Terminal directly across from the Bayonne pier.

There are government plans and some funding available to dredge the shallow area, known as the Jersey Flats.  But Corps officials said the timetable for completion is the summer of 2002.

Before a frustrated Azzolina left, he pounded a fist on a table and told the port group they would be giving the Battleship to Camden if they did not agree to sanction the Bayonne site, according to several people who attended the meeting.

"I was very surprised to hear they did not have these type of approvals on a Navy application submitted on May 17.  Based on the geography of the areas, one would have to say there are a lot more questions on the Bayonne site than the Camden site," said Lt. Commander Chris Nichols, vessel traffic branch chief for Coast Guard Activities New York and a Somerdale native who was at that meeting.

Battleship Commission spokesman Gordon Bishop said he could not comment specifically on which approvals the Commission has.   He said Azzolina is working with the Commission's technical team on what he called "tying up loose ends" with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Azzolina was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

"October will be the windup period.   Knowing the Navy, they can keep this review process open for as long as necessary," Bishop said.

"The Navy is doing a thorough job asking questions, and we're optimistic.  They asked a second round of questions to Bayonne but not to Camden.  If Bayonne does not have all the approvals necessary, I think that is rather telling and could be a significant factor," said Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., who supports the Camden site.

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No, Duh ... In North vs. South,
We Can't Win War of Numbers

Courier-Post Staff
Gannett State Bureau
September 28, 1999

The trouble with some polls is that they point out the obvious.  Such is the case with the recent Quinnipiac College survey of where to put the battleship New Jersey when it returns to the state later this year.

The poll question put to residents simply asked where the ship should be docked: Camden or Bayonne.

More people live in North Jersey than South Jersey.  So, all of you deep thinkers out there, which part of the state, in your humble opinion, "won" the overall poll?  Who won in North Jersey?  Who won in South Jersey?

Does anybody really need the answers?   If so, here they are:

In results as shocking as the sun rising in the East, Bayonne was the pick of North Jerseyans.  Camden was the pick of South Jerseyans.  And, since there are more people up North, Bayonne came out on top when all of the numbers were combined.

No kidding.  All together now: Duh!

In a divisive issue that pits one part of the world against another, the one with the most people usually wins the poll.

Let us illustrate.  In an effort to save pollsters time and money, we now reveal the results of potential future statewide polls:

  • Where should the state build a massive building filled with money where residents can visit and then walk out with bags full of dough? North Jersey residents would favor North Jersey.  South Jersey residents would favor South Jersey.  Due to population disparity, the overall poll would favor North Jersey.

  • Where should the state build a prison facility to house criminally insane, cannibalistic animal abusers?  You know the answers.

Anybody see a trend?

Fortunately, the decision over where the USS New Jersey will be berthed isn't a popularity contest based on population density.   The Navy will look at proposals from both Bayonne and Camden and make a decision based on what's best for the ship.

When that happens, Camden has an excellent chance and should emerge victorious, no matter what the polls say.

Fresh water, strong local support and the potential to be an exciting part of a two-city Waterfront are only a few reasons that the Navy should choose Camden.

Polls can be useful to help determine public opinion on important issues. But in a turf war, let's not be surprised when the part of the polling area that has the most people comes out on top.

No matter what the polls say, the "Big J" belongs home in Camden, where the magnificent ship was built.  We're confident the Navy understands that fact.

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Camden Should be the Only Place to Seat the
Mighty Warrior of the Seas

Courier-Post Staff
Gannett State Bureau
September 25, 1999

Circle of Life

As a proud member of the Home Port Alliance, I am a strong backer of the USS New Jersey coming home to the Delaware River.

If we are honored with placement of the ship on our Waterfront, we are prepared to assume the important task of educating our young people of the perils of war and the necessity for peace. We will show them why dedicating themselves to protect our country through a career in the military is a noble calling. We will honor the contributions of our veterans for their many sacrifices. Berthing the battleship in Camden will help bring job opportunities to our residents and provide visitors with a compelling reason to make the interconnected Camden and Philadelphia Waterfront a destination not to be missed.

Let's close the circle of her life; she was built and launched here and now we wish to put her to rest with reverence. I extend a thank you to everyone who has cared to be involved with the Home Port Alliance in our cause. Join us in early November at the Red Bank Battlefield in National Park as we watch in awe as she passes by on her way to her temporary home at the former U.S. Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia. Keep the momentum going also as we await word from the Navy if we are to have the privilege of providing the final berthing place for the majestic BB-62.

Ann DuVall - Sewell

Homeward bound

The USS New Jersey is making her historic journey "home" to the state of New Jersey at this writing, and this is a time for celebration as we plan to welcome her home with reverence and awe. Once again, we extend our thanks to the members of the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission, the Battleship New Jersey Foundation and the Battleship New Jersey Historical Museum Society for their combined efforts over more than 20 years to help bring the battleship to our shores.

With regard to final site selection, my allegience lies with the exceptional Camden site and the application of the Home Port Alliance for the USS New Jersey. I am proud to be a part of this not-for-profit organization whose leaders, with tremendous support from the residents of the tri-state area and beyond, have worked tirelessly to present a formidable plan to showcase the battleship on the Camden Waterfornt, just 25 ship lengths away from where she was built at our Navy yard.

We are confident that we presented a top-notch application to the ship donation decision-making authority, the U.S. Navy. Now we await its final selection and we have not been idle during this important watchful time.

I want to thank all of the people who have contacted my office to share their personal stories about the BB-62 and to offer to help in the Alliance efforts to bring her home. We appreciate having you as part of our team, and your support is very valued.

Senator John J. Matheussen - 4th District - Turnersville

For those who fought

At the age of 17, I stood on the deck of my first ship, the USS New Jersey on May 23, 1943, as I listened to her being commissioned into active duty. How proud I was, knowing that I would be living and working on this ship to fight for my country.

Now she is coming home. And where is home? Where she was built and commissioned into active duty. Home is where we all are born, and the USS New Jersey's home is Camden.

She should have her final resting place where she was built and across the river from where our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

Let's stop politicking between north and south. Let her rest in fresh water. She first sailed from our shores via the Panama Canal to fight for our country. Once again, she will pass through the Panama Canal to return home to Camden.

I am asking this for Captain Carl F. Holden, 161 officers and the 2,592 enlisted men who commissioned her.

Joseph A. Hopkins - Mount Holly

Camden Excitement

The "Big J" is coming home, and it will be to the great port of Camden! This great battleship was built by residents and patriots of the Delaware Valley. They certainly should be allowed to revel in its rightful home in Camden.

The Courier-Post is right when it says that all of the advantages of the "Big J" coming to a permanent mooring in Camden are due to fresh water, noncorrosive location and its accessibility to many more visitors than if the battleship were moored in Bayonne.

Let's also mention a few firsts when the "Big J" comes to its home port of Camden. It will be the longest nonmilitary tow in history (in 1964, the USS Alabama set the current record of 5,600 miles). The "Big J" will be towed 5,900 miles.

The port of Camden will house the most decorated warship in the history of naval warfare and the last of the naval battleships with 16-inch guns that can accurately deliver a shell 23 miles.

Camden will be the perfect home for the USS New Jersey and it surely will be exciting for this Navy vet and hundreds of thousands of residents in this area during the first week of November.

When the "Big J" comes to Camden, this will be a further demonstration of the ability of the present administration in Camden City Hall (led by Mayor Milton Milan) as to how to keep and deliver campaign promises. It sure is an exciting time to be a resident of Camden!

Bob Gorman - Camden

Camden's Ship

In 1942, the United States was embroiled in yet another global conflict and was hard-pressed to protect its shores from enemy invasions. They never came, thanks to all of the veterans who served their country.

Throughout its gloried service to the United States, the USS New Jersey stood not only as a shining symbol of American patriotism, but as one of the myriad examples of the dedication of American workers who, by virtue of their chosen trades and love of country, built the ship to withstand any and all opposition.

Her birth was created out of a great need for powerful warships to assert the American influence. Congress commissioned the construction of four Iowa Class battleships to be added to the already expansive Naval fleet.

As she is now being towed from Bremerton, Wash., the "Big J" could probably still pack a punch in the world's trouble spots.

That both Bayonne and Camden are grappling for berthing rights is absurd.  Bayonne had nothing to do with the inception of the USS New Jersey, so it should stand to reason that it not be able to lay claim.

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina - although a veteran - has lost his sense of protocol if he believes Bayonne would be a better berthing site than Camden.  Camden should be the only place to seat the mighty warrior of the seas.  She was born, launched and commissioned across the river from Camden.   She should come home to Camden.

Bayonne may be invited to the ceremony, but I believe with all my heart that the USS New Jersey should come home to rest in its berth place: Camden.

Christopher Concannon - Bellmawr

Welcome it Home

They say home is where the heart is.   For the USS New Jersey, that can only be the Camden Waterfront, where the great Battleship was born. From birth to berth, the USS New Jersey deserves to go home.

Thousands of men and women who lived in the Delaware Valley built the great Battleship.  They worked three shifts, around the clock, as the country struggled its way out of the Great Depression.  They created the most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy, launched on Pearl Harbor Day from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Now it is time to bring the USS New Jersey home to the Waterfront just down the river from the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

The people of New Jersey - all of New Jersey - should honor our nation's history by welcoming our proud freedom fighter home to the Camden Waterfront, where it was born and where it belongs.

Susan Bass Levin - Mayor - Cherry Hill

Star Billing

I am not privy to the competing applications of Bayonne and Camden's Home Port Alliance.  However, to the extent that the media has developed an accurate portrait of salient features of each, it strikes me that Camden is a better site if only for the fresh water considerations.  I know that Camden is badly in need of economic revitalization and that this proud ship would help immensely relative to those considerations.

I am also favorably disposed toward Camden because the BB-62, as the Navy's most-decorated ship, deserves star billing - a presentation all her own.  In Bayonne, the USS New Jersey would be competing for the affections of the public with other attractions - not the least of which is the USS Intrepid.

The USS New Jersey has earned its distinction.  The Navy should honor her one last time by placing her on display where she will be most appreciated and venerated.  I believe that place is Camden.

I look forward to seeing the BB-62 grace the Camden Waterfront and being able to take my sons on board in the near future.

David W. Thompson - Haddon Heights

Not Just a Ship

I fear the USS New Jersey will end up in Bayonne and not in Camden where I feel it should be located.  The battleship was given "birth" across the river in Philadelphia and should now be given its final "berth" close to home.  I am sure there are more people in the Camden area who helped to build the ship than there are in North Jersey.

Regardless of what Wilson E. Adams (letter, 9/16) thinks about "this old ship," it is more than an old ship; it is a memorial to the people who helped to build it and the people who gave their lives by serving and helping to defend our country.

I hope South Jersey is not going to be the unwanted, unwelcome relative of North Jersey again.

T.C. Murray - Camden

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A Battle in N.J.'s War Within the State

Poll: Berth ship in Bayonne

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inguirer Staff Writer
September 25, 1999

If New Jersey voters could make the choice, the Battleship New Jersey's last home would be in Bayonne, not Camden.

That's the finding of a Quinnipiac College poll released yesterday that highlighted once again the state's North-South divide.

"In the battle between North and South, the North has won again," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Polling Institute at the college in Hamden, Conn. "The Battleship New Jersey was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, right across the river from Camden. But Bayonne is in North Jersey and that's where the votes are."

The survey comes as the USS New Jersey is being towed from Washington State to Philadelphia to await a decision by the Navy Department on whether the highly decorated battleship will become a museum and monument in Bayonne or Camden.

The poll of 783 registered voters was conducted Sept. 14 to Sept. 21, and found that statewide, 51 percent favored Bayonne, 36 percent wanted Camden and 13 percent did not know where the battleship should be berthed or had no opinion. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Broken out by region, North Jersey backed Bayonne 67 percent to 18 percent and Central New Jersey also lined up behind the Hudson County city, 53 percent to 31 percent. In South Jersey, Camden was the choice - 67 percent to 25 percent.

Gordon Bishop, spokesman for the state Battleship Commission, which anointed Bayonne as its favored city last year, said the poll results did not come as a surprise.

Work to bring the New Jersey back to her namesake state took shape in the 1970s in North Jersey and the goal had long been to berth the warship on the Hudson River, said Bishop.

"The poll merely reinforced what we had already known," said Bishop, adding that most of the special license plates issued to support the effort to return the battleship had been sold north of the line between Trenton and Toms River.

The Navy's decision is expected after the new year.

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Never Mind its Final Berth, 'Big J' on Way Home, at Last

Courier-Post Staff
Gannett State Bureau
September 16, 1999

The ''Big J" is on the way and that's cause for jubilation among all N.J. residents, be they proponents of Bayonne or Camden as the battleship's final berth.

The most decorated ship in the Navy with 16 battle stars, the USS New Jersey left Bremerton, Wash., at 6:45 a.m. Sunday under tow by a single tugboat, the Sea Victory.

Fittingly, the battleship's departure from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where it joined the mothball fleet eight years ago, was observed by members of the USS New Jersey's Veterans Inc.

The group held its annual reunion in nearby Seattle last week and among the ship's well-wishers were a few remaining ''plank holders," members of the New Jersey's crew when it was commissioned May 23, 1943.

In U.S. Navy tradition, ''plank holders" hold special rights of ownership.

Indeed, many members actually do each hold a piece of the battleship's original teak deck, given to them when the deck was replaced in the 1980s.

The New Jersey is traveling 5,800 miles to Philadelphia, where it was built and launched on Dec. 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The journey is expected to take about 55 days, with passage through the Panama Canal scheduled for mid-October.

It'll be a squeeze, with just 8 inches of clearance on either side, but the New Jersey's made it before.  The battleship saw combat in the Pacific during World II and, later, off the coasts of Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon.

The ''Big J," whose 16-inch guns are capable of hurtling one-ton shells 23 miles, will arrive in Philadelphia around Nov. 5.   The U.S. Navy Ship Donation Program Office will decide its final berth as a museum, probably in January.

We think the Camden Waterfront is the obvious choice.  It would bring the great ship from ''birth to berth," near the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where it was built by Delaware Valley residents.

Other reasons why Camden is preferable to Bayonne:

-- The fresh water of the Delaware River is less corrosive than the salt water of Upper New York Bay.

-- The Bayonne site is out of the way, while 23 million tourists visit the Greater Philadelphia area annually.

-- Another museum ship, the much larger aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, is already in New York City, and is likely to satisfy visitors' curiosity without their going to Bayonne.

-- The Camden area is offering a $4.2 million financial package to get the battleship's adventure as a museum started.

The case for Camden is conclusive, then, but the choice is for another day.

For now, we'll avidly follow the big ship's movement and anxiously await its triumphant return to the waters of its namesake state.

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The "Big J" is Homeward Bound

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inquirer Staff Writer
September 13, 1999

BREMERTON, Wash. - In the dawn's early light yesterday, the USS New Jersey inched out of its mothball berth between the aircraft carriers Ranger and Midway and was tethered by chains and braided steel cable to the seagoing tug Sea Victory for the long, slow trip to its birthplace in Philadelphia.

With the 249-foot Sea Victory towing the New Jersey and two smaller tugs on its port and starboard sides, the 887-foot battleship glided out of Sinclair Inlet on the slack high tide at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and headed for Rich Passage before entering the shipping lanes of Puget Sound.

The 56-year-old New Jersey, which will travel at an average speed of 6 knots, is scheduled to complete the 132.5-mile voyage to Cape Flattery and reach the open seas about 10:30 a.m. today (Philadelphia time).

Only a few dozen turned out on the Bremerton waterfront to see the New Jersey sail away, bringing to a close the city's half-century history as a home port to battleships, both active and mothballed. The Navy's last other battleship here, the Missouri, was towed to Pearl Harbor last year by the same tug taking the New Jersey to Philadelphia.

One of the spectators at the shipyard's Missouri Gate on Route 3 was Dale Pryor, 66, a Navy veteran who pulled up on a motorcycle.

Pryor, who lives here, recalled how in the mid-1950s his ship, the aircraft carrier Intrepid, and the New Jersey did VIP cruises together and put on firepower demonstrations in the Mediterranean.

In one demonstration, the battleship, which was 20 miles away, fired its 16-inch guns at the Intrepid's wake.

"It was most impressive," he said, adding that during firing practice on a target towed by a plane, the New Jersey's 40mm antiaircraft guns "just turned the sky black."

"It's part of history," Dan Cooley, 54, a retired sailor who lives in Bremerton, said of the Navy's most decorated battleship, the winner of 16 battle stars and other citations for action in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and off the coast of Lebanon in the early 1980s.

Cooley recalled seeing the New Jersey, which could reach 33 knots, in the mid-1980s.

"Talk about moving," he said. "What an impressive sight."

The New Jersey will never again achieve such speed. For the tow, its four giant propellers have been locked in place. The ship is what sailors call "cold iron." The tug crew refers to it as a "dead tow."

About 20 New Jersey veterans, who are attending a reunion an hour away in Seattle, were allowed onto the base to see the New Jersey pull out, said Richard Esser, president of USS New Jersey Veterans Inc.

At the Bremerton Boardwalk - where the Turner Joy, the destroyer involved in the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam, is moored as a museum - Jim Wild, who was visiting his daughter from his home in Lincoln Park, N.J., watched as the battleship glided by, silhouetted by the sun as helicopters buzzed overhead.

"I just came to visit and got a bonus today," he said. "I'm glad it's coming back. But it's a shame, the political fight over it."

The battleship is scheduled to arrive at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on Nov. 5 and will stay there until the Navy decides between Camden's and Bayonne's bids to have the New Jersey as a museum and veterans' memorial. An announcement is expected after Jan. 1.

During the $2 million tow, legal possession of the 45,000-ton ship has been transferred by the Navy to the New Jersey Department of Veterans and Military Affairs.

Col. Michael Warner, a department official, observed the early stages of the tow from the Sea Victory.

"Everything went extremely well," he said in a ship-to-shore call. "We're delighted she's finally on her way home."

The trip will cover 6,300 miles under the current towing plan, said Ryan Malane, spokesman for Crowley Marine Services, the towing contractor.

The New Jersey is scheduled to arrive at the Panama Canal on Oct. 16 and cross through the canal Oct. 18-20.

Since the New Jersey's beam is 108 feet and the canal locks are only 110 feet wide, the towing company anticipates the ship will get scraped and require painting in Philadelphia. Veterans who sailed through the canal on the New Jersey have recalled its scraping through the docks and how once it completed the passage, painters were sent over the side for touch-up work.

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Battleship Starts Journey Home

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
September 13, 1999

BREMERTON, Wash. … On the day the battleship New Jersey began its final voyage, even nature showed respect.

In the predawn hours Sunday, the mist that perpetually shrouds this area was cooperatively absent.

Rocking silently between two other Navy heroes, the aircraft carriers Ranger and Midway, the "Big J" looked more like a ghost ship than the nation's most decorated Navy vessel. The few workers aboard to help get the tow started were lost in the shadows on the hulking ship's bow.

The historic journey began at 6:45 a.m. Towed by the tug Sea Victory with an assist by three other Crowley Marine Services tugs, the colossal battleship was pulled away from the mothball fleet at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, its home since it was decommissioned in 1991. The ship was oddly quiet … its 212,000-horsepower engines stilled, its four giant propellers locked in place.

Battened down and sealed up, the "Big J" glided smoothly into position to start what eventually will be a new career in its namesake state as a floating museum and memorial to those who served their country.

But first a sentimental journey, one last trek across the seas, down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal and up the Eastern seaboard to Philadelphia.

There, on Dec. 7, 1942, the New Jersey's distinguished service began with a bottle of champagne across the bow and a slide down skids slicked with 100,000 pounds of grease. The 45,000-ton behemoth hit the Delaware River with such force that onlookers on the Camden side were drenched.

It never stopped making waves. From World War II and Korea to Vietnam, Beirut and El Salvador, the "Big J" answered America's call. Its 16-inch gun batteries could fire shells with the mass of compact cars over such long distances the enemy was hard put to retaliate. Of the thousands who served aboard the New Jersey, one sailor died in combat. A grateful nation honored the ship's service with 16 battle stars and 15 medals and awards, a record likely to stand.

The New Jersey left quietly Sunday but it did not leave unnoticed or alone.

The morning sun, peaking over the Cascade Range mountains, illuminated a small flotilla of pleasure craft and a U.S. Coast Guard patrol craft. When the New Jersey passed the Washington State ferry terminal here, a long blast of a ferry's horn called "goodbye" to an honored neighbor.

Along the way through Sinclair Inlet, people gathered on wharves and beaches to wave and take photographs, probably knowing there won't be anything like this coming through here again. Overhead, helicopters carrying reporters and photographers buzzed around the ship and tugs like bees.

Even under tow, the New Jersey looked graceful and majestic.

"It's a fist in a velvet glove," observed Capt. Bart Bartell, 74, a World War II sailor who watched through a submarine's periscope in 1945 as Japanese leaders surrendered on the Jersey's sister ship, the Missouri.

Bartell gives guided tours of the mothball fleet, and the New Jersey is his favorite ship. But he is happy the "Big J" is going home.

"They'll fix it up," he said. "Here, the old gal is going to waste."

The toughest part of the journey is the Panama Canal, where there is just eight inches of space on either side of the ship. The second-tightest spot was barely 10 miles from the start of the trip. Rich Passage is tricky for even the most skilled mariners because it has a rocky bottom and is only 65 feet deep at high tide. But Sea Victory Capt. Kaare Ogaard, 58, made it look like child's play.

As two huge seals watched curiously from their perch on a buoy, Ogaard brought the 888-foot long vessel through safely, then made a left turn at Glover Point to head through Admiralty Inlet to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and out to the Pacific.

The operation halted just long enough to get the workers off the New Jersey, then resumed without a soul aboard and the Sea Victory attached by a 2 3/4-inch steel cable. As the other tugs fell back, one sprayed colored water from its fire-fighting equipment as a final salute and tribute.

Where the ship will find its permanent home is still unclear. Bayonne and Camden are fighting for the honor. The U.S. Navy Ship Donation Program Office is considering their applications, and is expected to make a decision in January. For Capt. David McGuigan of Haddonfield, a retired Navy officer, Sunday's events held special meaning.

McGuigan is president of the Home Port Alliance, which is working to bring the New Jersey to the Camden Waterfront. "We're very happy a major milestone has been met today and that the ship is coming home," McGuigan said. "We will have a Home Port group to meet the ship in Panama, and we are busy planning a major welcome in Philadelphia and fine-tuning our planned site on the Camden Waterfront."

Staff writer Carol Comegno and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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USS New Jersey's Last Launch Stirs Memories of its Crews
in U.S. battles.  Where They Found Friendship in Combat

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inquirer Staff Writer
September 12, 1999

BREMERTON, Wash. - The State of New Jersey's claim on the battleship New Jersey is mostly that of a namesake. But for the men who served on it, the ties of ownership go much deeper.

On the floating town of gray steel, boys became men, friendships were formed in the heat of battle or the boredom of a long sea voyage, and an extended family grew out of the common bond of having been a sailor or a Marine on one of the biggest gunships the United States ever sent to sea.

Together they made history.

"We're battleship sailors. There aren't many of us around," said Mike Prime, who served on the New Jersey during the Vietnam War.

Today, veterans who have been holding a reunion in Seattle plan to watch as the battleship sets out under tow on its last long journey, a 6,300-mile trip back to its birthplace in Philadelphia while the Navy decides whether the ship will carry out its last mission as a floating museum in Bayonne or Camden.

And for some it probably will be the last time they'll see the ship, whose profile and designation, BB-62, they wear proudly on blue-and-gold baseball caps.

Charlie Thommen, 77, is a retired police detective lieutenant from Baltimore. Fred Adams, 73, is a retired tool-and-die maker and piano tuner who now makes his home in Port Orange, Fla.

They are what is known as plank holders, members of the New Jersey's crew when it was commissioned on May 23, 1943, five months after the 887-foot battleship was launched into the waters of the Delaware River on the first anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Basically we own a piece of the ship," said Thommen, referring to an ancient naval tradition about the rights of a first crew. In recent years, each received a piece of the New Jersey's original teak deck, which was replaced in the 1980s.

Thommen was the gunners mate in charge of the No. 8 mount, a 5-inch gun set on the port side. Adams, who lied about his age to get into the Navy, was the trainer, the seaman who rotated the mount to its firing position. Last week, they met up again in Seattle for the annual reunion of the USS New Jersey's Veterans Inc., an 1,100-member group of ex-sailors and former Marines who served on the battleship, mothballed in Bremerton since 1991.

Adams recalled how he, an Indiana boy just out of boot camp, was assigned to the New Jersey and found himself in Philadelphia in 1943.

"I'm standing next to the New Jersey and I don't know what it is. Then I realize this is a ship. I'd never seen anything like in it my life," said Adams, who ended up with the nickname Mousey, bestowed on him by a sailor who "was tattooed everywhere but his ass."

After sea trials and commissioning, the battleship headed for the Panama Canal on its way to the action in the Pacific. With a beam of 108 feet, the ship had been built to squeeze through the canal's 110-foot wide locks.

"We scraped through," said Thommen, using words repeated by every crewman who ever served on the New Jersey who made a passage through the canal.

"I still have little pieces of cement from the Panama Canal when it popped up on the deck. We just hit raw cement," Adams said. "We're standing on the main deck and cement's flying all over us. We had a foot either way."

Then they were in the Pacific.

"We were in every major action after we arrived," Adams said.

The Marshall Islands. Truk. Aitape. Humboldt Bay. The Marianas. The Western Carolines. Leyte. Luzon. Iwo Jima. Okinawa.

In two years - 1944 and 1945 - the New Jersey earned nine of the 16 battle stars that make her the nation's most decorated battleship. Its motto was "Firepower for Freedom," and with nine 16-inch guns capable of hurling one-ton shells 23 miles, it was not an idle claim.

Thommen said that when the big guns fired, the 45,000-ton battleship "would go back 18 inches."

"It was exciting," he said. But there was a price. "I've got two punctured eardrums," Thommen said.

When the war ended, the crew endured what many now recall as an insult when the USS Missouri, the New Jersey's younger sister ship, was chosen for the site of the Japanese surrender.

"We were supposed to be it," Thommen said.

"But Truman was president," Adams said. Harry S. Truman was from Missouri.

Now, all these years later, the two men remain connected to the New Jersey.

Said Thommen: "When you get on a ship like that, you rely on everyone to help you and everyone relies on you. It's the camaraderie."

"You live on a ship for three years with 2,700 other men. You don't get to every one of them, but you make a lot of friends," Adams said.

"It's part of you. It stays part of you," said his friend.

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Veterans Say a Last Farewell to the USS New Jersey

From Bremerton, Wash., the ship will start its long
voyage to the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inguirer Staff Writer
September 11, 1999

BREMERTON, Wash. - Three dozen members of the USS New Jersey's original crew bade farewell to the 57-year-old battleship yesterday as it prepares to make a trip marking its transformation from history maker to historical icon.

"I've got goosebumps," said one old plank owner, as the original crew members are known, as he stepped off the bus for a dockside ceremony at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where the New Jersey is docked between the aircraft carriers Midway and Ranger.

"This ceremony marks the end of the New Jersey's great military career," said Capt. Leroy W. Chapple, chief of the Naval Surface Group, Pacific Northwest, who said the battleship would become a "tangible reminder of the Navy's role in American history."

At dawn tomorrow, the 887-foot veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam will begin a 6,300 mile, two-month voyage under tow to the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it was launched on Dec. 7, 1942. The battleship will be docked there until the Navy Department decides between Bayonne's and Camden's competing bids to serve as the New Jersey's final berth.

"We really don't care where it goes," said Richard Esser, president of the USS New Jersey Veterans Group, who served on the ship during the Korean War. "We just want to get it back to the East Coast." The organization is holding its annual reunion on the other side of the sound in Seattle.

Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (R., Monmouth), who is chairman of the state Battleship Commission, told the veterans that efforts to get the New Jersey back to its namesake state began in the 1960s.

"Would you believe this day would ever arrive?" asked Azzolina, a retired Navy captain who was a special assistant to the New Jersey's commander in the early 1980s. "After years and years, it's finally here."

The assemblyman said the ship, which has nine 16-inch guns capable of firing one-ton shells 23 miles, had changed since the gathered veterans took part in her commissioning on May 23, 1943. Over the years, he recalled, such things as missiles and air conditioning had been added, while machine guns were lost. Other improvements allowed the crew to decrease from 2,700 during World War II to about 1,400 when the battleship was last decommissioned in 1991.

"You brought it through World War II, and without you and others we wouldn't have won World War II," Azzolina said. Now, he said, the ship will "fulfill her destiny as a historical military icon on the New Jersey waterfront."

Under the terms of the $2 million tow, possession of the battleship will temporarily be transferred to the state Department of Veterans and Military Affairs.

Recalling that many of the people who built the battleship lived in New Jersey and recalling other historical ties, the department's representative, Col. Michael Warner, said the battleship was "more than just a ship returning to the state she is named for. . . . This is New Jersey's in more than in name."

He invited all the veterans to go to the state Nov. 5, when the battleship is scheduled to sail up the Delaware River to its temporary berth in Philadelphia.

Chapple said the fact that the ship had been reactivated three times after decommissioning "is proof of the excellence of the people who built her."

After one of the veterans threw a wreath into the water, Frank Blair, 81, of Long Beach, Calif., who was a dental officer on the New Jersey, played Taps and "Auld Lang Syne" on a clarinet.

Later, Chapple, Warner and Todd Busch, a vice president for the towing company, Crowley Marine Services, unhitched a line and threw it into the water in a ceremonial casting off of lines as the plank owners watched.

"It fills you up," said a choked-up Charlie Thommen, 77, of Baltimore, who had been a mate on the New Jersey's 5-inch guns.

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USS New Jersey's Past and Future Honored

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
September 11, 1999

BREMERTON, Wash. - In two ceremonies that were often emotional to several generations of Navy veterans watching them, the battleship New Jersey was blessed and symbolically cast off Friday to a new life as a floating museum and monument to those who served their country.

"This ceremony marks the end of the New Jersey's great military career, and acknowledges the beginning of an even greater chapter in her history as a reminder to all of us and the people of New Jersey and the youth of America as a memorial to what we've done as a nation and what we need to do as a nation in the future," said Navy Capt. Roy Chapple, chief of staff of the Navy's Pacific Northwest Command.

The "Big J" begins the long trek to Philadelphia on Sunday at the end of a towline. It is scheduled to go through the Panama Canal in October and reach Philadelphia around Nov. 5. It will stay there until the Navy decides whether Bayonne or Camden will become its final home. That's expected around the end of the year.

"It's finally here," said Joseph Azzolina, chairman of the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission, his voice choked with emotion. He has worked since the 1960s to bring the New Jersey to its namesake.

Azzolina, an assemblyman representing Monmouth County and a retired Navy captain, told of how he tried for 40 years to be assigned to a battleship. "Finally for my last assignment in the reserves, almost 40 years later, I got on the battleship New Jersey in 1983."

That took him to Beirut, Lebanon, and some of the last action the 16-inch guns of the "Black Dragon" would see.

Azzolina said the New Jersey will offer the country a unique opportunity.

"We're going to do such a marvelous job of educating the youth not only about the battleship, but about the importance of the armed forces of this country."

After Azzolina spoke, one of the original crew members cast a wreath into the bay in front of the ship as a memorial to those who served, while a spry 81-year-old Dr. Frank C. Blair played taps on a clarinet. At that point, Hugh Dixon of Miami, a World War II veteran who witnessed Friday's activity from a wheelchair, pulled himself up using a pole and stood with his hand across his heart.

Blair, from Catalina, Calif., claims a unique place in the New Jersey's history. Just out of school, he was chosen to set up the ship's dental office. "I was a paid killer," he joked. "We were all paid killers, but I killed our side."

Col. Michael L. Warner, deputy commissioner for New Jersey Veterans Affairs, who spoke on behalf of Gov. Christie Whitman, conducted the second ceremony. He invited the nation to join the Garden State in welcoming the grand old battlewagon.

"On the fifth of November, she will arrive in the Delaware basin and begin her voyage up the Delaware River. New Jersey knows how to welcome its veterans home - and this great veteran will be welcomed home in style by the citizens of New Jersey because she's ours."

Warner joined Capt. Chapple and Todd Busch of Crowley Marine Services, the tow company transporting the New Jersey, to symbolically cast off a line connecting the super dreadnought to the dock.

That happens for real on Sunday about 6 a.m. (9 a.m. EDT).

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Long Journey Ahead for Tugboat Crew and Battleship
The New Jersey is to be Towed from Puget Sound, Through the Panama Canal and on to Philadelphia, Where it was Launched in 1943

By Joseph A. Gambardello
Inquirer Staff Writer
September 10, 1999

SEATTLE - Imagine being at sea for 53 days, sailing slowly at 6 knots, the thumping of two giant diesel engines a constant drone, with a 45,000-ton battleship on your tail.

Something like that is what lies in front of Kaare Ogaard and his crew of seven on the Sea Victory, which will set out Sunday to tow the USS New Jersey from the Navy's mothball yard in Puget Sound to its Philadelphia birthplace in an operation costing Garden State taxpayers $2 million.

"It can be boring and repetitive, but I'm so busy between weather reports, and if they change one of the ports on me it takes quite a bit of work to rearrange everything," Ogaard said yesterday, the accent of his native New Bedford, Mass., still detectable.

"Every watch is taken up, and they fly by after a while. The days go by, then the weeks go by, and it's over. It goes fast if you keep busy."

Ogaard, 58, knows from experience. Just last month, he returned from a 15,000-mile, 112-day trip towing the aircraft carrier Oriskany from San Francisco to Beaumount, Texas, around the tip of South America. And last year, Ogaard was in command when the Sea Victory towed the Missouri, the New Jersey's sister ship, from Puget Sound to Pearl Harbor, where it is now a museum.

The New Jersey is being moved to the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it was launched in 1943, to await a decision from the Navy as to where the highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon will become a floating museum and memorial: in Camden or Bayonne.

Yesterday, Ogaard gave a tour of the black, beige and red Sea Victory at the Crowley Marine Service docks on Harbor Island, while workers completed preparations for the 5,600-mile voyage.

He noted how big tires had been rigged to the side of the 149-foot seagoing tug for passage through the Panama Canal. "That'll save a little wear on the hull," he said.

He spoke with authority about the giant chains and 2.75-inch steel cable with which the Sea Victory will tow the New Jersey at a safe distance of eight-tenths of a mile. He showed the simple cabins the officers and crew will call home in the days ahead. On the walls hung photos and framed newspaper clippings showing the Sea Victory towing the Missouri.

Below deck, Ogaard described how the twin 20-cylinder locomotive engines have the combined muscle power of 7,200 horses and how the boat carries 185,000 gallons of No. 2 diesel fuel and 1,500 gallons of lubricating oil. Spare parts were stored in boxes everywhere.

"This will be the last time for a while that it'll be quiet down here," he said. "The noise is just awesome, but you get used it." Then, he added that Crowley gives its crews regular hearing tests.

On the bridge, which is equipped with dual controls, computers and electronic navigation equipment, he explained that he and his men would go on watch for four hours each and then have eight hours off. The food, prepared in a galley worthy of a small restaurant by a chef known only as C.J., will be home-style fare: steaks, turkey, stews.

Asked what it is like at night to look behind at a battleship under tow, Ogaard, without skipping a beat, said, "You ought to see a red and green light, and that's all you can see."

"And if you don't, you're in big trouble," chimed in second mate Michael Poirer.

For the captain, the voyage will be a trip to his past. In 1959, his first duty station in the Navy was in Philadelphia, where he served on the cruiser Galveston before going to submariner school.After the Navy, Ogaard worked on his family's scalloping boat in New Bedford. When the shellfish became rare, he sailed through the Panama Canal to try the waters of Alaska. In 1970, he signed on to a tug going to Honolulu, and the rest is history.

Married for 33 years, he said his wife, Barbara, was no stranger to long separations.

"She is from a fishing family, too. Her father and brother are both fishermen and she understands separation," Ogaard said. "She is the dominant partner in this marriage."

Ogaard said he had no special feeling for towing the New Jersey, but expected that it would come later.

"The Missouri, at first, was just another tow," he said, "but when we turned the ship over, I don't think there was a dry eye on the boat."

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Skipper Set to Bring Battleship Home

By Bob Ingle
Gannett State Bureau
September 10, 1999

SEATTLE - The determined man responsible for towing the battleship New Jersey safely to Philadelphia - resting place before the "Big J" begins a new career in its namesake state as a floating museum - says only one thing will get him off schedule: a hurricane in the Caribbean or Atlantic.

"If that happens, we stop right there. That's the end of forward progress. We're not going to take any chances whatsoever," said Capt. Kaare L. Ogaard Jr., who has gone through five hurricanes at sea. "The first warning you get is this humongous swell. The swell builds as it approaches. Then it's time to get out of there."

Barring that, the biggest challenge after leaving Bremerton, Wash., today will be going through the Panama Canal in October.

"That's going to be most trying. It's hot and muggy, and there is a lot of rigging we have to do. We have to disconnect and reconnect. Then we disconnect and reconnect some more," Ogaard said.

A slim man with short, salt-and-pepper hair and an easygoing, friendly manner, Ogaard, 58, took to the ocean at 16 on his family's scallop boats based in New England. The next year he joined the Navy because "my father thought I needed some discipline." His first assignment out of boot camp was the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

After submarine service, he came to the Pacific Northwest on a scallop boat en route to Alaska. When scallop fishing dried up, he became a tug crewman in 1970.

Lately, he's been getting some big assignments. The skipper just returned from towing a former Navy aircraft carrier to Texas, and he was the man in charge when New Jersey's sister battleship, the Missouri, was towed to Hawaii. Like the New Jersey, the "Mighty Mo" was a part of the mothball fleet in Bremerton, Wash.

It doesn't bother Ogaard that his 1,200 ton, 149-foot tug, the Sea Victory, will be attached to a ship 40 times its weight and about six times its length by only a small (2 3/4-inch) steel cable.

The worst that can happen, he said, is that the cable breaks and there are backup plans for that. There are also ways to decrease the chance of problems.

Across the back of the Sea Victory is 180 feet of chain, each link weighing about 100 pounds. Sections of the chain will be used to sink the cable more than 100 feet so that it acts as a shock absorber. When waves pull the tug and the ship further apart, the line will rise to absorb the tension, which lessens the chance of the cable being damaged.

Life on board is routine and many times boring. Ogaard and his officers, First Mate Terry Jacobsen and Second Mate Mike Poirier, each stand an eight-hour watch in the wheelhouse where the navigation and steering are done.

When the ship's eight-man crew isn't on duty, each has his own way of dealing with the tedium of traveling 5,800 miles at 7 mph. The captain jumps rope to exercise. All of the crew read.

"Anything we can get our hands on," Jacobsen said. "It becomes like a mobile therapy facility. We have a veritable treasure trove of information. Then we talk amongst each other about what we've read. We share valuable tidbits."

The crew can also keep in touch with family and friends on shore by satellite phone.

The tug, which will mostly travel about 30 miles off the coast, carries 20,000 gallons of potable water and has a system that makes seawater drinkable.

Do they eat well? "Too well," said Ogaard, who confessed that choosing the tug's cook is a key decision. On this journey, the man under the chef's hat is a retired Navy cook who served up vittles for the top brass during his career.

The company learned its lesson about cooks 10 years ago.

"In '89 ... the company was hiring people in off the streets," remembered Ogaard. "It took us two years to weed the bad ones out."

When asked why anyone would want a job that requires being away months at a time, the officers said it was in their blood and their family trees.

"Most of us are descendants of merchant marine officers or fishermen," said Jacobsen. "For the most part, you meet people whose father did this and their father's father did this; not necessarily towing, but something to do with the sea."

Besides good pay, there are other rewards in this work. Ogaard enjoys the sunrises and sunsets that can't be seen anywhere else. Jacobsen loves the clean air that city dwellers can only dream about. And Poirier likes the marine life encountered along the way, especially the seabirds and whales. "Sometimes they come clear up out of the water."

As long as there have been men who go to sea, there have been women who waited for them. The Sea Victory's officers' wives come from mariner families and understand the life. The only time Ogaard's wife was upset about a trip was when it kept him away 10 months. "She told me not to do that again."

Crowley Marine Services' crews generally work six months a year. For every day at sea, they get a paid day off.

Jacobsen has a new daughter and spends his time being daddy when he's off the decks. Ogaard is working at being a better golfer. Poirier putters around his house. None takes any boat rides when they're off the job.

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