Total Run: 107
Nautical Miles from Puget Sound Start Buoy, Blake Island
Total Average Speed: 5.77 Knots
Hours From Departure: 22 Hours
Distance to go this leg: 1,055.4 Nautical Miles to Long Beach,
Estimated Time of Arrival: September 21, 1999
Present Course: 291 Degrees
Seas: 1 Foot
Swells: 4 Feet Westerly
Air Temperature: 56 Degrees
Visibility: 10 Miles
Fifty-four years ago, on
Independence Day, July 4, 1945, the crew and officers of the USS New Jersey steamed
through the same waters Sea Victory and her crew are doing this morning.
Today's sea and sky conditions are ideal. It's impossible to imagine what they were
like then, but any number of veterans could probably tell us if we asked. They were headed
south to San Pedro, California that year, that month, then to Pearl Harbor, then back to
World War II in the western Pacific and Japan. Chances are they'd remember.
New Jersey had been at sea for 18 straight months previous to her return to Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard for an overhaul. She and her men were directly engaged in the conquest of
Okinawa from March 14 to April 16, 1945.
There, she fought off incessant air raids, used her seaplanes to rescue downed pilots,
and vigorously defended the Task Force carriers from suicide ("kamikaze")
attacks. Reports indicated she shot down at least three attackers, and assisted in the
destruction of others. She also dealt Okinawa the blows that all American battleships were
prepared for -- bombarding the beaches for eventual U.S. Marine invasions.
So her cruise in these North Pacific waters off the coast of Washington state in 1945
were anything but casual. Perhaps 2,500 men aboard the warship, having just enjoyed their
first home liberty in almost two years, were now going back to war.
Little did these men know in July, 1945, that in the next month, it would all be over.
How could they know as they glanced at the majesty of the Olympic Mountain Range to the
east that on August 6th, an atomic bomb would explode over Hiroshima, and on August 9th,
another over Nagasaki?
How could they have been thinking then that on August 14th, Japan would accept
surrender conditions, and the most destructive war in world history would come to an end ?
This morning, as the New Jersey trails behind the Sea Victory, pointing her sharp bow
southward as stately as ever before, a sense of appreciation and awe overcomes anyone who
stops to realize what this ship and her men went through during those years. And what it
has meant to everyone else who followed them.
This place is filled with natural beauty in every direction. It is also filled with the
image of a battleship, and with distant echoes of what war has done and undone.
But our days in these waters are peaceful ones now, and our images are ones of bringing
a veteran home, safe and sound, day by day, mile by mile.