Journal Entry  -  November 11, 1999  -  Day 61

Veterans Day Homecoming Arrival Report
4:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time

Wednesday, Nov 10, 1999 - Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy - 3:00 p.m. / EST

Thursday, Nov 11 - Delaware Bay to Philadelphia - 4:00 p.m / EST

Arrival Locations:  The USS New Jersey transited 86.34 Nautical Miles in 24 hours from the Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy through the Northbound lane of the Federal Navigation Channel of the Delaware Bay and River, on a deliberately slow, easy pace to accommodate the thousands of people who turned out to see the most decorated Battleship in Naval history.

During this respectful Veterans Day passage, she was greeted by vessels of every description, as well as by spectators crowded along the shore lines of Southern New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, until she was gently granted her new, and temporary, berth at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Pier 4.

Latitudes  & Longitudes: 
Her positions through this transit ranged from 38-46-00 / North and 75-00-00 / West at Henlopen, to 39-53-02 / North and 75-10-44 / West at the Navy Yard's Pier 4.

Arrival Courses:  Her course through this transit circled the compass: 293.1, 160.1, 304.8, 340.1, 337.1, 325.2, 336.0, 318.1, 356.0, 014.9, 334.8, 006.9, 041.5, 016.7, 035.1, 057.3, 050.6, 064.5, 091.6, 069.8, 053.7, 077.3, to 056.9.

Veterans Day Weather:  At 5:00 a.m., Thursday, Sea Victory's logs indicated a slight breeze of 5 Knots from the Northwest with a rippled water surface, but as the morning turned to afternoon, the winds accelerated some over the water, forcing the tug's personnel to scramble for heavier jackets.

Air Temperatures:  58 Degrees at 5:00 a.m., but noticeably cooler as the day progressed.

Visibility:  10 Miles

Skies:  Hazy at the outset, mostly Cloudy at noon, and later in the afternoon, partly Cloudy with a warming sun that didn't last long enough.

Cuba, Miami, Grand Bahamas Island:  At 9:00 a.m., Sunday, October 31, the Sea Victory transferred the USS New Jersey to the Lake Charles, Louisiana Crowley tug Mariner, and proceeded directly to Miami for port main engine repairs.  The Sea Victory traveled 465.6 Nautical Miles from Cabo Frances, Cuba, to Miami's Terminal 6 on Dodge Island, arriving at 6:54 a.m., Tuesday, November 2.

The Mariner and the USS New Jersey resumed a Gulf of Mexico transit through the Straits of Florida, past Miami, then onto the Bahamas, a journey of 533 Nautical Miles to the second New Jersey transfer point off Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island, at 10:39 a.m., Thursday, November 4. From Miami, the Sea Victory transited 79.8 Nautical Miles to the Bahamas transfer point.

Then, from Grand Bahamas Island, the USS New Jersey proceeded 826 Nautical Miles to the Cape Henlopen Sea Buoy, and 86.34 Nautical Miles from there to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Panama Canal Transit:  October 16 - 21 / Balboa Pier 14 - 15, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, the Gaillard Cut, Gamboa, Lake Gatun, and the Gatun Locks, and Cristobal.  USS New Jersey's clearance into the Caribbean Sea / Atlantic Ocean was completed at 11:34 a.m., and her mark for the commencement of the Cristobal, Panama - Philadelphia, PA Third Leg was passed at 11:42 a.m., Thursday, October 21.

Distance Of Second Leg:   September 21 - October 15 / Long Beach, CA to Balboa Anchorage, Panama: 2,948.7 Nautical Miles, the longest leg of New Jersey's homecoming voyage.
Total Average Speed Second Leg:  5.18 Knots

Distance Of First Leg:  September 12 - 21 / Bremerton, WA to Long Beach, CA: 1,193.6 Nautical Miles from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to Long Beach, CA anchorage.
Total Average Speed First Leg:  5.54 Knots

Total Voyage Fish Catch:  The Sea Victory team's last catch of the voyage was October 25, not counting a Barracuda Cook CJ Good nabbed and prudently tossed back last week.  The total catch for the cruise was 28, including 4 Albacore, 4 Yellow Fin, 1 Yellow Tail, 4 Skipjack and 2 Bonita Tuna; 12 Mahi mahi, and 1 Wahoo.   Congratulations, gentlemen.

The Grand Decorated Lady Surprised Them All

Mention the word destiny, and watch out.  But here it comes anyway, so visitors beware.

The crewmen of the Sea Victory, by the time they reached Cape Henlopen, were ready to deliver the Battleship, and pull into Philadelphia, but fast.  A turtle's pace up the Delaware was not something they relished.  These guys are movers, and once a job's done, let them on the next one.

Their voyage had been extended by that pesky engine for openers, and now instead of heading directly home from Philadelphia after 60 days at sea, they would take the tug 750 Miles to Jacksonville, Florida first.  (As this is being written, Monday, November 15th, they have reached Florida, and should be headed home by this hour.)

The four Delaware Pilots who boarded the tug Wednesday afternoon, the day before New Jersey's Philadelphia docking, and the two other pilots on the Battleship, assumed they would be in for a long and troublesome cruise up the Delaware, given the 45,000 ton payload behind the Sea Victory, and her obviously wandering ways up a narrow, obedience demanding channel.  They would have their control work cut out for them, they were sure.

The planners of the 6,370 mile plus journey home had to face the mid-October Panama Canal passage, because there, reservations are definitely required for entry.  But once through, speed could become a benefit, and an early November arrival would be ideal.  In fact, the sooner the better.  But it was not to be.

Weather forecasters throughout the trip sent pages of data, graphs, summaries, and evaluations of upcoming conditions along the way, all the while hinting that this storm was a potential threat, or that one could pose dangers, so be alert, Captain.  He was, of course, but they never came.  In fact, they arrived around New Jersey's trackline either after she had passed through, or so far ahead of her that it didn't matter.

And just last night, for example, Hurricane Lenny formed in the Caribbean where the "Big J" had spent days just two weeks ago, jogging to find transfer lee south of Cuba.  That's about where Lenny surfaced. And Katrina whipped up her fury only after the ship had passed that Southeast Caribbean position off Nicaragua in late October.

In the Atlantic, where the most brutal of the seas' forces rage, nothing. Hatteras was distasteful, but what's new about that?  (However, Captain Ogaard reported last night that as the Sea Victory passed through those very waters yesterday, on the way to Jacksonville, Hatteras was smooth as glass.)

It was almost as if everyone expected something that never came, except one thing, and we'll refer to it as destiny, the New Jersey's golden touch, or lucky charm.

If last Thursday's Veterans Day arrival had been planned, it would have failed.  Had the Sea Victory not experienced that malfunction, she would have arrived in Philadelphia on November 7th, her original ETA, instead of the 11th.  A weekend, granted, which would have allowed thousands of people to witness her homecoming, but it would not have been Veterans Day.

The number of times people mentioned the "destiny" of her arriving accidentally on the last Veterans Day of the Millennium would make for a significant number, but whatever the cause, that was the day, and it was a glorious one along the Delaware River Thursday.

By the time the New Jersey was halfway up the River, the Delaware Pilots realized that Captain Ogaard's Sea Victory had the "aimless, contrary" Battleship well in hand, and she towed like a charm.  Their concerns turned to relief, then to admiration.

The Sea Victory's hardened crew, those masters of steel and tonnage and anchor chain, dismissed the idea of thousands and thousands of Easterners showing up for the passage of a Battleship along their transit to Philadelphia.  Never happen, they thought to themselves.  Until it actually did.

And along the way, the old, hard-bitten military veterans were all smiles and wide-eyes as their tug rambled up the River with scores and scores of people lining the shores, and scores of boats assembled alongside in a wavy procession of admiration, pride, patriotism and nostalgia.  Even the younger ones, though, stepped outside to gaze in amazement at the outpouring of public spirit for the veteran warrior.

Passing beneath the Delaware Memorial twin Bridges at 10:33 a.m., just after the squadron of F-16s roared an aerial salute to the New Jersey, the crewmen became true believers.  Everyone did.  How could one avoid the feelings?

Seeing the Governor's Twin Capes ferry loaded with veterans and spectators, passing as close to the Battleship as possible, brought feelings to the surface that rarely show themselves.

The small craft running alongside the powerful tugs, slamming against the ebb tide and wind-blown surface, the Coast Guard cutters - one of them, the leader "Mako," is the newest in its class, by the way - filled the observers with a pride and sense of gratitude that is hard to measure, much less describe.

And those people, perhaps especially the ones at Marcus Hook, a community, the pilots explained, that lost more men in World War II and Vietnam than any other in Pennsylvania, and perhaps most other places, what do we imagine their feelings to be at this passage?

It proceeded, this transit of admiration and memory, with every foot of it belonging to each and every veteran who ever served his or her nation. To those who returned, and those who did not.  And to those who serve now, and will tomorrow.  These people are most special, don't forget.  As we learned once again last Thursday.

Standing on the Sea Victory's starboard passageway watching the throngs of people on shore, and the assembled and self-orchestrated vessels alongside, Chief Engineer Andy Cleland, an Air Force and Navy veteran, probably should not have been interrupted, but how could we tell, or resist?

"Well, Chief," we asked, "so what do you think of all this?"

"I'm glad to see the end of this trip, it's been a long pull. That's quite a crowd we've got gathered out there," Cleland said.

"Well, this is Veterans Day, you're a veteran," we acutely observed. "What do you think?  "We said the words, but immediately realized they shouldn't have slipped from the tongue. They shouldn't have even been thought.

"Well," he said, "in that case, I'm very glad to be any place."

We moved along to leave the Chief with his thoughts of the long pull, the years in Vietnam, another long pull, and the sight of thousands of regular folks offering their support to these tugboaters who brought their Battleship home safely, and to their veterans, who kept their nation free.

At 12:23 p.m., the New Jersey passed beneath the Commodore Barry bridge, which had a sign hanging from its lower portion reading: "Bring Our Battleship Home."  Then, at 2:11 p.m., as the three assist tugs held New Jersey quiet in the waters off the entrance to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Captain Kaare Ogaard let go of his Battleship charge for the final time, executing the release of her anchor chain.  His tow was complete now, save for her docking.

Shortly before 4:00 p.m., the USS New Jersey was secured to Pier 4, and the Sea Victory moved over the Pier 2's East side for the evening.

In a session with reporters there, Captain Ogaard was asked if there was any significance, any poignancy, to New Jersey's arrival on Veterans Day.

"That wasn't planned, honestly, and it worked out well," Ogaard said to the reporter.  "And I've got to say that I'm really overwhelmed at the turnout of all the people all the way up the river.  From first light this morning, all I've seen is flashbulbs popping at us."

"Do you feel the historical significance?  Does it work on you," the reporter asked?

"To an extent, yes. I'm a Navy veteran. In fact, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was my first duty station out of boot camp in 1959.  I came here to get on a cruiser, the Galveston.  They were putting her in commission, and I was only there briefly, until I went to submarine training, so it's kind of nostalgic to me.  That's 1959, many years ago," the Captain said.

Friday morning, the Battleship no longer belonged to the Sea Victory, but the honors bestowed on the Captain and his crew would not end there. Rear Admiral Joseph Edward Snyder, Jr., retired, Commanding officer of the USS New Jersey in Vietnam in 1968-69, had one more for them.

While CO of the New Jersey in Vietnam, Captain Snyder designed and had specially minted, at his own expense, a Commanding Officer's meritorious service medal, which he personally awarded to officers and enlisted, in recognition of meritorious service to their country and to the USS New Jersey.

The bronze medal is approximately the size of a quarter, and reads on one face:

"Commanding Officer's Meritorious Service Award."  The reverse face reads around the circumference: "USS New Jersey - Fire Power for Freedom."  The crest of the ship is in the center.

The medal presented to Captain Ogaard and his crew Friday morning, has a green ribbon, clearly faded, because it is an original from the Vietnam era.  The maritime illustrator James Flood of Miami, who served under Captain Snyder and was asked by him to make the presentation, offered it to Ogaard at 7:30 a.m., Friday, 30 minutes before the Sea Victory departed for Jacksonville.

"Captain Ogaard," Flood said, "I have the honor of presenting to you a meritorious service award from someone special to me and to the USS New Jersey.  Rear Admiral Snyder, who has been following your journey from Bremerton to Philadelphia, is aware of the difficulties you and your crew encountered over the past two months.  He asked that we award this medal to you personally for your meritorious service to the USS New Jersey," Flood said.

According to acquaintances of Snyder, the Admiral felt it was fate that he had a few medals saved since his Command of the New Jersey, and that such meritorious service to the ship now should occur after all those years.  He regretted he couldn't make the presentation in person due to ill health.

Captain Ogaard looked touched, according to those in attendance, as he closely examined the medal, reading both sides.  After a brief silence, he looked up and said, "I am truly honored to receive this."

At 8:00 a.m., Friday, Captain Ogaard and his crew took the Sea Victory to Jacksonville.

New Jersey's homecoming voyage had ended.  She was home safe.  Now, her future begins.  And her fate lies with the U.S. Navy's Ship Donation Office, which is expected to announce its selection of a donation site between now and mid-January, with many believing it will come before then.

Her homecoming last week was a grand salute to an honorable legacy. The Sea Victory's dedication of the tow to all her veterans will stand.  Her legacy ideally will help guide the generations ahead to an understanding of the meanings of war and peace, and the incalculable value of the one over the other.  As a memorial, she will serve her nation still, and well, and long.

The homecoming voyage of the most decorated Battleship in Naval history offered us an honor and privilege that can never be properly acknowledged, especially to her veterans.  But if the Jerseymen are satisfied, then so are we.  Thank you, for allowing me to share.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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