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Decorated Battleship New Jersey Set for $10M Repairs During Dry Docking

Battleship New Jersey
Battleship New Jersey underway in the 1960s in her career that spanned from World War II to 1991 (USN photo)

Published Jan 5, 2024 7:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

One of the most decorated and largest battleships in the history of the U.S. Navy which served in all of America’s major conflicts from 1943 to 1990 is set to undergo a $10 million overhaul. The decommissioned USS New Jersey, one of four Iowa-class battleships and today a museum and memorial, will be dry docked for the maintenance and repair work.

Homeport Alliance, a nonprofit organization that owns and operates the battleship, plans that the warship will depart the Camden waterfront in the coming weeks where it has been moored since 2001. It will be towed two miles along the Delaware River to the Philadelphia Navy Yard under the guidance of four tugboats.

The massive warship will be dry-docked in the same berth where it was built in 1940 before being commissioned two years later and went on to serve for 21 years in active duty. At the yard, the battleship will undergo routine maintenance, repairs, and repainting for the first time in 32 years, a job that will cost $10 million. That task is expected to take 60 days following which the ship will be towed back to Camden in time for Memorial Day and the peak tourist season.

The battleship has an overall length of 887 feet with a waterline length of 860 feet. She has a mean draft of 28 feet and weighs 45,000 tonnes. The New Jersey and her sister ships would be the last battleships built for the U.S. Navy and combine the massive firepower of a battleship with an increased speed. Designed to be a “fast wing” of the U.S. fleet they span two football fields in length and were able to fit through the Panama Canal with barely a foot to spare on either side.

 

New Jersey demonstrates her firepower (Courtesy of Battleship New Jersey)

 

“We’re way overdue and are moving forward now because it will be more expensive every year we wait,” Marshall Spevak, Homeport Alliance interim CEO told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. He added that the ship is 12 years past due for its scheduled maintenance based on U.S. Navy maintenance guidelines for inactive ships which call for dry-docking every 20 years.

Since taking over the ownership of the battleship, Homeport Alliance highlights that it costs $10,000 per day to keep the ship afloat on the Camden waterfront, costs that are mainly covered through tourist visits and donations. Last year, nearly 80,000 people visited the battleship for tours, overnight stays, and events.

Historical accounts show that the Iowa-class warship New Jersey is the most decorated battleship in the U.S. Navy’s history having earned distinctions during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and conflicts in the Middle East. The ship’s history spanned over half the 20th century, from her design in 1938 until she was decommissioned for the final time in 1991.

Launched on the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor as the second Iowa-class battleship, the New Jersey went on to steam more miles, fight in more battles, and fire more shells in combat than any other battleship in history. During World War II, the New Jersey led the Pacific fleet and fought in the two largest naval battles in history. Her sister ship Missouri famously was the host for the surrender ceremony by Japan to end World War II. Costly to operate, three of the sisters were laid up briefly after World War II, only to see additional service during the Korean War. The New Jersey stood down in 1957. She was the only one to be reactivated in 1968 and 1969 during the Vietnam War, when she was the world’s only operating battleship.

 

Since 2001, she has been a museum ship in Camden, across the river from Philadelphia (Courtesy of Battleship New Jersey)

 

The New Jersey was again reactivated for a third time in the Cold War by then-President Ronald Reagan called up all four battleships in his efforts to halt the Soviet Union’s expansionism and as a show of force in the Middle East. After fighting fascism, communism, and terrorism. The New Jersey was the second to be decommissioned, which came for her for the final time in February 1991. Conversion to a museum began in 1999 and she reached her final berth in Camden in October 2001. She continues as a living museum and memorial in Camden, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia where she was built.

The Iowa ­Class ships were the last class of U.S. Navy battleships built, and the last battleships in service in the world. They were the largest American battleships and the longest and fastest of all battleships. They also served over a longer period than any other battleships, from 1943 until 1992. Only four Iowa-Class ships were built with the New Jersey serving in active duty more than the rest. Two additional members of the class, designated the Illinois and the Kentucky were partially built but scrapped before being commissioned. The New Jersey and her sisters have all been preserved as museums.