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Famed Battleship USS New Jersey Gets Under Way for Rare Shipyard Period

USS New Jersey gets under way in Camden
Courtesy Gov. Phil Murphy

Published Mar 21, 2024 5:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, the famed battleship USS New Jersey got under way from her permanent berth in Camden, bound for a rare drydocking interval after 25 years at the pier. The New Jersey has been a museum ship since 2000 and is returning to the shipyard of her birth - Philadelphia Navy Yard - for a long-awaited drydocking, her first in decades.  

The New Jersey is an outlier among U.S. Navy warships. She was launched in 1942, at the height of the Second World War, and served on and off until 1991. The warship fired more shells in combat and fought in more battles than any other battleship in history. She was the second-most decorated ship in U.S. history after the WWII carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), and she holds the world record as the fastest battleship. 

New Jersey fought in all of the major amphibious operations in the Pacific Theater in 1944-45, from the Marshall Islands to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was there for the Battle of the Philippine Sea, shooting down Japanese fighters, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the end point for Imperial Japan's naval fleet.

New Jersey's heavy 16-inch guns were a devastating weapon for shore bombardment, and her gun crews served with distinction in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. In 1984, she backed up U.S. Marines in Lebanon by bombarding Syrian artillery positions. 

USS New Jersey made one last deployment for the tanker-protection mission in the Persian Gulf in 1989. After sister ship Iowa suffered an unexplained explosion during a gunnery exercise, both Iowa and New Jersey were added to the long list of ships slated for post-Cold-War retirement, and she decommissioned for the fourth and final time in 1991. 

Thanks to her abundant reserve buoyancy for upgrades, USS New Jersey became a guided-missile warship late in life, with more missile capacity than some purpose-built modern surface combatants. Towards the end of her career she was refitted with a total of 48 launch canisters for Tomahawk and Harpoon guided missiles, far more than the capacity planned for the Navy's next class of guided missile frigate. 

On Thursday, well-wishers gathered for a ceremony to honor USS New Jersey's legacy. The event was attended by veterans who served aboard New Jersey during her many years in operation, as well as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. After a gun salute, USS New Jersey got under way in tow, and local residents had the once-in-a-generation opportunity to see a battleship in motion.