History of the USS New Jersey, BB-62
The second New Jersey (BB-62) was launched on 7 December 1942 by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard; sponsored by Mrs. Charles Edison, wife of Governor Edison of New Jersey, former Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned at Philadelphia on 23 May 1943, with Captain Carl F. Holden in command.
New Jersey completed fitting out and trained her initial crew in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. On 7 January 1944 she passed through the Panama Canal war-bound for Funafuti, Ellice Islands. She reported there on 22 January for duty with the Fifth Fleet, and three days later rendezvoused with Task Group 58.2 for the assault on the Marshall Islands. New Jersey screened the carriers from enemy attack as their aircraft flew strikes against Kwajalein and Eniwetok from 29 January - 2 February, softening up the latter for its invasion and supporting the troops who landed on 31 January.
New Jersey began her distinguished career as a flagship on 4 February in Majuro Lagoon, when Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commanding the Fifth Fleet, broke his flag from her main. Her first action as a flagship was a bold two-day surface and air strike by her task force against the supposedly impregnable Japanese fleet base on Truk in the Carolines. This blow was coordinated with the assault on Kwajalein, and effectively interdicted Japanese naval retaliation to the conquest of the Marshalls. On 17 and 18 February, the task force accounted for two Japanese light cruisers, four destroyers, three auxiliary cruisers, two submarine tenders, two submarine chasers, an armed trawler, a plane ferry, and 23 other auxiliaries, not including small craft. New Jersey destroyed a trawler and, with other ships, sank destroyer Maikaze, as well as firing on an enemy plane which attacked her formation. The task force returned to the Marshalls on 19 February.
Between 17 March and 10 April, New Jersey first sailed with Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's flagship Lexington (CV-16) for an air and surface bombardment of Mille, then rejoined Task Group 58.2 for a strike against shipping in the Palaus, and bombarded Woleai. Upon his return to Majuro, Admiral Spruance transferred his flag to Indianapolis (CA-35).
New Jersey's next war cruise, from 13 April - 4 May, began and ended at Majuro. She screened the carrier striking force which gave air support to the invasion of Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, on 22 April, then bombed shipping and shore installations at Truk from 29-30 April. New Jersey and her formation splashed two enemy torpedo bombers at Truk. Her sixteen-inch salvos pounded Ponape on 1 May, destroying fuel tanks, badly damaging the airfield, and demolishing a headquarters building.
After rehearsing in the Marshalls for the invasion of the Marianas, New Jersey put to sea on 6 June in the screening and bombardment group of Admiral Mitscher's Task Force. On the second day of pre-invasion air strikes, 12 June, New Jersey downed an enemy torpedo bomber, and during the next two days her heavy guns battered Saipan and Tinian, throwing steel against the beaches the marines would charge on 15 June.
The Japanese response to the Marianas operation was an order to its Mobile Fleet; it must attack and annihilate the American invasion force. Shadowing American submarines tracked the Japanese fleet into the Philippine Sea as Admiral Spruance joined his task force with Admiral Mitscher's to meet the enemy. New Jersey took station in the protective screen around the carriers on 19 June as American and Japanese pilots dueled in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. That day and the next were to pronounce the doom of Japanese naval aviation; in this "Marianas Turkey Shoot," the Japanese lost some 400 planes. This loss of trained pilots and aircraft was equaled in disaster by the sinking of three Japanese carriers by submarines and aircraft, and the damaging of two carriers and a battleship. The anti-aircraft fire of New Jersey and the other screening ships proved virtually impenetrable. Only two American ships were damaged, and those but slightly. In this overwhelming victory but 17 American planes were lost to combat.
New Jersey's final contribution to the conquest of the Marianas was in strikes on Guam and the Palaus from which she sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving 9 August. Here she broke the flag of Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., on 24 August, becoming flagship of the Third Fleet. For the eight months after she sailed from Pearl Harbor, on 30 August, New Jersey was based at Ulithi. In this climactic span of the Pacific War, fast carrier task forces ranged the waters off the Philippines, Okinawa, and Formosa, striking again and again at airfields, shipping, shore bases, and invasion beaches. New Jersey offered the essential protection required by these forces, always ready to repel enemy air or surface attack.
In September the targets were in the Visayas and the southern Philippines, then Manila and Cavite, Panay, Negros, Leyte, and Cebu. Early in October raids to destroy enemy air power based on Okinawa and Formosa were begun in preparation for the Leyte landings on 20 October.
This invasion brought on the desperate, almost suicidal, last great sortie of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Its plan for the Battle for Leyte Gulf included a feint by a northern force of planeless heavy attack carriers to draw away the battleships, cruisers and fast carriers with which Admiral Halsey was protecting the landings. This was to allow the Japanese Center Force to enter the gulf through San Bernadino Strait. At the opening of the battle, planes from the carriers guarded by New Jersey struck hard at both the Japanese Southern and Center Forces, sinking a battleship on 23 October. The next day Halsey shaped his course north after the decoy force had been spotted. Planes from his carriers sank four of the Japanese carriers, as well as a destroyer and a cruiser, while New Jersey steamed south at flank speed to meet the newly developed threat of the Center force. It had been turned back in a stunning defeat when she arrived.
New Jersey rejoined her fast carriers near San Bernadino 27 October for strikes on central and southern Luzon. Two days later, the force was under suicide attack. In a melee of anti-aircraft fire from the ships and combat air patrol, New Jersey shot down a plane whose pilot maneuvered it into Intrepid's (CV- 11) port gun galleries, while machine gun fire from Intrepid wounded three of New Jersey's men. During a similar action on 25 November, three Japanese planes were splashed by the combined fire of the force, part of one flaming onto Hancock's (CV-19) flight deck. Intrepid was again attacked, shot down one would-be suicide, but was crashed by another despite hits scored on the attacker by New Jersey gunners. New Jersey shot down a plane diving on Cabot (CVL-28) and hit another which smashed into Cabot's port bow.
In December, New Jersey sailed with the Lexington task group for air attacks on Luzon from 14-16 December; then found herself in the furious typhoon which sank three destroyers. Skillful seamanship brought her through undamaged. She returned to Ulithi on Christmas Eve to be met by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
New Jersey ranged far and wide from 30 December to 25 January 1945 on her last cruise as Admiral Halsey's flagship. She guarded the carriers in their strikes on Formosa, Okinawa, and Luzon, on the coast of Indo-China, Hong Kong, Swatow and Amoy, and again on Formosa and Okinawa. At Ulithi on 27 January, Admiral Halsey lowered his flag in New Jersey, but it was replaced two days later by that of Rear Admiral Oscar Badger commanding Battleship Division Seven.
In support of the assault on Iwo Jima, New Jersey screened the Essex (CV-9) group in air attacks on the island on 19-21 February, and gave the same crucial service for the first major carrier raid on Tokyo 25 February, a raid aimed specifically at aircraft production. During the next two days, Okinawa was attacked from the air by the same striking force.
New Jersey was directly engaged in the conquest of Okinawa from 14 March until 16 April. As the carriers prepared for the invasion with strikes there and on Honshu, New Jersey fought off air raids, used her seaplanes to rescue downed pilots, defended the carriers from suicide planes, shooting down at least three and assisting in the destruction of others. On 24 March she again carried out the vital battleship role of heavy bombardment, preparing the invasion beaches for the assault a week later.
During the final months of the war, New Jersey was overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, from which she sailed on 4 July for San Pedro, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok bound for Guam. Here on 14 August, she once again became flagship of the Fifth Fleet under Admiral Spruance. Brief stays at Manila and Okinawa preceded her arrival in Tokyo Bay on 17 September, where she served as flagship for the successive commanders of Naval Forces in Japanese waters until relieved on 28 January 1946 by Iowa (BB-61). New Jersey took aboard nearly a thousand homeward-bound troops with whom she arrived at San Francisco on 10 February.
After west coast operations and a normal overhaul at Puget Sound, New Jersey's keel once more cut the Atlantic as she came home to Bayonne, New Jersey, for a rousing fourth birthday party on 23 May 1947. Present were Governor Alfred E. Driscoll, former Governor Walter E. Edge and other dignitaries.
Between 7 June and 26 August, New Jersey formed part of the first training squadron to cruise Northern European waters since the beginning of World War II. Over two thousand Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen received seagoing experience under the command of Admiral Richard L. Connoly, Commander Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, who broke his flag in New Jersey at Rosyth, Scotland, on 23 June. She was the scene of official receptions at Oslo, where King Haakon VII of Norway inspected the crew on 2 July, and at Portsmouth, England. The training fleet was westward bound on 18 July for exercises in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic.
After serving at New York as flagship for Rear Admiral Heber H. McClean, Commander, Battleship Division One, 12 September - 18 October, New Jersey was inactivated at the New York Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned at Bayonne 30 June 1948 and assigned to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
CALL TO KOREA
New Jerseywas recommissioned at Bayonne 21 November 1950, with Captain David M. Tyree in command. In the Caribbean, she welded her crew into an efficient body which would meet with distinction the demanding requirements of the Korean War. She sailed from Norfolk on 16 April 1951 and arrived from Japan off the east coast of Korea 17 May. Vice Admiral Harold M. Martin, commanding the Seventh Fleet, placed his flag in New Jersey for the next six months.
New Jersey's guns opened the first shore bombardment of her Korean carrier at Wonsan 20 May. During her two tours of duty in Korean waters, she was again and again to play the part of seaborne mobile artillery. In direct support to United Nations troops; or in preparation for ground actions, in interdicting Communist supply and communication routes, or in destroying supplies and troop positions, New Jersey hurled a weight of steel, fire far beyond the capacity of land artillery, moved rapidly and free from major attack from one target to another, and at the same time could be immediately available to guard aircraft carriers should they require her protection. It was on this first such mission at Wonsan that she received her only combat casualties of the Korean War. One of her men was killed and two severely wounded when she took a hit from a shore battery on her number one turret and received a near miss aft to port.
Between 23 and 27 May and again 30 May, New Jersey pounded targets near Yangyang and Kansong, dispersing troop concentrations, dropping a bridge span, and destroying three large ammunition dumps. Air spotters reported Yangyang abandoned at the end of this action, while railroad facilities and vehicles were smashed at Kansong. On 24 May, she lost one of her helicopters when its crew pushed to the limit of their fuel searching for a downed aviator. They themselves were able to reach friendly territory and were later returned to their ship.
With Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, and Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, Commander Naval Forces Far East aboard, New Jersey bombarded targets at Wonsan 4 June. At Kansong two days later she fired her main battery at an artillery regiment and truck encampment, with Seventh Fleet aircraft spotting targets and reporting successes. On 28 July, off Wonsan, the battleship was again taken under fire by shore batteries. Several near misses splashed to port, but New Jersey's precision fire silenced the enemy and destroyed several gun emplacements.
Between 4 and 12 July, New Jersey supported a United Nations push in the Kansong area, firing at enemy buildup and reorganization positions. As the Republic of Korea's First Division hurled itself on the enemy, shore fire control observers saw New Jersey's salvos hit directly on enemy mortar emplacements, supply and ammunition dumps, and personnel concentrations. New Jersey returned to Wonsan 18 July for an exhibition of perfect firing: five gun emplacements demolished with five direct hits.
New Jersey sailed to the aid of troops of the Republic of Korea once more on 17 August, returning to the Kansong area where for four days she provided harassing fire by night, and broke up counterattacks by day, inflicting a heavy toll on enemy troops. She returned to this general area yet again on 29 August, when she fired in an amphibious demonstration staged behind enemy lines to ease pressure on the Republic of Korea's troops. The next day she began a three-day saturation of the Changjon area, with one of her own helicopters spotting the results: four buildings, destroyed, road junctions smashed, railroad marshaling yards afire, tracks cut and uprooted, coal stocks scattered, many buildings and warehouses set blazing.
Aside from a brief break in firing on 23 September to take aboard wounded from the Korean frigate Apnok (PF-62), damaged by gunfire, New Jersey was heavily engaged in bombarding the Kansong area, supporting the movement of the U.S. Tenth Corps. The pattern again was harassing fire by night, destruction of known targets by day. Enemy movement was restricted by the fire of her big guns. A bridge, a dam, several gun emplacements, mortar positions, pillboxes, bunkers, and two ammunition dumps were demolished.
On 1 October, General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Matthew B. Ridgeway, Commander in Chief Far East, came on board to confer with Admiral Martin.
Between 1 and 6 October, New Jersey was in action daily at Kansong, Hamhung, Hungnam, Tanchon, and Songjin. Enemy bunkers and supply concentrations provided the majority of the targets at Kansong; at the others New Jersey fired on railroads, tunnels, bridges, an oil refinery, trains, and shore batteries, destroying with five-inch fire a gun that straddled her. The Kojo area was her target on 16 October as she sailed in company with HMS Belfast, with pilots from HMAS Sydney spotting. The operation was well-planned and coordinated and excellent results were obtained.
Another highly satisfactory day was 16 October, when the spotter over the Kansong area reported "beautiful shooting, every shot on target - most beautiful shooting I have seen in five years." This five-hour bombardment leveled ten artillery positions, and in smashing trenches and bunkers inflicted some 500 casualties.
New Jersey dashed up the North Korean coast raiding transportation facilities from 1 to 6 November. She struck at bridges, road and rail installations at Wonsan, Hungnam, Tanchon, Iowon, Songjin, and Chongjin, and left smoking behind her four bridges destroyed, others badly damaged, two marshaling yards badly torn up, and many feet of track destroyed. With renewed attacks on Kansong and near the Chang-San-Got Peninsula on 11 and 13 November, New Jersey completed this tour of duty.
Relieved as flagship by Wisconsin (BB-64), New Jersey cleared Yokosuka for Hawaii, Long Beach and the Panama Canal, and returned to Norfolk on 20 December for a six-month overhaul. Between 19 July 1952 and 5 September, she sailed as flagship for Rear Admiral H. R. Thurber, who commanded the NROTC midshipman training cruise to Cherbourg, Lisbon, and the Caribbean. Now New Jersey prepared and trained for her second Korean tour, for which she sailed from Norfolk 5 March 1953.
Shaping her course via the Panama Canal, Long Beach, and Hawaii, New Jersey reached Yokosuka on 5 April, and on the next day relieved Missouri (BB-63) as flagship of Vice Admiral Joseph H. Clark, Commander Seventh Fleet. Chongjin felt the weight of her shells on 12 April, as New Jersey returned to action; in seven minutes she scored seven direct hits, blowing away half the main communications building there. At Pusan, two days later, New Jersey manned her rails to welcome the President of the Republic of Korea and Madame Rhee, and American Ambassador Ellis O. Briggs.
New Jersey fired on coastal batteries and buildings at Kojo on 16 April; on railway track and tunnels near Hungnam on 18 April; and on gun emplacements around Wonsan Harbor on 20 April, silencing them in five areas after she had herself take several near misses. Songjin provided targets on 23 April. Her New Jersey scored six direct 16-inch hits on a railroad tunnel and knocked out two rail bridges.
New Jersey added her muscle to a major air and surface strike on Wonsan on 1 May, as Seventh Fleet planes both attacked the enemy and spotted for the battleship. She knocked out eleven Communist shore guns that day, and four days later destroyed the key observation post on the island of Hodo Pando, commanding the harbor. Two days later, Kalmagak at Wonsan was her target.
Her tenth birthday, 23 May, was celebrated at Inchon with President and Madame Rhee, Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor, and other dignitaries on board. Two days later New Jersey was all war once more, returning to the west coast at Chinampo to knock out harbor defense positions.
The battleship was under fire at Wonsan from 27-29 May, but her five-inch guns silenced the counter-fire, and her 16-inch shells destroyed five gun emplacements and four gun caves. She also hit a target that flamed spectacularly: either a fuel storage area or an ammunition dump.
New Jersey returned to the key task of direct support to troops at Kosong 7 June. On her first mission, she completely destroyed two gun positions, an observation post, and their supporting trenches, then stood by on-call for further aid. Then it was back to Wonsan for a day-long bombardment on 24 June, aimed at guns placed in caves. The results were excellent, with eight direct hits on three caves, one cave demolished, and four others closed. Next day she returned to troop support at Kosong, her assignment until 10 July, aside from necessary withdrawal for replenishment.
At Wonsan from 11-12 July, New Jersey fired one of the most concentrated bombardments of her Korean duty. For nine hours the first day, and for seven the second, her guns slammed away on gun positions and bunkers on Hodo Pando and the mainland with telling effect. At least ten enemy guns were destroyed, many damaged, and a number of caves and tunnels sealed. New Jersey smashed radar control positions and bridges at Kojo on 13 July, and was once more on the east coast bombline from 22-24 July to support South Korean troops near Kosong. These days found her gunners at their most accurate and the devastation wrought was impressive. A large cave housing an important enemy observation post was closed, the end of a month-long United Nations effort. A great many bunkers, artillery areas, observation posts, trenches, tanks and other weapons were destroyed.
At sunrise on 25 July, New Jersey was off to the key port, rail and communications center of Hungnam, pounding coastal guns, bridges, a factory area, and oil storage tanks. She sailed north that afternoon, firing at rail lines and railroad tunnels as she made for Tanchon, where she launched a whaleboat in an attempt to spot a train known to run nightly along the coast. Her big guns were trained on two tunnels between which she hoped to catch the train, but in the darkness she could not see the results of her six-gun salvo.
New Jersey's mission at Wonsan the next day was her last. Here she destroyed large-caliber guns, bunkers, caves and trenches. Two days later, she learned of the truce. Her crew celebrated during a seven-day visit at Hong Kong, where she anchored on 20 August. Operations around Japan and off Formosa were carried out for the remainder of her tour, which was highlighted by a visit to Pusan. Here President Rhee came aboard on 16 September to present the Korean Presidential Unit Citation to the Seventh fleet.
Relieved as flagship at Yokosuka by Wisconsin on 14 October, New Jersey was homeward bound the next day, reaching Norfolk on 14 November. During the next two summers she crossed the Atlantic with midshipmen on board for training, and during the rest of the year sharpened her skills with exercises and training maneuvers along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean.
New Jersey stood out of Norfolk on 7 September 1955 for her first tour of duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Her ports of call included Gibraltar, Valencia, Cannes, Istanbul, Suda Bay, and Barcelona. She returned to Norfolk on 7 January 1956 for the spring program of training operations. That summer she again carried midshipmen to Northern Europe for training, bringing them home to Annapolis on 31 July. New Jersey sailed for Europe once more on 27 August as flagship of Vice Admiral Charles Wellborn, Jr., Commander Second Fleet. She called at Lisbon, participated in NATO exercises off Scotland, and paid an official visit to Norway where Crown Prince Olaf was a guest. She returned to Norfolk on 15 October, and on 14 December arrived at New York Naval Shipyard for inactivation. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Bayonne on 21 August 1957.
New Jersey's third career began on 6 April 1968 when she was recommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Captain J. Edward Snyder in command. Fitted with improved electronics and a helicopter landing pad and with her 40-millimeter battery removed, she was tailored for use as a heavy bombardment ship. Her 16-inch guns, it was expected, would reach targets in Vietnam inaccessible to smaller naval guns and, in foul weather, safe from aerial attack.
New Jersey, now the world's only active battleship, departed Philadelphia on 16 May, calling at Norfolk and transiting the Panama Canal before arriving at her new home port of Long Beach, California, on 11 June. Further training off Southern California followed. On 24 July, New Jersey received 16-inch shells and powder tanks from Mount Katmai (AE-16) by conventional highline transfer and by helicopter lift, the first time heavy battleship ammunition had been transferred by helicopter at sea.
Departing Long Beach on 3 September, New Jersey touched at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay before sailing on 25 September for her first tour of gunfire support duty along the Vietnamese coast. Near the 17th Parallel on 30 September, the dreadnought fired her first shots in battle in over sixteen years. Firing against Communist targets in and near the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), her big guns destroyed two gun positions and two supply areas. She fired against targets north of the DMZ the following day, rescuing the crew of a spotting plane forced down at sea by antiaircraft fire.
The next six months fell into a steady pace of bombardment and fire support missions along the Vietnamese coast, broken only by brief visits to Subic Bay and replenishment operations at sea. In her first two months on the gun line, New Jersey directed nearly ten thousand rounds of ammunition at Communist targets; over 3,000 of these shells were 16-inch projectiles.
Her first Vietnam combat tour completed, New Jersey departed Subic Bay on 3 April 1969 for Japan. She arrived at Yokosuka for a two-day visit, sailing for the United States on 9 April. Her homecoming, however, was to be delayed. On the 15th, while New Jersey was still at sea, North Korean jet fighters shot down an unarmed EC-121 "Constellation" electronic surveillance plane over the Sea of Japan, killing its entire crew. A carrier task force was formed and sent to the Sea of Japan, while New Jersey was ordered to come about and steam toward Japan. On the 22nd she arrived once more at Yokosuka and immediately put to sea in readiness for what might befall. As the crisis lessened, New Jersey was released to continue her interrupted voyage. She anchored at Long Beach on 5 May 1969, her first visit to her home port in eight months. Through the summer months, New Jersey's crew toiled to make her ready for another deployment. Deficiencies discovered on the gun line were remedied, as all hands looked forward to another opportunity to prove the mighty warship's worth in combat. Reasons of economy were to dictate otherwise. On 22 August 1969, the Secretary of Defense released a list of names of ships to be inactivated; at the top of the list was New Jersey. Five days later, Captain Snyder was relieved of command by Captain Robert C. Peniston.
Assuming command of a ship already earmarked for the "mothball fleet," Captain Peniston and his crew prepared for their melancholy task. New Jersey got underway on her last voyage on 6 September, departing Long Beach for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She arrived on the 8th, and began pre-inactivation overhaul to ready herself for decommissioning. On 17 December 1969 New Jersey's colors were hauled down and she entered the inactive fleet, still echoing the words of her last commanding officer: "Rest well, yet sleep lightly; and hear the call, if again sounded, to provide fire power for freedom." New Jersey earned the Navy Unit Commendation for Vietnam service. She has received nine battle stars for World War II; four for the Korean conflict; and two for Vietnam.
Recent History 1969 to Present
From 1969 until 1981 NEW JERSEY rested quietly at Puget Sound but in 1981 she was towed from the Puget Sound Navy Yard to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for her modernization. There she was given an exceptionally high priority and was recommissioned on December,28.1982.
NEW JERSEY was commissioned by one of her greatest fans, President Ronald Reagan, who said the Navy gala reminded him of a film he acted in called "Operation Hellcat." He said he had to confess that while he was still in love with his leading lady, Nancy, he was developing a "great respect for the leading lady in these ceremonies. She's gray, she's had her face lifted, but she's still in the prime of her life, a gallant lady: NEW JERSEY." It was the first time a President had commissioned a ship in over 40 years.
Secretary of the Navy John Lehman was also there to support the 514th of his "600 ship Navy." After much congressional debate, NEW JERSEY had been the first of the IOWAs to be recommissioned for a price of $326 million, on time and far under budget, in fact, for about the price of a new frigate.
The battleship was inundated with requests to serve by over 4,000 volunteers. Only 1,500 men were chosen, 300 in critical ratings: a far cry from the 2,500 men who served in World War II.
The battleship was reconditioned with capabilities for carrying 32 Tomahawk missiles: the most advanced of naval missiles and four times the number carried by any ship at that time. She also carried 16 Harpoon anti-surface missiles, four Vulcan-Phalanx close-in "gatling-gun" weapons for defense against incoming aircraft or missiles; a modern electronic countermeasure system; a cruiser-style communication system; aviation facilities and operating stations for SH-60B helicopters; updated air and surface radars; and conversion of the fuel plant to burn Navy distillate fuel.
Beirut, Lebanon Deployment
NEW JERSEY was on a three-month shakedown cruise to the Western Pacific, with scheduled stops in Pearl Harbor, Manila, Singapore and Pattya Beach Thailand. Enroute to Hong Kong, political flare-ups in Central America that demanded her attention. After nearly three months off the coast of Central America, the Beirut crisis began. She transited the Panama Canal, having been designed to do so with a clearance of approximately two feet. NEW JERSEY remained on station with the Sixth Fleet for six more months in support of U.S. Marines in the Multi-National Defense Force. On three occasions, she fired her 16-inch guns in defense. On February 8, 1984 she fired 288 rounds into the surrounding hills to effectively knock out Syrian anti-aircraft missile sites. The accuracy of the guns was questioned by some critics, but the mission was clearly accomplished. Toward the end, volunteers began relieving many of the crewmembers, but in May, 1984, eleven months after departure, NEW JERSEY returned home.
NEW JERSEY proved herself during that deployment. Her presence in tandem with aircraft carrier groups was significant in that it couldn't be countered. Her rounds weren't flown in by vulnerable pilots in expensive jet aircraft, and a one ton bullet could hardly be deterred from its target. Had the Syrians had the capability, conventional countermeasures against the ship would meet extreme resistance, and if not shot down, they would meet with armor over a foot thick in many places. It was generally thought that an Exocet missile of the type that split the HMS SHEFFIELD during the Falklands War, would merely bounce off the battleship armor, causing the ship to conduct "sweepers." While this may sound far-fetched, it does make a significant point: short of a direct nuclear hit, a battleship is likely to sustain relatively significant damage and keep operating. The history of battleships supports this.
Battleship Battle Group Deployment
NEW JERSEY's next deployment was to be significant for another reason. It would be the first deployment of a battleship group since the Korean War. As centerpiece of the battle group, NEW JERSEY and her escorts operated from Hawaii to Thailand as the only United States Naval presence in that area from May to October, 1986, relieving a portion of the much-strained carrier commitment.
The battleship battle group included anti-air and anti-submarine warfare capable cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and support ships. It was not intended to replace an aircraft carrier group. However, in areas of lesser enemy air and submarine threat it complemented the carriers with the great and unique fire power of its missiles and 16-inch guns. As a result of NEW JERSEY's deployment, the battleship battle group concept and the battleship modernization program were validated.
Following an extensive overhaul period in Long Beach from early Spring of 1987 until July of 1988, the New Jersey was ready to began her next cruise, one that was a memorable one for her crew. NEW JERSEY performed as part of a surface action group, a small group of the battleship and two escorts, which could operate independently with air cover offered by a nearby carrier or land base. NEW JERSEY also staged off the coast of Korea prior to the Olympic games and spent two months in Australia during that nation's bicentennial as the naval centerpiece of the festivities.
Shortly before the last NEW JERSEY cruise was to get underway, there was an explosion in the center gun of turret two on her sister ship IOWA, killing 47 sailors. A moratorium on the guns followed and the 16-inchers lay silent while the investigation took place. Many critics began to speculate there was something wrong with the guns. But after lengthy testing, NEW JERSEY was allowed to fire again.
The last cruise of NEW JERSEY included highlights as she flexed her muscle in several applications. First was her participation in PacEx '89, the largest peacetime naval operation since the World War II era. During the remainder of the cruise, NEW JERSEY was the centerpiece of battle groups or surface action groups, exercising the battleships versatility and flexibility. NEW JERSEY cruised through the India Ocean and was the first to enter and operate in the Persian Gulf. On her return, she hosted the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, change of command onboard. She returned February 25, 1990.
NEW JERSEY was decommissioned for the last time on February 8,1991 at Long Beach, California. She was officially stricken from the Navy list on February 12,1995 but was then ordered reinstated by an order of Congress as a mobilization asset under Bill 1024 section 1011. On January 4, 1999 NEW JERSEY was again stricken from the Navy list and IOWA replaced her as a mobilization asset. NEW JERSEY is now listed as category X, meaning "Stricken, on donation hold as a museum or memorial". This means the Navy is free to donate her, and all that remains is the application process. On September 12, 1999 NEW JERSEY began her Final Voyage home from Bremerton, where she had rested in mothballs for the last 8 years. On November 11th, she arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. On January 21, 2000, the Navy announced the USS NEW JERSEY would take up station in Camden, New Jersey, where she will be restored, opened and established as an educational museum and a tribute to the brave sailors who served on her during her long and distinguished career.
For current updates, on the status of USS NEW JERSEY, go to http://www.southjerseynews.com/battleship/finally.htm . South Jersey News has compiled a library of newspaper articles, beginning with the Congressional order to build and, adds new articles weekly.
Battleship New Jersey Milestone Dates
16 September 1940 Keel Laid at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
7 December 1942 Launched
23 May 1943 Commissioned
30 June 1948 Decommissioned
21 November 1950 Recommissioned
21 August 1957 Decommissioned
1967 - 68 Reactivated & modernized at Philadelphia Shipyard
6 April 1968 Recommissioned
17 December 1969 Decommissioned
1981 - 82 Reactivated & modernized at Long Beach Shipyard
28 December 1982 Recommissioned
8 February 1991 Decommissioned
4 January 1999 Classed as Category X, ready for donation
12 September 1999 Begins Final Voyage home to New Jersey
11 November 1999 Arrives at the Former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
From: DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL FIGHTING SHIPS, Vol. V, pp. 60-63.Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, James L. Mooney, ed.,
Past Commanding Officers of the Battleship New Jersey (BB-62)
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