Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Aboard the USS New Jersey
Apologies for the light blogging of late. I've been on the road recently, and one of my journeys took me to the City of Brotherly Love, also known as Philadelphia. I enjoy history, so I spent my off hours wandering the city's historic district where the framework of this great nation began to take shape.
During one of my wanderings, I came across a pamphlet advertising tours of the USS New Jersey. My east-coast geography is still a bit on the weak side, so I'd forgotten that New Jersey borders Pennsylvania, but I jumped at the chance to see one of the biggest, baddest, and most feared battleships ever to sail under a US flag.
The New Jersey's history is a long and her decorations are many. Her 16" guns have projected American power in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and other global hotspots. To help you understand exactly what a 16" shell can do, imagine a projectile weighing roughly as much as a VW Bug being launched from a position at sea, landing miles away in a pre-designated area about the size of your office cubicle - and blowing the surrounding location to smithereens.
No wonder the Marines love these ships for amphibious assault support.
In case you were wondering, this picture is found in the dictionary next to the term "Guns, Big Ass".
My grandfather's generation designed, built, and produced the most effective naval artillery the world has ever seen. Nothing in any navy's arsenal, past or present, has been proven to be more accurate or lethal than these guns.
A side note - there are four remaining Iowa class battleships. Two, the New Jersey and the Missouri, have been relegated to museum status. I have not visited the Missouri, but the New Jersey looks like she could be put to sea on a few days notice.
The two other battleships, the Iowa and the Wisconsin, are currently part of the Navy's Mothball fleet. As of March 17, 2006, both vessels were struck from the Naval Vessel Register as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act. Needless to say, the Marines are not happy about this.
End of digression.
Touring the New Jersey take awhile. Though she may be a huge ship, she's also full of confined spaces and cramped quarters. I'm not a small person, so my skull now has a few more dents in it courtesy of the New Jersey's steel plating. My group was the last to be aboard the New Jersey that day. As we made our way up to the navigation bridge, a museum curator asked us to turn off the active radar and secure the bridge for the night. I'll add that to my list of cool things I've gotten to do.
Ships like the New Jersey are one of the reasons I like history. Its more than just books, dates, and facts. History is made and determined by people - people like those sailors and marines who took their turn in places like the USS New Jersey and stood watch in defense of liberty. You don't get than sense from a book. You need to go where these people were, see what they saw, and feel what they felt. Only then do you begin to understand the "why" behind the dates and places.
Thanks for the living history lesson, Big J.
Here endeth the lesson.
I believe the USS Wisconsin is in Norfolk at Nauticus. At least it was. It's been a few years since I was there. It was impressive.Post a Comment