Tag Archives: USS New Jersey

But do the guns still work?

Over the weekend I got a chance to stop off at one of my favorite places, the Battleship Alabama Park at the top of Mobile Bay.

Doesn’t the old girl look great?

This brings me to a semi-related video that I recently caught.

I remember first touring Big Al when I was in elementary school in the early 1980s– at a time when Ingalls in my hometown of Pascagoula was busily reactivating mothballed Iowa-class battlewagons to be ready to take on the Soviet Red Banner Fleet as part of the Lehman 600-ship Navy of the Cold War.

One of the questions asked by a young me while touring Alabama at the time was “do the guns still work?” followed up by “could the ship be put back into service like the Iowas are?”

The tour guide at the time shook it off, saying the guns were permanently deactivated, breeches removed, welded shut in the elevated position, and filled with cement, which I accepted as I was a kid, and what adults said was the end of the story.

In later years, I found this is not entirely true, but the likelihood of the SoDaks like Alabama and the even earlier North Carolina-class fast battleships ever being reactivated after the late 1950s was slim to none– hence their disposal by the Navy.

But when mothballed they were sent to red lead row with reactivation manuals and work packages in place. 

Battleship North Carolina’s reactivation manual…

…from when she was mothballed in 1947

Mothball preservation lockout tag with follow up “to put back in commission” tag, Battleship Massachusetts. The ship is filled with equipment that was sidelined when it was laid up.

When the Iowas were called back from mothballs in the early 1980s, even though three of the four had been in storage since Korea (and New Jersey since Vietnam), it was found their guns had weathered the floating reserve status very well and were restored to service with only minor hiccups. 

From a 1987 report: 

With that being said, check this recent video out from the USS New Jersey, which was decommissioned for the fourth time in 1991, stricken in 1999, and opened as a museum in 2001.

Subject= do the turrets still rotate today?

Get to the choppa: Battlewagon edition

An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter is secured by flight deck crewmen aboard the battleship Iowa (BB-61) on 1 Sep 1985. Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-02511, by PHC Jeff Hilton,

The Iowa-class battleships received official helicopter pads and a helicopter control station below their after 5-inch director–although no hangar facilities– in the 1980s during their Lehman 600-ship Navy modernization.

The helicopter control station on the 02 level of the battleship Iowa (BB-61). Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-09557, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

They used them to host visiting Navy SH-60 and SH-2s, as well as the occasional Marine UH-1, CH-46, and CH-53 while also running their own early RQ-2A Pioneer UAV detachments–to which Iraqi units would later surrender to during the 1st Gulf War. 

Crew members aboard Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter approaches the landing area at the stern of the battleship USS IOWA (BB 61)

A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is parked on the helicopter pad during flight operations aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61).

A U.S. Marine Corps Boeing Vertol CH-46D Sea Knight (BuNo 154023) of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) prepares to land aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64). The helicopter was transporting Allied military personnel who were coming aboard the ship to be briefed by Wisconsin´s Commanding Officer, Capt. D.S. Bill. The meeting was taking place during the 1991 Gulf War. 6 February 1991 Navy Photo DN-ST-92-07868 by PH2 Robert Clare, USN

The curator of the Battleship New Jersey Museum tours the ship’s helicopter deck.

 

However, the 1980s-90s by far was not the first time those dreadnoughts sported whirly-birds.

1948-55

Back in 1948, while the ships still had floatplane catapults and a quartet of Curtiss SC-2 Seahawk floatplanes on their stern, USS Missouri (BB-63) accommodated a visiting experimental Sikorsky S-51, piloted by D. D. (Jimmy) Viner, a chief test pilot for Sikorsky.

Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter (Bureau # 122527) landing on Missouri’s forward 16-inch gun turret, during the 1948 Midshipmen’s cruise. Guard mail, ships’ newspapers, and personnel were exchanged via helicopter while the Midshipmen’s cruise squadron was at sea. Most exchanges were made by hovering pick-up. The forward turret was used as a landing platform since the floatplane catapults on the ship’s fantail prevented helicopters from operating there. The photo was filed on 13 September 1948. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-706093

With the cats deleted in the early 1950s, the Iowas saw more HO3s, now equipped with folding blade rotors and externally-mounted rescue hoists.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) A Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter of squadron HU-1 takes off from the battleship’s afterdeck, while she was operating off Korea. The upraised green flag signifies that the pilot has permission to take off. Crash crew, in yellow helmets, are standing by with fire hoses ready. This helicopter is Bureau # 124350. The photograph is dated 14 April 1953. The photographer is Lt. R.C. Timm. 80-G-K-16320

USS Iowa (BB-61) steams out of Wonsan harbor, Korea, after a day’s bombardment. The photograph is dated 18 April 1952. Note HO3S helicopter parked on the battleship’s after deck. Also, note the WWII catapults are deleted but the floatplane crane is still on her stern. NH 44537

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) snow falling on the battleship’s after deck, 8 February 1952, while she was serving with Task Force 77 in Korean waters. Note 16″/50cal guns of her after turret, and Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter parked on deck. Photographed by AF3c M.R. Adkinson. 80-G-441035

Four Marine HO4S/H-19 (Sikorsky S-55) and one Navy HO3S/H5 on the fantail of USS Missouri during the Korean War, 1952. The H-19s are likely of HMR-161, which largely proved the use of such aircraft in Korea. 

Vietnam

New Jersey also supported the occasional helicopter during her reactivation in the Vietnam war. Notably, she received 16-inch shells and powder tanks from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) by H-34 helicopter lift, the first time heavy battleship ammunition had been transferred by helicopter at sea.

New Jersey (BB-62) underway off the Virginia Capes with an SH-3D Sea King from HS-3 “Tridents”, (attached to the Randolph CVS-15 and a squadron of CVSG-56), about to land on the fantail. However, it is more likely that the helicopter flew out to the “Big J” from NAS Norfolk. Official Navy Photograph # K-49736, taken by PH3 E. J. Bonner on 24 May 1968, via Navsource.

Two UH-1 Huey helicopters resting on the fantail of the New Jersey (BB-62) during her service in December 1968 off Vietnam. Courtesy of Howard Serig, via Navsource.

But wait, old boy

With all that being said, it should be pointed out that it was the Brits who first successfully used a helicopter on their last battlewagon, HMS Vanguard, in 1947, a full year before Missouri’s first rotor-wing visit.

Landing a Sikorsky R4 helicopter on the aft deck of the battleship Vanguard February 1, 1947

And Vanguard would go on to operate both RN FAA Westland WS-51 Dragonflies and USN Piasecki HUP-2s on occasion in the 1950s.

The more you know…

Brush up on your military history while staying in

While under quarantine from the Rona, there are lots of cool things that were recently made available that I think you guys would enjoy, for free.

How about a Virtual Tour of USS New Jersey

Osprey

Osprey Publishing for the past couple weeks has been making several of their excellent books available in their entirety for the low low cost of free. 

“Many people all over the world are staying at home to combat the spread of COVID-19. While self-isolation might be a bit daunting, it’s also a great opportunity to catch up on your reading. To help pass the time, we’ll be giving customers five free eBooks each week for the next four weeks. Read through the options, add the eBook to your basket and use the code FREEBOOKS2 at checkout to get your free eBooks.”

Pritzker

The Pritzker has a great video of Robert S. Colella author of Battle for Baqubah: Killing Our Way Out. It is a firsthand account of a fifteen-month span in the volatile Diyala Province of Iraq.

Nasiriyah

The Marine Corps History Department has a great 52-page PDF on the Battle of Nasiriyah, which was 17 years ago this month. How time flies.

Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, 3d Platoon during the Battle of Nasiriyah in 2003

Stay safe out there, fellas.

Always remember to put them up clean

If ever there was a lesson in why you should store your guns in good condition, here we see the Iowa-class battlewagon, USS New Jersey (BB-62), as she was put to pasture after her WWII service.

The Sailors are removing the muzzle seals from two of her forward turret’s 16″/50cal Mark 7 guns, while she was being reactivated at the Naval Supply Depot, Bayonne, Oct. 1950, for use in Korea.

New Jersey, of course, would go back into retirement following Korea, only to be recommissioned a third time for Vietnam, and a fourth in the 1980s to help the Reagan-era 600-ship Navy make weight.

New Jersey gets her barrels back

New Jersey just received three of her historic 16-inch gun barrels that have been stored at Norfolk for more than a half-century.

The 16-inch/50-caliber Mark 7 guns, each weighing 237,000-pounds, were first installed on the USS New Jersey when she was built at the  Philadelphia Navy Yard in the 1940s. While she used them to good effect in the Pacific and off Korea, the worn barrels were replaced by new tubes, which the battleship still has, and the old wartime vintage barrels placed in storage at Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s St. Juliens Creek Annex for the past 60 years. Now, after a $200,000 fundraiser to move three of the 66-foot long guns from Virginia to Camden, New Jersey, the old battleship has some of her original teeth back.

Know anybody with some Oerlikon parts gathering dust?

They basically need everything you see above in gray…

I recently talked to Clark Perks, development director at the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial and he has an 888-foot battlewagon full of armament that includes nine massive 16-inch and 12 5-inch guns, but what they are missing is a complete 20mm Oerlikon cannon.

They have the gun itself, they just need the mount and shield and can work to fab one from an original if they could work out the loan…

More in my column at Guns.com

P.S. They just got their 40mm quad mount restored– and it even fires.

Big J gets one of her lost 40mm mounts back

"USS New Jersey in Vietnam" Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

“USS New Jersey in Vietnam” Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

When USS New Jersey (BB-62) was built, the wounds of Pearl Harbor were still fresh in the minds of battleship sailors and the new series of capital ships were stacked deep with 40mm and 20mm cannons, designed to fill the sky around the ship with a hurricane of flak to break up Japanese air attacks. The battlewagon carried no less than 80 40mm/56 cal Bofors cannon, arranged in 20 quad mounts. The ship and her crew earned nine battle stars for her World War II service and four for her service in the Korean War before she was put into mothballs in 1957.

The only battleship called in from “red lead row” for service in Vietnam, in 1968 she was stripped of her Bofors cannon– obsolete against jets– and all were destroyed except for one mount that was left as a display at (the now closed) Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she was built.

Now, as part of a crowd-sourced fundraiser to restore the gun and send it to Camden, New Jersey where the battleship has been as a museum ship since 2001, it has been picked up from Philly and moved to the Mahan Collection museum where it will be restored before reunited with the retired naval warship.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Guess how many 16-inch shells are left in storage?

Crewmen load a 16-inch shell aboard the battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB 64) as the vessel is readied for sea trials (Photo: National Archives)

Crewmen load a 16-inch shell aboard the battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB 64) as the vessel is readied for sea trials (Photo: National Archives)

The answer to that would be 15,595 live ones in 10 different variants including HC, armor piercing and practice.

The last battleship salvo was from USS Wisconsin 16 May 1991, with the last battleship transferred to museum life in 2012.

The Army’s last 16″/50cal Gun M1919 coastal artillery battery was disbanded in 1946.

Currently at AAAC, Crane:

Designation/Type                                     Filler                                  Number
D862        High Capacity                         Explosive D                       3,624
D872        Armor Piercing                        Explosive D                       2,430
D874        High Capacity                         Explosive D                           591
D875        Armor Piercing                        666 M46 GP Grenades          22
D875        Armor Piercing                        400 M43A1 GP Grenades   234
D877        Armor Piercing                        Explosive D                        1,743
D878        High Capacity                          Explosive D                               2
D879        High Capacity                          Explosive D                           411
D881        Practice                                  Tracer only                              272
D882        High Capacity                          Explosive D                        6,266
Total                                                                                                  15,595

And the Army is looking to get rid of them, as I detailed in this piece at Guns.com

I thought it was cool that PM picked up the piece, I read PM as a kid.

Anyway, I think they make great conversation pieces. Central City Surplus just redid a 1,900-pound D875 AP shell (and yes, that is a QH-50 DASH in the background).

central-city-surplus-d875-16-inch-gun-shell

That’s a lot of Knox

USN photo # DN-ST-95-01861, by Calvin Larsen, from the Department of Defense Still Media Collection, courtesy of dodmedia.osd.mil. Click to embiggen

USN photo # DN-ST-95-01861, by Calvin Larsen, from the Department of Defense Still Media Collection, courtesy of dodmedia.osd.mil. Click to embiggen

An aerial stern view of the decommissioned battleship Iowa-class USS New Jersey (BB-62) and seven decommissioned Knox class frigates (and a carrier just peeking in off camera to the left) tied up at the Ship Intermediate Maintenance Facility at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, WA., on 17 May 1993.

New Jersey was decommissioned for her fourth (and final?) time on 8 February 1991 and has since 15 Oct 2000 been a museum at 62 Battleship Place, Camden, New Jersey

The seven much smaller (438-foot/4,260-ton) Knox class destroyer escorts fast frigates were from a large class of 46 steam powered tin cans rapidly decommissioned by the Navy in the early 1990s with the last of their kind, USS Truett (FF-1095), paying off on 30 July 1994.

As far as trivia goes, Truett lives on in the Royal Thai Navy as the HTMS Phutthayotfa Chulalok (FFG 461)— now say that five times fast.

A serious surface action group, circa 1986

2673 × 1729

2673 × 1729 1 July 1986, U.S. Defense Imagery photo VIRIN: DN-SC-87-00354 by PH2 Orell, USN

An aerial view of the first U.S. Navy battleship battle group to deploy to the Western Pacific since the Korean War underway with Australian ships during a training exercise. The ships are, clockwise from left: USS Long Beach (CGN-9), USS Merrill (DD-976), HMAS Swan (DE 50), HMAS Stuart (DE 48), HMAS Parramatta (DE 46), USNS Passumpsic (T-AO-107), USS Wabash (AOR-5), HMAS Derwent (DE 49), USS Kirk (FF-1087), USS Thach (FFG-43), HMAS Hobart (D 39) and USS New Jersey (BB-62), center.

You know the GMGs on Thach had to feel a little emasculated with their 76mm OTO Melera maingun when compared to the nine 16 and some two dozen 5 inchers surrounding them.

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