“The Big J” – USS New Jersey


In my endless quest to see everything I have ever been interested in since I was a kid, I recently walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River from Philadelphia, PA to Camden, NJ to see the mighty Iowa Class Battleship the USS New Jersey (BB-62) known as “The Big J“. She served from 1942 to 1991 and today this former US Navy Battleship continues on as a floating museum.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) Camden NJ USA
USS New Jersey (BB-62)

You can take a very informative tour to get a great understanding of the sheer size and firepower of this giant Battleship. She has a displacement of 45,000 tonnes, is 887 feet / 270.54 metres in length, with a beam (width) of 108.2 feet /33.0 metres, a draft (ships hull below the water’s surface) of 28.9 feet / 8.8 m and a crew of 1,921 (this would have been much larger in World War Two).

USS New Jersey BB-62
The view from the Ben Franklin Bridge

The USS New Jersey was launched in 1942 (built in the nearby Philadelphia Naval Shipyards) and during World War Two she was the flagship of the US 5th Fleet under Admiral Spruance until August 1944 (and again at the end of the war between August to September 1945) and then the flagship of the US 3rd Fleet under Admiral Halsey until January 1945, then serving under Admiral Badger and successive Pacific Fleet commanders until the end of the war. Her role in World War Two  was integral to protecting aircraft carriers from Japanese aircraft and included important battles such as the Battle of the Philippine Sea or as it is commonly known “The Marianas Turkey Shoot” of 1944 where the Japanese lost about 400 aircraft (the anti-aircraft fire from ships such as the New Jersey proved almost impenetrable), the Battle for Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.

USS New Jersey in WW2 1944-45
USS New Jersey in WW2
Admiral Halsey aboard the USS New Jersey in WW2
Vision of the past – Admiral Halsey aboard the USS New Jersey in WW2 and yours truly in 2013

During the Korean War (various tours between 1951-1953) the USS New Jersey provided massive fire support for United Nations troops with her devastating 16 inch  / 406 mm guns (3 turrets with 3 cannons each that could fire an approximate distance of 23.4 nautical miles /40 km). Once again she was called on to perform the same duties during the Vietnam War between 1967-1969 firing upon Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces.

forward 16" gun turrets USS new jersey
The massive forward 16″ gun turrets
USS New Jersey 16" shell and a schematic of the multi-story gun turrets
The big 16″ shell and a schematic of the multi-story gun turrets
USS New Jersey fires a salvo off the coast of Korea in 1951
USS New Jersey fires a salvo off the coast of Korea in 1951 (Source: US Navy)
USS New Jersey fires of the coast of South Vietnam in 1969
USS New Jersey fires of the coast of South Vietnam in 1969 (Source: US Navy)
Aft 16" gun turret and a Kaman SH-2 Seasprite Helicopter that once operated off the aft landing deck USS New Jersey battleship
Aft 16″ gun turret and a Kaman SH-2 Seasprite Helicopter that once operated off the aft landing deck

In 1969 she was mothballed until reactivation in 1982 where she served again off the coast of Beirut between 1983-84 as part of a peacekeeping force during the Lebanese Civil War. In the 1980’s this class of ship were refitted with missiles (Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles) to accompany her massive guns and she served on various tours around the world including the Persian Gulf. Given the end of the Cold War and rising operating costs due to her age the USS New Jersey was decommissioned in 1991, struck of the naval reserve fleet register in 1999 and became a museum in 2000.

Tomahawk Cruise missile launcher USS New Jersey
Tomahawk Cruise missile launcher & Phalanx system
Phalanx 20mm Close In Weapons Systems for air and missile defence
Phalanx 20mm Close In Weapons System for air and missile defence
USS New Jersey Harpoon missile launchers, Phalanx system and 5" gun turret
Harpoon missile launchers, Phalanx system and 5″ gun turret
 5" guns  USS New Jersey
The 5″ guns were dual purpose weapons for air and surface targets

During this long and distinguished career the USS New Jersey received many military honours and awards including 19 battle stars (9 from World War Two,  4 from the Korean War, 2 from the Vietnam War and 4 from Lebanon and the Persian Gulf). This makes her the most decorated Battleship in the history of the US Navy.

USS New Jersey fires all guns
USS New Jersey fires all guns (1986 – Source: US Navy)

The tour aboard “The Big J” takes you from the upper deck, through a gun turret, into the Captains and Admirals quarters (including how they looked in both 1991 and World War Two), the bridge, the missile operations room, crew and officers quarters, the mess deck, the helicopter deck and much more. There are also docents providing guided tours in parts of the ship and options are available for a full guided tour of the Battleship. To walk in the footsteps of great military leaders such as Admiral Halsey is a fascinating experience.

USS New Jersey BB-62 Crew Quarters
Crew quarters (very close!)
Captains in port quarters USS New Jersey BB-62
Captains in port quarters (mainly for entertaining)
Captains in port quarters USS New Jersey BB-62
Captains in port quarters
Captains at sea quarters USS New Jersey BB-62
Captain at sea quarters (much more Spartan)
WW2 era admirals quarters USS New Jersey BB-62
WW2 era Admirals quarters
Bridge view USS New Jersey BB-62
View from the bridge
steering station USS New Jersey BB-62
Steering the ship from a very well protected station inside the bridge
Missile Operations USS New Jersey BB-62
Missile Operations
Mess Deck USS New Jersey
Mess Deck
Inside one of the forward 16" gun turrets USS New Jersey
Inside one of the forward 16″ gun turrets

On the same side of the country in Norfolk, VA I also recently saw one of the sister ships to “The Big J,  USS Wisconsin (BB-64) known as “Wisky” which served in the US Navy between 1944-1991 (serving as a training ship from 1952-1958, then decommissioned in 1958 but reactivated in 1986) and remained in the reserve fleet until 2006 when she also became a floating museum.

USS Wisconsin Norfolk Virginia USA Battleship
USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA
USS Wisconsin
The scale of the USS Wisconsin is impressive

USS Wisconsin served during World War Two including the Battle of Iwo Jima and bombardment of the Japanese mainland, the Korean War (tours between 1950-1952) and the Gulf War of 1991 where missiles were fired from the Battleship and her guns fired in anger for the first time since 1952! Her distinguished career included receiving many military awards and honours including 6 battle stars (5 from World War Two and 1 from the Korean War). Although I didn’t tour the “Wisky” she was still impressive to see up close from the waterfront.

USS Wisconsin fires a Tomahawk cruise missile during the Gulf War in 1991
USS Wisconsin fires a Tomahawk cruise missile during the Gulf War in 1991 (Source: US Navy)

The other Battleships of this class were USS Iowa (BB-61) known as “The Big Stick” and USS Missouri (BB-63) known as “Mighty Mo“. USS Iowa served between 1943-1990, at first serving in the Atlantic before transferring to the Pacific theatre in World War Two, she also provided fire support in the Korean War before being mothballed in 1958, reactivated in 1984 and following an accidental turret explosion in 1989 she was mothballed once again and struck off the reserve fleet in 2006. During her service the USS Iowa received 11 battle stars (9 in World War Two and 2 in the Korean War) and today she is a museum in San Pedro, CA.

USS Missouri and Iowa in 1945
USS Missouri and USS Iowa in 1945
Mothballed USS Iowa (right) and USS Wisconsin (left) in 1982
Mothballed USS Iowa (right) and USS Wisconsin (left) in 1982
USS Iowa fires a broadside in 1984
USS Iowa fires a broadside in 1984
USS Iowa fires guns 1984
This photo really highlights the enormous firepower of the USS Iowa (Source: US Navy)

USS Missouri served between 1944- 1992, in World War Two she participated in the Battle for Iwo Jima and Okinawa; and is particularly famous for being the location in which the Japanese formally signed a petition of surrender on September 2nd, 1945. She also served in the Korean War before being placed in the reserve fleet in 1955 and was reactivated along with the other Iowa Class Battleships in 1986 and finally served in the Gulf War of 1991. During her service USS Missouri also received 11 battle stars (3 in World War Two, 5 in the Korean War and 3 during the Gulf War) and she became a museum in Hawaii in 1999.

Japanese surrender aboard USS Missouri - September 2nd, 1945
Japanese surrender before Allied commanders aboard USS Missouri – September 2nd, 1945
USS Missouri opens fire during the Korean War in 1950
USS Missouri opens fire during the Korean War in 1950 (Source: US Navy)

A battleship once represented the military might of a nation, but today they represent a lost age of sea power that in modern warfare has been replaced with powerful surface to surface missiles and super carriers equipped with heavily armed aircraft. If you get the chance to tour any of these mighty Battleships I thoroughly recommend it as they are steeped in history and offer a fascinating insight into the past that could so easily have been lost for ever.

Addendum: I eventually managed to see all the Iowa Class battleships. In November 2013 I made it out to Hawaii to see USS Missouri (BB-63) “Mighty Mo” at Pearl Harbour and then in late 2014, whilst in California I saw “The Big StickUSS Iowa (BB-61) in San Pedro. Impressive ships!

Advertisements

30 Comments Add yours

  1. In 2008 I had the pleasure of touring over the New Jersey and the Missouri I was disgusted in the condition of the NJ and did a blog I can’t tell from you pics but looks like they may have fixed the problems I had

    http://lordbeariofbow.com/2012/03/03/us-navy-priorities/

    1. Deano says:

      Yes I think they have been pretty proactive in these past few years in improving the old girl

  2. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    Admiral Spruance’s 5th Fleet flagship has a remarkable history. Outstanding photographs!!

  3. I’ve always wondered why they did not pound the beaches more before sending in LST’s and ground troops esp Normandy.

  4. Chris White says:

    Now following you. Good to see the 1951 connection with “The Big J”. Love that double take time photo as well. All the best. Kris.

  5. Ompong says:

    Reblogged this on Machines of War and commented:
    A mean machine… And you will marvel how big and armed to the teeth this “Big J” was from World War 2!

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks for the reblog

  6. Beautiful photographs – she is one mighty, stunning battleship. My father still talks about the day he went on the Iowa in Portsmouth harbour in the UK. Those ships were in a class of their own.

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks – it must have been amazing to see her on active duty

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks for the reblog

  7. Argus says:

    It’s not often I save a blog post (complete) to my computer. This is one of the very few.
    And I’m passing the link on.

    ‘Impressed’ is just inadequate …

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks for taking a look

  8. Gypsy Bev says:

    Thanks for the fantastic pictures of a ship with quite a long and productive history. I’ve toured USS Texas at their historic site and was amazed by its size, abilities and accommodations. Always enjoy being in touch with a piece of history.

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks. The USS Texas is one I wanted to see in Texas but just ran out of time

  9. jfwknifton says:

    What a ship! Over here in Europe, we have countries smaller than that.

    1. Deano says:

      The Iowa class was something to behold!

  10. Reblogged this on My Daily Musing and commented:
    I had to reblog this I love ships, :).

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks for the reblog

      1. It was my pleasure. I enjoyed the tale of the “The Big J”. 🙂

      2. Deano says:

        Thanks. Great ships all of them!

  11. The Emu says:

    Great informative post and well photographed, The Big J, is aptly named by the pictures, I like the picture of the USS New Jersey firing all her Guns at the same time.
    Very entertaining reading.

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks. Yes it and the others in this class are quite the ship!

  12. Lloyd Marken says:

    The Mighty Mo was at Inchon.

    1. Deano says:

      Old school firepower!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s