Battleship New Jersey wows the scouts

Jan 03 2013 | 01:12 AM

— Cub Scouts of Pack 51 Oak Ridge/West Milford were a part of the largest crowd of people to ever attend an overnight encampment on the Battleship New Jersey in Camden recently, according to the battleship museum’s curators. Reportedly, 377 people attended the special overnight trip that was arranged by the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Oakland on Dec. 1 and 2. The trip was open to Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs and their families in the council’s service area.

The battleship’s size, nearly three football fields long and 11 stories high, is unmistakable upon approach up the gangway. Museum docents led the participants through a detailed tour of the massive structure, re-telling the history of America’s most decorated battleship and the role the "Black Dragon" played in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf during her years in active service between 1943 and 1991.

“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, and three Campaign Stars for service off Beirut, Lebanon and service in the Persian Gulf, prior to Operation Desert Storm. With a total of 19 Battle and Campaign Stars, New Jersey is America's most decorated battleship and surviving warship.” (Source: http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org)

Living like a sailor
The scouts were led up and down the ship's original ladders and companionways, stowed their gear in the same lockers that held sailors's personal belongings when at sea, slept in bunks that were stacked three high just like the enlisted sailors did, and were able to chow down in the crew's mess (caféteria). They participated in the presentation of colors flag ceremony on deck as well as a fire drill. Participants were able to enter the ship's legendary 16-inch gun turrets that once reached land targets nearly 23 miles away. They toured the Combat Engagement Center, and participated in a simulated firing of one of the weapons. The tour also included a visit to the captain's and admiral's cabins and the officer's wardroom on the Iowa-class battleship that was built to "keep floating and keep fighting." The docents led the scouts through the tour where they viewed weapons systems, berthing areas, command and control centers, galley, on-board museum exhibitions and more.


"Firepower for Freedom"
On Dec. 17, 1969, Captain Robert C Peniston, USN (Retired), offered these stirring decommissioning words: “Rest well, yet sleep lightly and hear the call, if again sounded, to provide firepower for freedom…” Those words were permanently painted on the water tank inside of a 16” turret by a 1980s crew. On Jan. 20, 2000, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig announced that the battleship would be donated to Home Port Alliance of Camden, N.J., for use as a museum. And she has been educating and awe-inspiring to all who have visited her since.