US Navy’s ‘Most Decorated Warship’ That Saw Action In Vietnam & Korean Wars Sails After 30+ Years

The legendary USS New Jersey (BB-62), a stalwart of American naval history and a symbol of strength and resilience, embarked on a journey on March 21, marking its departure from the Camden Waterfront after over three decades of being moored there. 

Fondly known as “Big J,” the Iowa-class battleship, one of the largest and most decorated warships in the United States Navy, left its berth for the first time in years to undergo an extensive maintenance overhaul.

With a distinguished service record that surpasses many of its counterparts, USS New Jersey holds a special place in the annals of naval warfare. Its departure from the Camden Waterfront stirred emotions among spectators and naval enthusiasts alike as they bid farewell to this iconic vessel, which has stood as a museum ship since 2001.

The departure of the USS New Jersey was witnessed by US Navy personnel, veterans, local dignitaries, and members of the public, including Governor Phil Murphy and Congressman Donald Norcross.

Speaking at the departure ceremony, Governor Murphy underscored the unparalleled legacy of USS New Jersey, emphasizing its unmatched contributions to American naval history.

After departing from the pier, tugboats guided the vessel southward under the Walt Whitman Bridge, ultimately arriving at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal. There, it will undergo final preparations before entering the dry dock.

On March 27, it will be towed to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and carefully maneuvered into Dry Dock Number Three, the same dock where it was originally constructed in the early 1940s.

The vessel’s hull, which hadn’t undergone maintenance for over three decades, will now undergo a comprehensive inspection, repair, and repainting process.

The importance of this maintenance overhaul cannot be overstated, given the sheer scale and complexity of the USS New Jersey. Measuring larger than two football fields in length, the battleship requires meticulous attention to ensure its structural integrity and operational readiness.

According to US Navy maintenance guidelines, inactive ships like the USS New Jersey are recommended to undergo dry-docking every 20 years, making this overdue maintenance a critical priority.

The interim CEO overseeing the project, who hails from a Trenton lobbying firm, recently expressed the importance of this endeavor, citing the escalating costs associated with further delaying the maintenance.

With a budget of $10 million and an estimated timeline of two months, the project aims to address all aspects of the battleship’s maintenance needs, including the inspection and replacement of zinc nodes crucial for protecting the submerged hull from corrosion.

The Most Decorated Battleship In US Naval History

During World War II, the Iowa-class battleships, including the USS New Jersey (BB-62), were crucial assets for the United States Navy, contributing significantly to the victory in the Pacific theater.

Despite being among the largest battleships ever constructed, only four out of the planned six were completed. The USS New Jersey, also known as the “Black Dragon,” stood out not only for its size but also for its remarkable service record and decorations.

Launched on December 7, 1942, the USS New Jersey was commissioned in May 1943 and served as the flagship of the 5th Fleet under Adm. Raymond A. Spruance.

Besides its impressive dimensions, the USS New Jersey achieved a notable feat by setting a Guinness World Record in 1968 for attaining a top speed of 35.2 knots (65.2 km/h) and maintaining it for six consecutive hours.

Following its decommissioning in 1948, the USS New Jersey was recommissioned during the Korean War and later served in the Vietnam War, distinguishing itself as the only battleship to participate in the conflict.

Its involvement in Vietnam was prompted by the need to address the high loss rate of US aircraft and find alternative means to deliver ordnance payloads.

After undergoing modernization and reactivation, the USS New Jersey conducted extensive shore bombardments in Vietnam, inflicting major damage on enemy targets. It continued to provide fire support until April 1969, firing thousands of rounds from its guns during its tour.

Despite being decommissioned multiple times, the USS New Jersey saw further action during the Lebanon crisis of 1983-84 and subsequent deployments to the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf region.

Throughout its service, the USS New Jersey accumulated 19 battle stars, establishing itself as the most decorated battleship in the US Navy’s history.

Finally, it was towed to Camden, New Jersey, in 2001, where it was preserved as a museum ship, honoring the legacy of those who served aboard it. Future renovations will ensure its status as a lasting memorial for generations to come.