The USS New Jersey was an incredible battleship and part of the mighty Iowa class of warships. She deserves her own page in the US Navy history books for many reasons: Known as “Big J” or “Black Dragon”, USS New Jersey (BB-62) has the distinction of being one of the most decorated battleships to serve in the US Navy, while it was also among the largest warships ever built. The second of Iowa-class, which were the last battleships to enter service with the United States Navy, it was designed as a “fast battleship” that could travel with a carrier force and lead the fight against the Japanese in World War II. She was also the only American battleship to provide gunnery support during the Vietnam War.
Often affectionately referred to by her crew as “Big J”, during WWII she was also known as the “Black Dragon” as she was painted 5-N Dark Navy Blue on both vertical and deck surfaces. Blue, 20-B, on horizontal surfaces.
Dark monochrome camouflage measure 21 was used early in the war on many small ships, including destroyers, to make it difficult to see them at night. This particular color was retained from its launch until June 1945, when it was repainted into “two-tone” horizontal camouflage measure 22, which was used for the remainder of World War II.
The BB-62 was designed to be a flagship, meaning it would lead United States naval fleets into battle. Her first combat action was when she served in the Fifth Fleet under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance and provided fire support during the Marshal Islands landings. Her 16-inch guns were then employed on Saipan and Tinian, while she also screened American aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where anti-aircraft fire from New Jersey and other screening vessels proved virtually impenetrable.
USS New Jersey later served as flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet and took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf; and as part of Rear Admiral Oscar C. Badger II, commander of Battleship 7 Division, supported the assault on Iwo Jima and then Okinawa.
Highly decorated warship
It’s not just crews that win medals. Warships receive a variety of awards – highlighting the deeds of the entire crew. In total, USS New Jersey earned nine battle stars for service in World War II, another four for Korea, three for the Vietnam War, and three for action in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf region.
The warship also received the Navy Unit Commendation for Vietnam service, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation of the Republic of the Philippines and the Presidential Unit Citation of the Republic of Korea. This made her the most decorated battleship in United States history.
His first retreats
After World War II, many of the US Navy’s majestic battleships were broken up and sold for scrap. Luckily USS New Jersey avoided such a fate. While decommissioned, she remained in the reserve fleet and was recommissioned during the Korean War, where the BB-62 served as the flagship of Vice Admiral Harold M. Martin. On 20 May 1951, she fired her first short bombardment in the conflict and took part in several subsequent sea sorties against Communist targets.
USS New Jersey remained active until 1957, when it was decommissioned a second time. However, she was briefly called up during the Vietnam War – becoming the only battleship to take part in the conflict in Southeast Asia, from 1967 to 1969. During this time the warship fired over 5,600 rounds with its 16-inch guns and nearly 15,000 with the five-inch guns. While preparing for a second tour of Vietnam, she was ordered inactivated and decommissioned in December 1969.
Back to service again
In the early 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan called for a US Navy of 600 ships, the four Iowa-class battleships have been reactivated and improved. This included new combat systems that replaced many of the ships’ smaller five-inch guns with Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, 32 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and four Phalanx close-in weapons systems (CIWS). USS New Jersey and her sister battleships were rearmed for late Cold War threats.
The battleship again fired her big guns in combat during the Lebanon Crisis of 1983-84 and later deployed to the Western Pacific in 1986 and 1989-90, the latter cruise extending to the Persian Gulf region. .
Registered as a museum
In 1991 she was decommissioned for the last time, and eight years later the USS New Jersey was towed from Bremerton to Philadelphia for final docking as a museum ship in Camden, New Jersey. The “Big J” was opened to the public as a museum ship on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.
the New Jersey opened as a museum ship on October 15, 2001, and since then has continued to preserve the warship’s history while being one of the most interactive museums in the country. Guided tours are available, but visitors can explore the ship and walk on more than seven different decks, which help show just how massive the battleship was – and it’s easy to see how more than 1,900 sailors could easily call the ship home.
She’s in good company – because just across the Delaware River is the flagship of the US Navy from the Spanish-American War era. Olympia (C-6), which has also been preserved as a museum ship.
fight for his life
The biggest threat to the USS New Jersey is not a Japanese suicide bomber or even Russian hypersonic missiles. It was the elements of New Jersey that wreaked havoc on the ship’s deck and hull. It would cost $10,000 a day to keep the museum ship afloat on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia.
The Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum, which is located on the Camden waterfront on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia, recently received a $500,000 grant from the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund that will help renovate the bridge and to carry out other necessary maintenance work.
Today’s editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a contributing writer for Forbes.