‘Big J’ is back at the Camden waterfront

The Battleship New Jersey came back to its home in Camden on June 20, after 12 weeks of maintenance at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

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The ship’s return to the city’s waterfront was met with an enthusiastic reception by onlookers, some of whom cheered for the vessel when it left its berth in March and headed to the yard – guided by tugboats – after a stop in Paulsboro.

Maintenance work on the 82-year-old battleship – also known as “Big J” – involved painting the ship’s hull, fixing the anti-corrosion system underneath and inspecting through-hull openings. The cost of the work was estimated at $10 million.

County Commissioner Melinda Kane was among officials in Camden for the return of the battleship, the most decorated in U.S. Navy history.

“For the past three months, the 82-year-old vessel has undergone extensive maintenance work to support its lifespan,” she noted. “It is an incredible piece of history that completes the Camden waterfront, and we have eagerly been awaiting its return.”

“Big J” was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and launched a year later on Dec. 7, 1943, a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, according to the battleship website.

At 887 feet long, 45,000 tons and four stories high, it earned distinction in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and conflicts in the Middle East, seeing more action than any other U.S. battleship. It was decommissioned in 1991.

Festivities on the waterfront to mark the ship’s return began at 11 a.m.; the vessel itself showed up at about 1:20. Attendees were treated to food trucks; live music; and carnival games, among other activities. Other officials at the event included Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. and Deputy Director Ed McDonnell; Ted Gallagher, director of the Camden County Office of Veterans Affairs; and Marshall Spevak, the ship’s CEO.

Spevak addressed the impact of the battleship and its accompanying museum on the waterfront, where it has drawn visitors since 2001.

“It is the start of taking this museum to another level, and I’m really proud of the crew that we have here on our team and with tremendous supporters,” he said of the ship’s dry dock. “I think we’re really poised to really up our game here.”

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