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Tale of Two Ships: Battleship New Jersey Returning to Camden. SS United States Needs a New Home

Tale of Two Ships: Battleship New Jersey Returning to Camden.  SS United States Needs a New Home
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Updates on the Delaware River’s two famous ships; Battleship New Jersey returns to its Camden home on Thursday, June 20th.  Meanwhile a Federal Judge has decided the SS United States (which has been docked in South Philadelphia near IKEA) must find a new home.

The Battleship New Jersey has been undergoing a highly publicized $10 million maintenance project which required it to be moved for the first time in almost 25 years. Since March the battleship has been dry docked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  With that work now completed, it is making its return trip this week.

USS Battleship New Jersey, temporary dock in Paulsboro (June 16, 2024)

The other famous Delaware River ship is the SS United States which is the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States, and has the record for the fastest ocean liner crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.  The gutted historic ship has been berthed in Philadelphia, and since 2011 it has been fully owned by the SS United States Conservancy who has been working towards finding a permanent use and home for the ship.

SS United States – South Philadelphia

On Sunday I had an opportunity to visit the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse in Paulsboro NJ (Facebook) which gave an excellent view of the Battleship New Jersey, which is spending a few days docked in Paulsboro to adjust the ballast for its trip up the river and under the Walt Whitman Bridge to Camden.

The Paulsboro lighthouse goes back to 1880 and is still in use and owned by the Coast Guard, but visitor access and facilities are maintained by a volunteer group.   Tours are held every Third Sunday of month from April-October. I’ll have more on the lighthouse very soon!

Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse, Paulsboro NJ (Facebook)

USS New Jersey Battleship

The USS New Jersey is the most decorated battleship in US Navy history having participated in World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and conflicts in the Middle East.

Initially designed in 1938, the Battleship New Jersey was commissioned on December 7th 1942 just one year after the Pearl Harbor attack brought America into World War 2.

The battleship was constructed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, an effort which required a significant expansion of the yard’s “slipway” to accommodate the massive ship.

As a side not, to support the growth of workers building ships in Philadelphia and Camden many area neighborhoods were developed such as Bellmawr Park which opened in that same year of 1942!

Battleship USS New Jersey March 21, 2024. iPhone image from the Spirit of Philadelphia

The name of the battleship was given by Charles Edison, son of famous New Jersey inventor Thomas Edison.  Charles was the acting Secretary of the Navy at the time and he chose the name “New Jersey” to honor his home state.

Over the years the battleship was commissioned and decommissioned multiple times as different global conflicts erupted, and in the 1980s she was modernized to carry missiles.

In 1991 The USS New Jersey was decommissioned at her home port in Long Beach CA, but the New Jersey remained in the reserve fleet until 2000.  In 1999 Congress allowed the Navy to turn the USS New Jersey into a museum provided she was moored in New Jersey territorial waters.

In 2001 less than two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks the USS New Jersey was moved to a permanent berth at the Camden waterfront and then in October of the same year it opened as a museum and memorial.

USS New Jersey Battleship – June 16, 2024. Temporary dock in Paulsboro NJ

Today the Battleship New Jersey is maintained by nonprofit organization Home Port Alliance for the USS New Jersey.

Recognizing that after more than two decades docked in the Delaware River as a museum, it was necessary to perform maintenance on the battleship with a core goal of positioning her for several more decades sharing this important part of American history… positioned along the Camden waterfront.

On Thursday June 20th, after more than two months in dry dock in Philadelphia… the USS New Jersey is making her trip back to Camden!

The first stop along the way took place recently, which was across the river to Paulsboro NJ, where the ballast water used to manage how high the ship sits in the river will be adjusted.  On Thursday the New Jersey will make the trip back up the Delaware River, under the Walt Whitman bridge and home to Camden.

USS Battleship New Jersey March 21, 2024. iPhone image from the Spirit of Philadelphia

The battleship is expected back at her pier on the Camden Waterfront at 1:24 PM on June 20th.

There are several ways to celebrate the return of USS New Jersey. At the Camden dock location there will be an official return celebration. The event is free (previously $10)! The party includes musical performances, as well as available food and beverage options (at additional cost).

The Spirit of Philadelphia is having a cruise which will have be on the river with the battleship!  I took advantage of this when New Jersey was leaving Camden back in March and I really enjoyed the ride on the spirit of Philadelphia and the delicious gourmet lunch.

Spirit of Philadelphia – Battleship New Jersey Viewing Cruise!

SS United States – Needs a New Home

The SS United States at 1,000 foot is longer than the Battleship New Jersey (and the Titanic) and still holds this transatlantic speed record it set back in 1952!

A Federal judge ruled on Friday that the historic ship which has been docked in South Philadelphia across from IKEA, has until September 12th to move out.

This gives the SS United States Conservancy about 90 days to find the historic ship a new home.

The reason for this action was in August of 2021, the owners Penn Warehousing doubled the dockage fee for the ship and the Conservancy refused to accept that increase… Continuing to pay the original amount.

The final ruling from the judge was that the Conservancy did not owe the back fees from the doubled “rent” which was a win to the Conservancy, but the judge also ruled the SS United States had to find a new home… which was a win for the dock owners.

SS United States – South Philadelphia (2022)

The SS United States was christened in 1952 and for 17 years was a luxury transatlantic ocean liner for top celebrities, political leaders and royal families.

As mentioned she is the largest ocean liner built entirely in United States and also the fastest ocean liner in the world to cross the Atlantic in either direction!   Consider that this was a steam powered ship!

While the SS United States was in operation for 17 years it really was only five years after its first launch that it started feeling the impacts of the growing commercial airline industry.  In 1957, for the first time airplanes carried more passengers across the Atlantic than Ocean Liners.

SS United States – South Philadelphia (2022)

With the collapse of the owner United States Lines in the late 1960s, the ship was removed from service in 1969.  

While the ship had its last use in 1969, 15 years later in 1984 it still had the original fittings and furniture in place.. which at that time were then auctioned off to pay creditors!

Today the interior has been basically stripped out of all its inside components which in some ways is a positive if anyone were to step up with ideas and funding to convert it into some other commercial use.

SS United States – South Philadelphia (2022)

Surprisingly in the 90s the ship made its way to Turkey and the Ukraine before being brought back to Philadelphia in 1996.

The SS United States Conservancy has been raising funds to save this ship which requires a considerable amount of money just to keep the ship sitting there at the Philadelphia dock!

With the judges action taking place just a few days ago, at this point the conservancy has not stated its plans for the historic ship