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Step Into A Sailor’s Shoes: Battleship NJ Museum & Memorial

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Battleship New Jersey photo by Trevor ReynoldsWhen peering across the Delaware River at our neighboring state, New Jersey, you’ve probably glanced at the large blue ship that seems to be guarding its shore. Should you cross over to the Camden Waterfront and come face to face with the battleship, you will become captivated not only by its grand presence, but also by its awe-inspiring history. 

The Battleship NJ, otherwise known as “BB62,” “Big J,” and “Black Dragon,” was the 62nd battleship to be built and was commissioned in 1943 after 2.5 years of construction. After serving several heroic decades at sea in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon, she “began her Final Voyage home from Bremerton” in 1999, arriving in Philadelphia where she would be restored and then reopened in 2001 as a museum and “a tribute to the brave sailors who served on her during her long and distinguished career.” The moment you reach the gangplank, connecting land to ship, patriotic music swells from the deck as if an orchestra is aboard celebrating its 19 battle and campaign stars, making it the most decorated battleship in U.S. history. 

As you take the first step aboard and realize that the ship is just shy of three football fields in length (the world’s longest battleship), you’ll be glad that you remembered to wear comfortable shoes. Whether you choose to take a closer look at your own pace on a self guided or be led by an expert on a docent guided journey, be prepared for an interactive experience that follows in the steps of a sailor as you climb ladders, walk through passageways and move from level to level throughout the massive museum. 

Although the ship offers great insight into military details and escapades with tales of captains, tomahawks and battles, some of its most interesting artifacts and stories can be found in the dental office, medial exam room, post office and barber’s shop that offer deeper insight into the daily life of sailor. 

Beyond its worldly titles, some of the most surprising ship statistics come straight from the kitchen. One might expect to hear of hearty meals that fueled the sailors. Although beyond the main meal, the ship was known to make 10,000 chocolate cookies and over 1,000 quarts of ice cream in just one day. 

Battleship New Jersey photo by Trevor ReynoldsWhen not satisfying a sweet tooth, the sailors enjoyed their well-deserved downtime by watching closed circuit TV programming on Televisions installed during the 80’s (the rumor is that the Smurfs were a sailor favorite). They were even inspired by the brand new channel, MTV, to create music videos of their own, known as Battle-Rock. After filming their daily tasks, the sailors would step into the TV studio and set those ship scenes to rock music that would then be played throughout the ship. 

As the tour comes to an end, you might experience a true sense of appreciation for the sailors who called this ship home. When you pass the white walls erected in 2002 to serve as a place where returning veterans could leave their marks in form of signature, message or inside joke, the museum will truly feel more like a memorial. And while you soak in the sailor life experience, take a closer look at the people passing by your tour, as an average of one veteran per day visits the ship in summer months. 

As you take the first step back onto dry land, you might find that your mind is saturated with tales and legs to be tired, but above all you’ll have discovered a new sense of appreciation for the men and women who spent some of their lives at sea. 

For more information, directions, hours and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/visit/   

Take the round trip Waterfront Connection Shuttle from Philadelphia’s Independence Visit Center to the Battleship for just $2 until September 7th.