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Battleship New Jersey returns to Camden after months of maintenance

Legendary Battleship New Jersey makes grand return to Camden after extensive maintenance
Legendary Battleship New Jersey makes grand return to Camden after extensive maintenance 02:18

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – After a more than two-hour journey, the Battleship New Jersey is docked and back home in Camden.

On Thursday morning, the historic ship left the Paulsboro Marine Terminal to complete the fourth and final leg of its 12-week dry dock journey. The ship's CEO, Marshall Spevak, called it a once-in-a-generation experience.

"She's in the best shape she's been in since she left the active service in the late 80s, so we're really proud to finally be heading home back to Camden," Spevak said.

CBS News Philadelphia hopped on board the "Big J" for the historic moment as the ship was led by the Coast Guard and pulled by four tugboats.

With the Philly skyline in the distance, the most decorated battleship in the 248-year history of the United States Navy headed home. The ship was a commissioned military vessel for 50 years, serving through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and conflicts in the Middle East.

"Even though we are underway by tug, we are still underway, and probably the last time I will get to be underway," said Ken Kersch, who served two years on the USS New Jersey during the Vietnam War.

Kersch paused to reflect on the unique experience as the ship cruised up the Delaware River.

"It's history, its heritage, this was part of my life for two years, so it's meaningful," Kersch said.

With traffic stopped overhead, the Battleship New Jersey passed under the Walt Whitman Bridge with about 10 feet to spare.

For the past 12 weeks, the ship underwent extensive maintenance and repairs. The work included removing marine growth on the hull, repainting the hull and inspecting the through-hull openings and other sensitive areas.

Commissioner Melinda Kane said the work in Paulsboro was meant to extend the ship's lifespan.

Battleship NJ ready to return home to Camden, NJ today 03:58

"It is an incredible piece of history that completes the Camden Waterfront, and we have eagerly been awaiting its return," Kane said.

Dave Boone has spent 23 years volunteering on board. He soaked up every moment Thursday, as a crowd of people welcomed the ship home at the Camden Pier.

"It's goosebumps, chills," Boone said. "It's indescribable, and I'm taking two of my buddies who passed away this year with me," said Boone, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the pictures of his friends.


The captain of the PCU New Jersey, the battleship's sister ship, was also on board. The submarine will be commissioned in September. On that day, the USS New Jersey will be back in the active fleet for the first time since the Battleship was decommissioned.

"It's that rich history, it's the ability for the crew to kind of be in touch with that navy heritage and history is phenomenal," said Capt. Steven Halle.

Spevak said he is planning to reopen the Battleship to the public in two weeks, just in time for the Fourth of July. 

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