USS New Jersey to leave port for first time in 24 years, big guns will fire salute: 'I love this ship'

Ken Kersch speaks about the USS New Jersey as if it were a warm old friend instead of cold steel military hardware. “I love this ship,” said Kersch, who spent four years in the U.S. Navy (1966-70).

“It’s the best ship I served on. She was a part of my life for two years. She’s a part of me now.”

Kersch was a machinist on the USS New Jersey from 1967 to 1969, as the battleship supported land operations during the Vietnam War.

NAVY SEAL COACHING PROGRAM OFFERS ‘FULL RESET’ IN HEALTH AND WELLNESS: ‘NOTHING SHORT OF LIFE-CHANGING’

Now, on Thursday, he will ride aboard Big J again. She is scheduled to leave her mooring in Camden, New Jersey at 12:10 p.m. for the first time since arriving in 2000.

The dauntless dreadnought is now the centerpiece of the Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial.

Battleship USS New Jersey firing a salvo during deployment off Beirut, Lebanon, Jan 9, 1984. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

She’s being tugged six miles down the Delaware River for drydock maintenance at Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The New Jersey is expected to return to Camden in two months.

Kersch, a machinist during his active service, will fire the guns of the USS New Jersey as it departs its home port and again in response to a salute from Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia.

“It’s a historic homecoming,” Marshall Spevak, CEO of The Homeport Alliance, the nonprofit that operates the ship, told Fox News Digital.

He said visitors will have the rare opportunity to walk under the battleship as it’s suspended in Philadelphia drydock.

Ken Kersch, left, and his grandson, Dakota Shaerrin, aboard the USS New Jersey, circa 2010. U.S. Navy veteran Kersch served on the battleship during the Vietnam War and has worked for the Battleship New Jersey Museum in Camden, New Jersey, since 2001.  (Courtesy Ken Kersch)

The USS New Jersey was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and launched Dec. 7, 1942 — exactly one year to the day after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into World War II.

“She supported every amphibious campaign of the Pacific War from 1943 onward,” said Spevak.

MEET THE AMERICAN WHO ROWED WASHINGTON ACROSS THE DELAWARE ON CHRISTMAS: SAILOR-SOLDIER JOHN GLOVER

She went on to an unprecedented career of service, active for 21 years across six decades.

The USS New Jersey fought in the Korean War, was placed in reserve, then recommissioned for duty in Vietnam.

President Ronald Reagan speaks during re-commissioning ceremony of the USS New Jersey at Long Beach Naval Shipyard in California, December 28, 1982. It was the battleship’s fourth re-commissioning. (Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

She was already the world’s last active battleship in the late 1960s, as big-gun warcraft were considered a vestige of outdated naval warfare.

Yet the USS New Jersey was modernized and reactivated again in 1981, as part of President Ronald Reagan’s pledge to create a “600-ship Navy.”

MEET THE AMERICAN WHO WAS THE ‘WORKING MAN’ FOUNDING FATHER, IRISH IRONSMITH GEORGE TAYLOR

The battleship was sent to the Eastern Mediterranean during the Lebanese Civil War in 1984, firing hundreds of shells on Syrian military positions.

She remained in active service until 1990 and arrived at its home in Camden in 2000. The Battleship New Jersey Museum opened in October 2001.

The USS New Jersey is launched in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dec. 7, 1942, one year after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The 45,000-ton Iowa-class vessel was the largest battleship in the US Navy.  (Getty Images)

“She’s the most decorated ship in history, she’s the longest battleship in history and she’s also the fastest battleship in history,” said Kersh, who has worked for the Battleship New Jersey Museum since its inception.

He was on the ship in 1968 when it sailed at 35.2 knots — just over 40 miles per hour.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

But it’s not the impressive capabilities, courage or combat record that endeared Petty Officer 2nd Class Kersch to the USS New Jersey.

It was her captain and crew.

The Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial, in Camden, New Jersey. (Courtesy Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial)

“When I came to the New Jersey, the crew was young but seasoned,” he said. “Everybody worked together. There was harmony to the way we worked. It was a family atmosphere.”

He remains dutifully devoted to Captain J. Edward Snyder, who was a 44-year-old World War II veteran when he sailed the USS New Jersey to Vietnam in 1968.

“He was a sailor’s captain. He took care of the crew. He really took care of the men. He made everything on that ship better.”

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.

Check Also

Camels run loose at amusement park with guests 'jumping into pens': 'That dude almost died'

Two camels made a great escape on Tuesday after they broke out of their enclosure …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *