History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS New Jersey (BB-62), nicknamed “Big J,” was ordered for the U.S. Navy on July 1, 1939. Her keep was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on September 16, 1940. She was launched on December 7, 1942 and commissioned on May 23, 1943 under the command of Captain Carl F. Holden.
During World War II, USS New Jersey was involved in many operations, including Operation Hailstone at Truk, the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Mille, the Palaus, Woleai, Aitape, Humboldt Bay, Ponape, the Marianas, Saipan, and Tinian. She was involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea before becoming the flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. of the United States Third Fleet on August 24, 1944.
The USS New Jersey was based out of Ulithi to support operations in the waters off the Philippines, Okinawa, and Formosa for eight months. She helped target the Visayas, the southern Philippines, Manila, Cavite, Panay, Negros, Leyte, Cebu, Okinawa, and Formosa before the landings on Leyte on October 20, 1944.
After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, USS New Jersey joined the carrier group to support the strikes on Luzon. The carrier group was attacked by kamikazes on October 27, 1944. While trying to fight off the attack, gunfire from the USS Intrepid hit and injured three USS New Jersey crew members.
Typhoon Cobra hit on December 18, 1944 while Task Force 38 was refueling in the Philippine Sea. Three destroyers were lost, but the USS New Jersey and the other battleships in the group remained mostly unharmed.
On January 29, 1945, the USS New Jersey became the flagship of Rear Admiral Oscar C. Badger II, Commander Battleship Division 7. She supported the assault on Iwo Jima in February before moving on to Okinawa in March. The battleship was overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard before heading to Eniwetok, Guam, Manila, Okinawa, and finally Tokyo Bay. In January 1946, she joined in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing nearly 1,000 American troops home with her to San Francisco.
After World War II, USS New Jersey took part in many training exercises and ceremonial events until she was decommissioned on June 30, 1948. She was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until she was recommissioned on November 21, 1950 at the start of the Korean War.
The USS New Jersey served as the flagship of Vice Admiral Harold M. Martin, Commander Seventh Fleet. She bombarded targets at Wonsan in May 1951. During the operation, she took a hit from a shore battery to her No. 1 turret, killing one man and severely injuring two others. She later bombarded targets at Yangyang, Kansong, and again at Wonsan. She supported operations at Changjon in late summer.
During October, USS New Jersey was involved in operations at Hamhung, Hungnam, Tanchon, Songjin, Kojo, and Kansong. In November, she moved on to Wonsan, Hungnam, Tanchon, Iowon, Songjin, Chongjin, and the Chang-San-Got Peninsula. She headed to the Norfolk Navy Yard for overhaul in December.
USS New Jersey returned to Korea on April 5, 1953. The following week, she became the flagship of Vice Admiral Joseph H. Clark, Commander Seventh Fleet. She bombarded targets at Chongjin two days before receiving the President of the Republic of Korea and Madame Rhee, and American Ambassador Ellis O. Briggs.
The USS New Jersey fired at targets at Kojo, Hungnam, Wonsan, Songjin, Hodo Pando, Kalmagak, and Chinampo until the end of May. She supported troops at Kosong on June 7 before returning to bombard Wonsan again on June 24. The battleship’s crew celebrated the truce when they anchored at Hong Kong on August 20, 1953. She again visited Pusan and was boarded by President Rhee, who presented the Korean Presidential Unit Citation to the Seventh Fleet.
After the Korean War, USS New Jersey joined the United States Sixth Fleet in a tour of the Mediterranean. She was decommissioned on August 21, 1957.
The beginning of the Vietnam War saw the USS New Jersey recommissioned on April 6, 1968 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard with Captain J. Edward Snyder in command. The world’s only active battleship at the time, she arrived at her new homeport at Long Beach Naval Shipyard on June 11 for training before heading to Vietnam.
She fired against targets throughout the waters off the Vietnamese coast, including the most destructive bombardment of her tour of Vietnam at Quang Ngai on November 25, 1968. After destroying countless targets, the USS New Jersey headed to Japan in April 1969. She joined a carrier task force when a surveillance plane was shot down in the Sea of Japan before returning to her homeport on May 5, 1969. The battleship was decommissioned on December 17, 1969.
USS New Jersey was reactivated again on December 28, 1982. She was modernized for the task at Long Beach Naval Shipyard with extensive upgrades to her armaments and defense systems. The battleship was deployed to aid the Marines at the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War. She was stationed outside Beirut for many months, receiving Bob Hope and the USO for a show on Christmas Eve 1983.
After Lebanon, the USS New Jersey joined the Pacific Fleet with operational control of her own battleship battle group, cruising from Hawaii to Thailand in 1986. After an overhaul at Long Beach, she operated near the coast of Korea before the opening of the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korean in 1988.
The USS New Jersey was decommissioned for the last time on February 8, 1991. She was removed from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1995, but was reinstated to the list after the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996. She was struck from the list again in 1999 and now serves as a museum ship, Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial. She received nine battle stars for her service in World War II, four battle stars for the Korean War, two battle stars for the Vietnam War, and four battle stars for service in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf. With a Navy Unit Commendation and Presidential Unit Citations from Korea and the Philippines, the USS New Jersey is the most decorated battleship in naval history.
Like nearly all other ships of her time, USS New Jersey was built using a number of asbestos-containing materials. Anyone who worked on or around the battleship may be at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, or colorectal cancer.
USS New Jersey workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS New Jersey, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.