Growing up with a battleship

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Some of my earliest memories of my dad would be of him telling friends about his service on the Battleship New Jersey during World War II.

He had a log book of the places his ship visited during the war and details of its adventures.

He also had a photo album of pictures taken on the ship. He would show the pictures and explain where each was taken.

He never tired of telling stories about this great ship.

When I was young, one of my favorite activities was building plastic models of planes, ships and tanks.

On one of my visits to the local hobby shop, I found a model of the New Jersey.

I immediately bought it and took it home and built it.

I gave it to my dad and from then on, whenever he told his stories about BB-62, he would point to the model and show where the pictures were taken, or the different size guns, or some other area of the ship he knew so well.

Dad is long gone, but I still have the model of his ship.

Until recently, I had the logbook from the ship and the photo album.

A year ago, I gave them to our grandson, Benjamin, to take to his senior class in high school for World War II history class.

He showed them my favorite picture in the album.

During the war, the New Jersey was struck by a Japanese bomb. The bomb broke through the main wooden deck of the ship, continued on through the second deck, and finally came to a stop stuck in the third deck. It didn’t explode. The picture in the book shows this bomb stuck in the third deck. I’m sure there was some tense moments as the demolition crew on the ship disarmed this device before it exploded.

In the late ‘60s, my brother, Butch, was sent to Vietnam. He was an Airborne Ranger.

He was there I believe in 1968. This was when some of the worst fighting was occurring there. Dad always said we didn’t have to worry about Butch because the New Jersey was sitting in the waters off Vietnam to help protect our guys.

Both my dad and brother made it home safe from their respective wars.

The USS New Jersey (BB-62) is the most decorated battleship in Navy history. It earned distinction in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and conflicts in the Middle East, earning 19 Battle and Campaign stars.

She first sailed on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and according to the records, she sailed more miles, fought in more battles and fired more shells in combat than any other battleship in history.

Today, the New Jersey continues her service as a living museum offering tours of this great ship.

Having said all of that, I recently attended the annual conference of the Hoosier Outdoor Writers, A friend of mine was there and knew I made wooden pens from assorted different woods. He asked if I had ever turned a pen made with wood from the New Jersey. I had to inquire further. Where would I get that kind of wood? He opened his phone and Googled Battleship New Jersey, Museum and Memorial. He showed me they were currently removing the decking, and selling the planks to pay to purchase new decking for the ship. I had to have some!

I went to the site and found they offered much more. Wood from the deck was priced from $10 to $250 depending on the size. I ordered a piece 12 inches long, four and a half inches wide and two inches thick. It cost $100. (The $250 piece is two feet long.) I plan on cutting the wood to size and making as many wooden pens as possible from this wood. Maybe my dad actually walked on that during his time aboard. I plan on giving a pen to all the members of my family. Any extra I will sell to Navy veterans who are interested.

While on the site, I noticed they offered U.S. flags in two different sizes. I ordered a four foot by six foot flag. The flag will be one which has flown from the main mast aboard the New Jersey. It comes with a certificate of authenticity. When I am gone, I’m sure our grandson will treasure this memento.

Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].