Like everything in 2020, the Battleship New Jersey’s annual commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor is being modified for the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday at 10:30 a.m., as is custom on the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, the battleship will observe a solemn wreath casting and fire her salute gun. Bugler Nan LaCorte, a museum volunteer, will play Taps.
But the ceremonies will not be open to the public. Instead, they will be live-streamed on Facebook, said Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial spokesperson Jack Willard. The museum’s commemoration is part of Camden County’s observance, which begins at 10 a.m. online at camdencounty.com then continues on the museum Facebook page @BattleshipNJ.
Later, at 2 p.m. on the battleship museum’s YouTube channel, curator Ryan Szimanski will narrate a video commemorating the ship’s launch on Dec. 7, 1942, one year to the date after the Pearl Harbor attack.
That’s not a coincidence, of course.
Construction of the USS New Jersey was already well underway at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,400 service members and wounded a thousand more. Her keel had been laid in 1938. Then, “once the attack took place, everything was revved up,” Willard said.
“To launch this new giant and technologically advanced battleship that same day a year later,” he said, “was kind of a lift for the American spirit at that time.”
“What’s interesting is when they launched it, she went backward and kind of got stuck in the mud on the Jersey side,” he said. “The Navy spun it as the battleship ‘wanted to kiss her namesake state.’”
In addition to airing the Facebook Live ceremonies and the YouTube video, the battleship museum will host an in-person Pearl Harbor-themed tour — on the battleship’s deck and below — at 1 p.m. Monday. It’s designed to be family-friendly, and tour participants will be the only visitors on the battleship because normal visiting hours are currently weekends only.
The cost is $30 for adults, $20 for children 12 and under.
A similar but more technical Pearl Harbor tour designed for adults, at the same price and going deeper inside the ship, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. On both of those Friday dates, tour members will again have the battleship to themselves, along with museum staff.
All three tours will detail the differences between Iowa-class battleships such as the USS New Jersey and the earlier models of U.S. warships that had come under attack at Pearl Harbor.
The ship’s gun turrets are one noteworthy upgrade, Willard said. “The armament is much thicker and stronger, and the size is bigger.”