By Carol Comegno
CAMDEN – Gigantic gun barrels 66 feet long and 16 inches in diameter lay in a Virginia field nearly forgotten.
They helped in World War II and the Korean War with their awesome firepower when they were aboard the Iowa-class Battleship New Jersey, now retired as a museum on the city waterfront.
Since being replaced on the ship 61 years ago in 1954, they have been resting outside a naval facility in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Now officials at the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial are trying to bring them to Camden for display near the ship before they are sold for scrap.
One of three original barrels from forward Turret No. 1 already has been claimed from its graveyard by the Monmouth County Park Commission and is on display at a military park there. The CEO of the Camden museum where the ship rests wants the other two.
On Friday, CEO Philip Rowan and museum development director Clark Perks traveled to Virginia to inspect the old weaponry at St. Julien’s Creek Naval Annex.
“I talked to the Navy, our curatorial committee and my board and we would need to raise a considerable amount of money — $150,000 to $200,000 — to bring them back home,” Rowan said.
“They are some of the original and still existing gun barrels from the New Jersey that helped defeat Japan in WWII and halt the Communist advance in Korea.”
He said shipping the guns from Virginia by barge would be preferable since they could be delivered to the South Jersey Port Corp. adjacent to the battleship museum.
The battleship has three turrets housing a total of nine, 6-inch, 50mm weapons that look like cannons but are rifles. The Battleship New Jersey has 19 campaign stars, with most awarded for the ship’s service in the Pacific during World War II in the 1940s and the Korean War in the early 1950s.