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Famed battleship USS New Jersey floating down Delaware River to Philadelphia for maintenance

Famed battleship USS New Jersey floating down Delaware River to Philadelphia for maintenance

A famed battleship floated down the Delaware River on Thursday as the USS New Jersey left its dock in Camden, New Jersey, on its way to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for extensive maintenance work.

The vessel, guided by tugboats, was first headed to the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, where it will be balanced to prepare for dry docking and will then go to the navy yard in six days.

The maintenance work is expected to take about two months to complete, officials said. Three major repair projects are planned, including repainting the ship’s hull, fixing the anti-corrosion system underneath the ship and inspecting through-hull openings.

The battleship, which was built in the 1940s in Philadelphia, served for about 50 years before its retirement in February 1991. It has been a floating museum since 2001. The ship was built at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and was launched there on Dec. 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor.

The ship is the most decorated battleship in Navy history, earning distinction in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and conflicts in the Middle East, according to its website. The ship steamed more miles, fought in more battles and fired more shells in combat than any other battleship.

Thursday's ceremony was attended by veterans who served aboard the ship, including Capt. Walter M. Urban Jr., who was a public affairs officer from 1970 to 2000, serving with both the Army and Navy Reserve. He worked aboard the battleship in February 1985 and February 1991 and remembers those times fondly.

“You always felt the presence of those who walked the decks before you,” Urban said. “She was born in a time of war, was a symbol of our great country at that time ... to be part of that history and see her today about 81 years later is fascinating.”

Ryan Szimanski, the battleship's curator, said moving the ship could be “a once in a generation occurrence." He described the ship as ”one of the most impressive man-made objects ever," noting it's the size of a 90-story office building, can displace 57,500 tons and can move through the water at about 38 mph (61 kph).

Szimanski said there are some concerns about the move, mainly due to the ship's age, but believes things will go smoothly.