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Check out the mighty battleship USS New Jersey from keel to conning tower

1 of 50 Geoff Morrison/CNET

USS New Jersey

The WWII-era USS New Jersey was the second Iowa-class battleship completed. It’s currently a museum ship in, fittingly, New Jersey.

For the full story about our tour, and this incredible ship, check out “Exploring one of the greatest battleships in history: The USS New Jersey.”

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‘Big J’

The New Jersey was launched in December 1942. 

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Ultimate battleship

She’s just over 887 feet long and displaces 57,500 tons.  

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Inside the turret 1

Each gun turret is both a complex machine and a multi-story building. 

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Loading mechanism

Here is a shell in position to be loaded. Each weighs upward of 2 tons. We’ll see where these shells are stored and how they get up here a little later. 

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Windlass

After touring the gun turret, we head below decks. This is the windlass room that holds the equipment required to haul the New Jersey’s two 30,000-pound anchors and 12,000 pounds of chain.

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Crew berths

Typical crew complement was 1,921 officers and enlisted sailors.

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XO

These are the quarters of the Executive Officer in charge of the crew. The XO had a large(ish) bed, cabin and private head (bathroom).

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Officer country

The Officers’ Lounge is the living room for the dozens of officers on the ship. They could relax here, but still had to be in uniform.

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Officers’ wardroom

Adjacent to the Officers’ Lounge is the officers’ wardroom, where they ate all their meals.

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Captain’s in-port cabin

This rather lavish space was used by the captain when in port, and to eat his meals. He also had a cabin closer to the bridge to use when at sea.

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Hello!

The captain’s in-port cabin, featuring a cameo by yours truly.

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Good eats

With nearly 2,000 mouths to feed, the ship’s galley was always busy.

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Enlisted mess

This is one section of the expansive mess for the crew’s enlisted men.

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CPO

The higher-ranking enlisted men were called chief petty officers, and they had access to some areas off limits to lower-rank enlisted men. These areas weren’t quite as lavish as the officer’s areas.

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Medical

As you’d expect on a warship, there are extensive medical bays to take care of wounded sailors.

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Into the turret

We’re now heading down into the multistory gun turret, which rotates with the guns. This is the lower part of the hoist that we saw earlier where the shells are brought up to be loaded before firing.

Typically, the New Jersey would carry both armor-piercing and high-explosive shells.

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Down we go

While the shells are stacked around the edges, the gunpowder is stored deep within the ship in heavily armored and (hopefully) spark-free environments.

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3×3

The powder bags are loaded in this elevator. On the right is a stainless-steel immersion tank. If there was any kind of problem, a sailor could dunk the gunpowder to prevent explosion or fire.

At maximum charge, each gun would require six 110-pound silk bags of gunpowder.

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Powder magazine

While the explosive shells are certainly dangerous (that’s the point!), they’re significantly less likely to accidentally ignite and explode than gunpowder. Each of these tubes would have held three bags of gunpowder. They’re loaded on the brass slide, passed through a rotating airlock and then sent up the elevator you saw in the previous slide.

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Gun control

Despite being from the analog age, the main guns on the New Jersey were remarkably accurate thanks to highly sophisticated analog computers.

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Rangekeeper

Thanks to extensive work by volunteers, this is believed to be the only working Rangekeeper of its era.

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Trigger

Yep, this is just a brass-handled trigger to fire a 67-foot long gun. The trigger on the left sounded an alarm, the trigger in the middle let the firing computer fire at what it determined was the best time and the one on the right manually fired the shell immediately.

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Broadway

Running nearly the length of the ship, the passage called Broadway is a sight to behold.

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Auxiliary Steering

The big, ominous container is one of the ship’s two gyrocompasses.

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Radio transmitter room

The New Jersey had eight different radio rooms. This one primarily transmitted signals from the ship. 

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Into the engines

It takes a lot of equipment to move something that displaces over 60,000 tons at nearly 38 mph.

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Boilers

Eight boilers burned fuel oil to create steam for four (high- and low-pressure) turbines. 

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Reduction

The turbines, spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute, used huge reduction gears to spin the prop shaft at a just a few hundred rpm.

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Rollers

The reduction gear connects to this, the prop shaft, which turns the propeller. The New Jersey had two four-bladed, 18.25-foot propellers and two five-bladed, 17-foot propellers.

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Looking up

This long ladder gets you up to Broadway.

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Pumps

A tremendous amount of water is required not just to keep nearly 2,000 sailors hydrated and occasionally showered, but also to run the steam turbines. This pump moves seawater to evaporators to create pure water.

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Fan tail

Six of the New Jersey’s main guns face forward and the other three face aft. Each can be fired and aimed independently. 

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Flight ops

The New Jersey has always carried some aircraft to aid its mission. Originally it was seaplanes, then helicopters and later drones. During the helicopter era, the Helo Control Officer sat here with a commanding view of the flight deck.

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TV

The New Jersey had a fully functional TV station. Here you can see the control room. The crew used the soundproof booth on the right as a makeshift radio station, playing music from eight-tracks and later, cassettes.

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Ready camera 1

The TV station, broadcast internally via CCTV, was mostly used for shipwide notifications, training, entertainment and news.  

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Chief of Staff stateroom

This room is all that remains of the WWII-era admiral’s facilities. The rest has been repurposed for more modern-era equipment and stations, like the Combat Engagement Center, which you’ll see next. 

This is where Admiral Halsey‘s chief of staff, Rear Admiral Carney, slept. The bed itself is actually Admiral Halsey’s, on loan from the Navy Historical Center.

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CEC

When returned to active duty in the 1980s, the New Jersey went through an extensive refit, including adding many modern technologies and weapons.

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Tracking

Modern tracking radars are one of the biggest leaps in tech from the New Jersey’s early days.

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I see you, Philadelphia

The New Jersey, docked in New Jersey, looks like it’s ready to fire on Philadelphia and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

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Battle conn

The round structure is part of the conning tower, also known as the battle conn. It has 17 inches of steel armor. Each door weighs more than a ton.

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Primary

This is the ship’s primary wheel. There’s no need for the sailor to see where the ship is going — they just need to follow the orders given by whatever officer “has the conn.”

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Navigation bridge

From here the captain and other officers had a commanding view of the sea around the ship.

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Chart House

Directly behind the Navigation Bridge is the Chart House, which not only stored charts, but had the various navigational gear needed to plot the ship’s location and course.

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Captain’s cabin

This is the captain’s at-sea cabin. Far less lavish than the in-port quarters, but here it’s all about location, location, location. It’s adjacent to the Navigation Bridge.

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What a view

Entering and leaving port, the ship would be “conned” up here, on the open-air 08 Level Bridge.

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Modern weapons

In its third and final recommissioning in the early 1980s, modern armaments like a CIWS, cruise missiles and antiship missiles were added.

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New Jersey in NJ

In addition to the USS New Jersey, the otherthree Iowa-class battleships are also available to tour. We’ve checked out the Missouri and the Iowa. The Wisconsin is in Virginia.

For more about this incredible ship and our tour, check out “Exploring one of the greatest battleships in history: The USS New Jersey.” 

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