LAUNCH YOUR OWN MISSILE FROM BATTLESHIP NEW JERSEY|
Warship Museum Prepares New 'Interactive' Combat Control Center
October 18, 2001
By Hoag Levins
PENNSAUKEN, N.J. -- The combat control room of the Battleship New Jersey is being restored as an interactive entertainment that will soon allow visitors to fire their own missiles at digital targets, museum curator Scott Kodger told the Camden County Historical Society last night.
In effect, the "Combat Engagement Center" of the decorated U.S. warship is being refitted as something like a video game featuring realistic simulations of the vessel's various armament systems. Regular visitors will get to watch as the weapons, including the big guns, are deployed and fired.
Visitors who pay for a premium tour ticket will actually get to sit at the control console and fire the weapons themselves, Kodger told the audience of Historical Society members and guests.
Unique in the country
Appearing as keynote speaker at the Historical Society's annual dinner at Shannon's on the Green, the Club House of the Pennsauken Golf Course, Kodger said the Battleship New Jersey would be the only naval museum in the country with such an interactive combat control center for visitors.
Kodger, who was hired as Director of Curatorial Affairs for the Battleship New Jersey Memorial Museum in January, is the former Executive Director of the Amherst Historical Society, Amherst, Ohio, and Curator of the Buffalo Naval and Military Park, Buffalo, N.Y.
New galleries planned
work more closely together to promote area tourism, he also previewed plans to expand the shore facilities of the battleship museum to include galleries featuring exhibits from around the county.
Calling for all the historical and cultural institutions of Camden County to
The USS New Jersey (BB-62) is the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy and the most decorated U.S. warship that still exists. Signed over to the non-profit Home Port Alliance, the vessel was moved to its permanent berth on the Camden waterfront (last month) and officially opened to the public a week ago.
As in the case of all Pentagon weapon systems turned over to museums, the vessel was "demilitarized" by the U.S. Navy before it was released to the Camden organization. Kodger explained that this is a nice way of saying its interior utility systems were smashed and slashed apart to make them inoperative.
'The lights didn't work'
"When I first came on board in January, the lights didn't work," he said. Since then, a small army of volunteers have worked to reestablish the ship's infrastructure systems.
|Photo: Hoag Levins.|
||New shore facilities at the battleship museum will include gallery space.
See large image
"Other than her propulsion plant and her armaments, we now have a fully functional battleship," Kodger said. "Everything works. You can pick up a phone on the bulkhead and call anywhere in the ship; you can go into the radio room where you can talk to Honolulu."
One example of the arduous work required to restore the vessel's utilities was the intercom system, better known in maritime tech talk as the 1-MC system.
4,000 cut wires repaired
Every compartment has a speaker and speaker wires converge from all over the ship into a below decks interior communications compartment junction box that is five feet high by three feet deep by four feet wide. "When you open this huge door, there are 4,000 wires in there, all thinner than angel hair pasta," said Kodger. And all of them had been hacked apart by Navy demilitarizers.
"But we had two great volunteers who sat down there in the dark for three months and matched and soldered each and every one of those wires back together," said Kodger. Now, the intercom system throughout the entire ship works just as it did when its World War II captain used it to regularly communicate with its crew of 3,000 sailors.
|Photo: Hoag Levins.|
||Kodger was accompanied by a six-foot-long scale model of the battleship.
"The ship is like a walk through time," said Kodger. "In the corridors you can see fuse boxes stamped '1942.' Then you look on the other side of the bulkhead and there will a modern version of a fuse box and it will be stamped '1989' or "1990." And they are wired together and it all works."
Main gun turrets
Work is still proceeding on restoring and opening the main gun turrets to the public -- the steel bunker complexes in which crews loaded 'bullets' as large as Volkswagens that were fired at targets up to 23 miles away.
The soon-to-be-opened combat control room from which those guns were fired is clearly intended to be a crowd-pleaser in an era of digital entertainment.
"The Combat Engagement Center on a modern warship is like one of those things you see out of Hollywood movies," Kodger said. "It is a room painted completely black and you've got all these radar screens and backlit boards and all this video imagery going on."
'Off the coast of Beirut'
"The radar screens work, the buttons work, the audio systems in the background are going on. You will walk back in time to where you think you are off the coast of Beirut ... and actually be able to fire the guns and watch it on video screens. You will be able to watch the Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles being fired."
In 1983 and '84, the recommissioned USS New Jersey was part of the Sixth Fleet involved in international military actions off civil-war torn Beirut, Lebanon. Her main guns hit targets around Beirut. Refitted as a missle platform as well, she was armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles to use against land targets and Harpoon missiles to use against ships.
'Launch your own missile'
"On our 'Admiral Halsey' tours, which cost a little bit more," Kodger continued, "you will actually be able to sit down as we walk you through the systems, the actual computers and keyboards (and enable you to) launch your own missile."
In addition, he explained, the battleship will soon offer overnight 'encampments' for up to 500 children at a time and has established programs to make various areas of the vast ship available for corporate meetings, seminars and social events.
Dancing on the fantail
For instance, the broad fantail or rear top deck of the ship is slated to be covered with a tent of traditional ship's canvas and will be able to hold 1,000 people for any kind of spring or summer occasion.
Said Kodger: "There's nothing nicer than dancing under the stars on the deck of a battleship under the rear guns."