Battleship New Jersey sets sail for months-long closure

A blast from Battleship New Jersey echoes across the Delaware River and far beyond. So is its plight as people practice pandemic protocols that have led to sinking tourism and revenue for the floating museum.

“Unfortunately, today, Labor Day is our last day of the year. We’re going to be temporarily closing. Our plan is to reopen in April. But right now, due to the fact that we had to cancel many of our programs because of the COVID-19 virus, and the fact that, up until recently, our tours have been somewhat low. We’re just losing money, so what our plans are is to close, save money, still fundraise for money and then come back, hopefully in April,” said Jack Willard, Battleship New Jersey senior vice president of marketing and sales.

The closure means furloughing 82 of 92 full- and part-time workers.

“I’m sad at the circumstances. I feel that it shouldn’t be this way. I think everyone is essential,” said tourist Jean Fulller.

John Paul Pagano wishes it wasn’t so. It means the 12-year-old history buff must wait months before he makes his 15th visit to one of the nation’s most decorated warships. It’s done tours from World War II to the Persian Gulf.

“It got more advance with better propulsion systems, better maneuvering systems and better weapons. Ultimately in the Vietnam War, it started getting guided weapons to where the crew only had to arm it and fire it,” Pagano said.

Sad news greeted the maiden visit of the young sons of a Navy reservist.

“I think it’s unfortunate. This is a national treasure, and being in the Navy myself, knowing that this was going to be the last day for a while, I wanted to bring my sons here and show them for the first time what a national treasure like this battleship looks like,” said tourist Brian Pultro.

Willard said the state previously helped fund a portion of the battleship to help maintain operations.

“The state, as we know, is in a huge financial deficit right now. Right now it’s not looking good for funding from the battleship,” he said.

Battleship New Jersey sustain minor damage in the Korean conflict, but in all of its mission, successful ones over the decade, it is never taste a battle like this financial one in its history.

“[It’s] maybe the biggest battle the battleship has ever faced. She has 19 battle stars for all successful campaign duties. This one’s been tougher. As we say, it’s is an invisible enemy, but the ship will continue to fight on. And like I said, our plan is to reopen in the spring, hopefully in April, and have our full arsenal of programs and be better than ever,” Willard said.