Journal Entry  -  September 18, 1999  -  Day 7

Saturday Evening Position Report
8:00 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time
Latitude: 36 Degrees, 23 Minutes
Longitude: 122 Degrees, 19 Minutes
Days Run: 6.2 Nautical Miles
Speed: 5.17 Knots (Average)

Total Run:  902.2 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed5.86 Knots
Hours From Departure154 Hours from Blake Island, Puget Sound
Distance To GO This Leg280.2 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival8:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 21
Present Course147 Degrees to Santa Barbara Channel
WindsLight and Variable
Swells:  6 Feet from the Northwest
Barometric Pressure1015 Millibars
Air Temperature57 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles +
Sea FloorUSS New Jersey is passing over ocean depths within the Monterey Canyon of between 452 and 649 Fathoms, or 2,712 and 3,894 Feet.

Position:  Northern California's Point Sur lighthouse, designed to cast its brilliant beam every 15 seconds, with visibility to 25 miles, is clearly visible from USS New Jersey's position northwest of the landmark.  To her east is Hurricane Point, to her east-northeast is Puerta del Diablo, and to the northeast is Carmel Bay.

The ship is still within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  She will also be running parallel to the charted "Sea Otter Refuge Area," which begins at the southern point of Monterey Bay and extends a few miles south of Point Sur.

USS New Jersey's Miss America, 1944

Atlantic City, New Jersey tonight hosts the final Miss America Pageant of the 20th Century, an event of significance to the contestants, the state, and a vast television audience.

In November, 55 years ago, aboard the USS New Jersey in combat operations off Luzon in the Philippines, the crew held a beauty pageant of their own.  It wasn't televised, nor would the pageant's winner have even qualified for tonight's Atlantic City extravaganza.

But for the Jerseymen then and now, and for the contest winner ever since, that battleship pageant represented the best of what the USS New Jersey has come to symbolize.

In May of 1944, while the "Black Dragon" was anchored in Majuro in between bombing missions, two members of the ship's supply department thought up a contest idea for the crew.  They wrote to the New Jersey state Chamber of Commerce proposing a pinup contest among girls from the state whose pictures would be posted on the battleship's bulletin boards

The Newark Evening News published a story on May 17 about the proposal, and more than seventy pictures ended up on the crew's boards. The beauty contest was underway.

The father of one of the pinup contestants, Army Air Forces pilot Lieutenant Harold Meyer of Clifton, New Jersey, had recently been shot down over Europe, and was being held a prisoner of war.  That could have influenced the eventual vote.

Harolyn Cheryl Meyer was the Lieutenant's daughter, one of the 70 posted pinups, and as it turned out, the Jerseyman's overwhelming favorite in the final vote tally five months later.

Pageant contestant and pinup girl, Harolyn Cheryl Meyer, was a perky 5-month old baby, pictured in her birthday suit, smiling just like an Atlantic City winner would.

After the Jerseyman in November voted 555 to 1,376 for Harolyn, a plurality winner by 4 to 1 among all the contestants, the crew chose to pitch in and give her a victory prize.  They collected donations and gave her a silver napkin ring, and entrusted War Bonds to her which would mature to a value of $3,200.

When infant Harolyn came of age, she used the funds to help pay her way through New Jersey's Caldwell College, earning a degree in English in 1965.

She's now a teacher in Saratoga Springs, New York, at St. Clement's Regional Catholic School, where she teaches 12-year olds, according to a June 28, 1999 story in New Jersey's Star-Ledger newspaper by staff writer Rudy Larini.

"I feel very honored and very flattered, but it's all very strange because I have no memory of it," Meyer Lawton said.  "I almost look at it as if it happened to someone else."

Meyer Lawton and a fellow, if older, pinup contestant, second runnerup Kathleen Clark Fredreck of Brielle, are expected to be part of the ceremonies that will greet the USS New Jersey when it returns home, according to the Star Ledger report.

"Everyone just fell in love with this baby," said crew member Fred Adams of Port Orange, Florida, adding that his fellow seamen may have been captivated by the photograph of the infant because she reminded them of home and family.

"There were so many good-looking women, how could you pick one of them?" said Robert LaVine of Warren, another crew member.   "I guess everyone thought the same thing, do something unusual."

In Seattle last week, prior to New Jersey's departure on this voyage, gunner's mate George T. Chesnut, of Kirkland, Washington, reminisced about Harolyn's election.

"We were proud of that," he said.   "We were able to send her to college, and she went on to become a teacher. " Chestnut isn't given to easy smiles, but recalling her story brought one to his face, and even the hint of twinkle in his eyes.

After the pageant, the Jerseymen were taken back to the war, with all-out fighting over the Marianas Islands the following summer, and more after that.

As for Harolyn, she told the Star Ledger that she first set foot aboard the USS New Jersey on May 23, 1947, when she was 3 years old.

"All of the sailors were lined up on either side and I was supposed to walk down the middle and review them," she said.  "I was very scared. Because of the enormity of the ship and because I was so frightened, it made an impression.

"The sailors weren't supposed to be laughing," she added, "but they were smiling a lot, so that made me feel a little less afraid."

She was last aboard the USS New Jersey when it was recommissioned during the Vietnam War in 1968, while runner-up Fredreck attended the third recommissioning of the USS New Jersey in San Diego in 1982 with her late husband, Arthur, a member of the Battleship New Jersey Historical Society.

The Star Ledger reported that Meyer Lawton's baby picture was submitted for the pinup contest by her grandmother, Madeleine Ransley of Newark.   Meyer Lawton surmises her grandmother may have been trying to cheer up the infant's mother, whose husband had been shot down over Germany.

"I think she did it because my mother was kind of down in the dumps," Meyer Lawton said.  "My grandmother read about the contest and thought this might lift my mother's spirits a little."

Heather Renee French, Miss Kentucky, won tonight's Atlantic City Pageant, but even now, the 1944 Jerseymen may still regard Sarasota Springs teacher and former 3-month old pinup, Harolyn Meyer Lawton, as their own Miss America.

(Sources:  With permission, from New Jersey's Star Ledger newspaper of Newark, on the New Jersey News website, June 28, 1999; and,

"Battleship New Jersey: An Illustrated History," by Paul Stillwell, published by the Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland, 1986.)

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


Previous Journal Page  
Next Journal Page
To Photo / Journal Index Page



Line Drawing of Big J

For best viewing use Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or Netscape Communicator 4.61 or newer.
This site is privately funded and maintained, it has no official sponsorships or affiliations.
Please send any Comments or Questions regarding this site to the webmaster.
Last updated on May 02, 2007.