Journal Entry  -  October 4, 1999  -  Day 23

Monday Evening Position Report
8:00 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time
Latitude:

15 Degrees, 08 Minutes North

Longitude:

98 Degrees, 14 Minutes West

Days Run:

54.5 Nautical Miles

Speed:

4.54 Knots (Average)  running at reduced speed due to a fixed ETA of October 16 at the Panama Canal.

Total Run This Leg:  1,637.3 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.24 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  312.5 Hours, 13.02 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  1,310.5 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16
Present Course:  117 Degrees, Southeasterly
Winds:  Southwest at 5 Knots
Seas:  Rippled Surface
Swells:  8 Feet from the Southwest
Barometric Pressure:  1009 Millibars
Air Temperature:  80 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  82 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Showers
Sea Floor:  Ocean depths below the New Jersey range from 1,960 to 2,060 Fathoms, or 11,760 to 12,360 Feet.

Position:  USS New Jersey is now 55 Nautical Miles Southwest of Punta Galera, located 6 Miles from the mouth of the Rio Verde, near Laguna Chacahua on Mexico's southern coastline.

Fish Catch:  The total catch as of tonight, Monday, October 4 is: 23, including 4 Albacore, 3 Yellow Fin, 1 Yellow Tail, 4 Skipjack and 1 Bonita Tuna, 9 Mahi-mahi, and 1Wahoo.

"Well, Your Ship Saved My Life ..."

Once night falls around the Sea Victory and the USS New Jersey, only two small running lights on the battleship are visible from the tug, red to port, green to starboard, nothing of the ship's outline.  Everything else back there at eye level, everywhere, is darkness.  No city dweller's canopy of rustling leaves shading the starlight, no corner street lights, no high-rise night lights, no distant city glow.

From the tugboat, on an overcast night as tonight's, only these two lights peer from the darkness.  It's as though something was following, eyes glowing in the darkness from the reflection of the tug's bright stern lights on the tow wire, and with flashes of lightning on the far horizon to add a measure of vulnerability.

But, of course, that is only the darkness speaking.   Daylight bursts forth usually with a fury of beauty here in the Mexican Pacific, and bathes the Jersey in sunlight.  It's the transition to nightfall that seems to provoke the images of fright.

But there is something about knowing the Battleship is back there at night.  In sea battles during World War II, in this same Pacific, her darkness and gray form, her invisibility, her universally blackened exterior, was for enemy pilots a mystery.  Those planes threatened her constantly.  They could claim no bigger prize than a sunken battleship and two thousand of its sailors and marines, officers and crew, fathers and sons, cousins and grand kids.

But not the New Jersey.  It was she who did the claiming, and to listen to those who were there, one learns instantly that it wasn't easy, it wasn't fun, it wasn't neat and clean, and it wasn't always free.

The men who fought in those battles, or in any of New Jersey's conflicts, those who consent to share their memories, recollections and experiences, will do so, but with caution.  Those things are not spoken of lightly or casually.  There's a bond between them all.  A family, they say. To them, the New Jersey was not just an experience, it was a lifetime, a duty for the nation, something that had to be done, for the country.

What compares in life to seeing buddies, or family, die in battle?  Is one's own harder than seeing another's?  These men pause long before giving up those feelings.  They escape the memory reluctantly.  But they do share, and they do want others to know.

Asked what one can learn from the New Jersey, when she becomes a museum or memorial, one battle veteran began to speak:  "I think that they should go aboard that ship and ... it's hard to say ... you know?  I fill up."  The pause took him time.  "I think they should show film of what we went through - there's plenty of it - and they should show it in history classes, what the men had to go through ... even the Marines hitting the beaches.

Another veteran Jersey man said: "I believe people going aboard that ship, should see and picture in their mind what this ship went through in all her combat operations - it's the most decorated Battleship in the Fleet.  And maybe remember fathers, or grandfathers, or cousins who served aboard her ... and the danger that came to them in harm's way ... then maybe they'll appreciate what the New Jersey gave to this country."

Then, sea veteran added: "And we helped the marines.   The Marine Corps wanted us.  When I go to the American Legion or the VFW, and I have my hat on that says USS New Jersey, I've had men come over to me, and say - 'Were you in Korea?' ... and I say, no, we were in World War II ... and he says, 'Well, your ship saved my life with those 16 inch guns.'  I've had a lot of that."

A philosopher, George Santa Ana, wrote:  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

And on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the dead at Gettysburg, a short address, unsuited to excerpting, which captures all America's feelings about their war dead, and the meaning of remembering:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

"We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

"It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.

 

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