Friday, March 13, 2015


13 March 2015 ... a Friday: Cue the music, something scary maybe from "Friday the 13th"! (Never saw it myself - does it have music?) Anyway, we have two subjects today, one a bit frivolous and one just interesting (to me, in any case!). Let's go with them in the order of the title: so 16 first.

I read an article in the local paper (NJ) about taking a 16" gun barrel from the USS New Jersey, currently a museum ship docked in Camden NJ, to set it in Battery Lewis in the Highlands of New Jersey. 
This is a 16" turret on USS Wisconsin. Note scale of musicians to guns!

When an Iowa Class battleship (the only ones with the 16" guns) fired a broadside, I am told the ship moved sideways about 100 feet! So these guns are pretty awesome!
USS Iowa firing her 16" guns

There have been fortifications along the New Jersey coast since WWI - Sandy Hook's Fort Hancock is likely the most well known due to its National Park status, but there also is a fort with two batteries, on the hill opposite Sandy Hook, the Highlands,
which happens to be the highest point of the American coast line between Maine and Florida! How about that, all you New Jersey knockers! The site in is Hartshorne Woods and was built during WWII as the major defense for New York Harbor. The emplacement was built for 2 16" naval guns and is the ONLY 16" gun emplacement in the state. The casement is a 600' steel and reinforced concrete "bunker" covered with earth and designed to withstand the assault of both naval guns and aerial attacks.

Not NJ but the same idea

The original guns were mounted on Army carriages and set in place in May 1943. For those of you familiar with the NJ coast, the range of these guns was from Point Pleasant to the south to Long Beach NY in the north and they fired a 16" (diameter) projectile weighing more than 2 tons! As a matter of interest, during one of my deployments to Viet Nam, my ship, a destroyer, was firing targets from about 5 miles offshore and hitting them some 1-2 miles inland; the USS New Jersey was firing from about 15 miles offshore (over our heads, which was interesting) and hitting targets some 10 miles inland!

So, the Park System is bringing the gun barrel, first by train to Red Bank sometime between 11 and 13 March (hey! that's today - so it's already there!) and then by truck to Hartshorne Woods to set it into Battery Lewis.

Interiors will be renovated and eventually, the site will again be open to the public. Worth the trip, I'd suggest. I am told the project is being funded through a private foundation, Friends of the Park.

So that the serious part - the "16" in the title. Now to the lighter side - the "13" part:

Some people have a "thing" about Friday the 13th being bad luck - it's called triskaidekaphobia in case you want to impress people with your brilliance! - (I was discharged from active duty in the US Navy on Friday the 13th, so I guess, it's not too bad for me!). Anyway, there has been a story making the rounds for years about a Royal Navy attempt to dispel the stigma attached to Friday the 13th as well as another old chestnut, "never get underway on a Friday!" So here it is:

"Sometime in the 19th century, the Royal Navy attempted to finally dispel the old superstition among sailors that beginning a voyage on a Friday was certain to bring bad luck. To demonstrate the falseness of this belief, they decided to commission a ship named HMS Friday.

NOT HMS Friday!

Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on Friday the 13th, under the command of a Captain James Friday. She was never seen or heard from again."

In fact, there has never been any Royal Navy ship of that name. It is unclear where the story originated; I am sure that some writer, bored, ginned it up to entertain his readers and it subsequently gained some traction.

So, with the hope that this Friday the 13th is not unlucky for you, I wish you

                                    Fair Winds,
                                       Old Salt


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