This story was forwarded to my email this morning with a little note "Since lately you've been spending your time gallivanting on battleships..." Gallivanting? What could he be talking about?
By Rusty Dennen, from The Free Lance-Star
On Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the USS Pennsylvania sat in dry dock not far from other ships in the Pacific fleet.
Its deck raked by machine-gun fire and hit by one bomb, it fared better than other large warships that fateful morning.
Yesterday, some of the last remnants of the Pennsylvania--two of its massive 14-inch gun barrels--were loaded on trucks at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren for a trip to their new home at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
"I've been working on this project for 10 years now," said Dave Rhoades, a member of the friends of the Pennsylvania museum who arranged for the transport. He and his wife, Shirley, drove six hours to Dahlgren for the occasion and watched the loading process unfold near the gun line along the Potomac River.
The museum, near State College, Pa., learned in 1999 that the Navy, which has been storing the barrels at the King George County base since World War II, had them. And later, that it was planning to scrap them.
The museum was looking for Navy-related displays to add to its collection and decided that the barrels would be a great choice because of the Pennsylvania's connection to the most infamous date in World War II, and to the Keystone state. One of the barrels was forged at a Pennsylvania foundry.
"It's a pretty big undertaking. Not a lot of museums would go to the effort of hauling two 66-ton [ship] artifacts 250 miles inland," Joseph Horvath, the museum's educator, said in a telephone interview.
As with all things military, the request had to go through proper channels. Museum officials contacted Dahlgren, which then got in touch with the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard for approval.
Technically, the guns are on loan to the museum, but they probably will remain in Pennsylvania indefinitely. "We'll have them as long as the Navy will allow," Horvath said.
The museum spent $100,000 to build a reinforced concrete cradle on which the barrels will rest. It initially had planned on receiving three, but one was not intact. The Pennsylvania had 12 14-inch guns, three to a turret. The museum also secured two rounds to put on display. The gun could fire a 1,400-pound projectile more than 15 miles.
Dozens of gun barrels, covered in Navy gray paint or orange with rust, sit near the headquarters of Dahlgren's Potomac River Test Range. Every gun used by Navy ships is tested at Dahlgren before going to the fleet. Barrels include those from 16-inch guns used by the Navy until the 1990s, and an 18-inch gun prototype that never made it on Navy ships.
Big as they are, the steel tubes are in demand.
"The last barrel that went out of here was from the battleship USS South Dakota, to Rapid City," said Doug Davant, a spokesman for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren's largest tenant command. That barrel went to the South Dakota Memorial.
"They're valuable. They're a piece of history," Davant said.
Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania requested the return of a 14-inch gun barrel it had made for a battleship.
The barrels from the USS Pennsylvania wound up at Dahlgren in 1945 after the ship was refitted with guns from the USS Oklahoma.
Readying them for transport yesterday took several hours as a small crowd gathered to watch.
A crane capable of lifting 365 tons was brought in by W.O. Grubb. Workers fastened straps to the barrels, which were slowly lifted onto 13-axle trailers.
Handling extremely heavy loads "is a different kind of a job," said crane operator Don Themer.
Before heading to Dahlgren, "We picked up a 68,000 pound Chris-Craft" yacht for shipment from Maryland, he said.
Once the barrels arrive at the museum, they'll be reconditioned, repainted and placed on the cradle for display.
Rhoades, who served in the Army, said the barrels are more than a museum display.
His cousin, Paul Rydbon, was killed during World War II in the Pacific.
"To me, this is a remembrance of him."