Eyewitness to History
This massive gun barrel sitting before you was once mounted inside Turret 1 of the battleship USS New Jersey. During the epic battles of World War II and the Korean War this gun barrel, along with the other guns and brave crew of New Jersey, helped provide Firepower for Freedom that affected, and still affects, millions of people today. How did this eyewitness to history come to be sitting here before you? The gun barrel's journey here began in 1954.
Many things, including 16-inch gun barrels, wear out and need replacement. After serving in two wars, all nine of New Jersey's 16-inch guns were removed from the ship and replaced with new gun barrels in 1954. The removed barrels were then relined. The lining inside each gun barrel contains rifling that causes fired projectiles to spin, allowing them to hit their targets more accurately. Once relined, the barrels were placed in storage, sitting in a field for more than 60 years at the St. Julien's Creek Annex, Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia. The photo above shows staff of the Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial inspecting the gun barrels in 2015 as they were stored at the Annex.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Battleship's staff, volunteers, contributors, and veterans, the Museum was able to raise the required funds and
coordinate the highly complicated logistics to acquire one of the gun barrels and place it here in 2017. The gun barrel before you, Serial Number 292, which was the left gun of Turret 1, is the actual gun in the photo above firing at Kaesong, Korea on January 1, 1953 during the Korean War. In addition to witnessing fierce battles, this gun barrel may have witnessed the only onboard combat fatality suffered by New Jersey during her entire career. Seaman Robert Osterwind was killed by shrapnel from enemy shore bombardment on May 21, 1951. Evidence suggests that Seaman Osterwind was in the portside area of Turret l, where the gun barrel was located, when he was killed. Gun barrels, such as this one, represent so much more than just a weapon. It is a symbol of the resolve of those who built it and those who manned it onboard New Jersey. It is a silent sentinel to all those we have lost defending freedom.