New CEO rigs Battleship New Jersey for new kind of fight

For those who saw it on the Delaware River on March 21, it was a most extraordinary sight.

The Battleship New Jersey, only slightly scarred from its five decades of service in the Navy, was again on the open water, the first time it had left its home on the Camden Waterfront in years.

The New Jersey had no engine or steering capability, so its 888 feet and 45,000 tons was gently pushed and prodded down the river by a quartet of tugboats.

“Big J,” as it was nicknamed by sailors, followed the guiding prompts of the tugboats into the Philadelphia Navy Yard and into Dry Dock No. 3 — the very same dock where the ship was built in 1941-42.

While in dry dock, the New Jersey enjoyed a full maritime pampering.

Its hull was cleaned of debris and marine biogrowth, required repairs were made and the cathodic protection system — which protects the immersed portion of the hull from corrosion — was updated.


Marshall Spevak is the new CEO of the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial. He was officially named to the position May 2 after serving as interim CEO for the prior six months.

Marshall Spevak. (File photo)

His first major duty has been to oversee the dry dock work on the New Jersey. The full repair and refurbishment bill is estimated at $10 million. The funds came from the New Jersey Legislature, bonds, private donations and from revenue raised by tour ticket and merchandise sales.

“It has reinvigorated my love and passion for the ship and the team,” Spevak said.

The Cherry Hill native is a walking Wikipedia on the history, capabilities and accomplishments of the ship.

“Everything about this ship and its history is extraordinary and fascinating,” he said.


The Battleship New Jersey has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state since it opened on the Camden Waterfront in 2001.

Moving the ship to dry dock has apparently not dampened people’s desire to see it — in fact, it may have spurred a renewed demand.

A storied and heroic legacy

Builder: Philadelphia Navy Shipyard

Launched: Dec. 7, 1942

Service: World War II (Pacific Theater, 1943-45); Korean War (1950-53); Vietnam War (1967-69); Lebanese Civil War (1983-84).

“Honestly, we had no idea,” Spevak said of the demand for dry dock tour tickets. “We kind of smiled among ourselves and thought it would be great if we could make a million dollars for the Battleship Museum and Memorial with dry dock tours.”

It turns out they did just that. They have, to date, sold 6,000 tickets for the dry dock tours at a price of $225 — with a special guided tour available for $1,000.

“People have come from all over the country and the world, sometimes flying in same day for the tour and flying out again,” Spevak said. He acknowledges that the tour price seems steep, but he emphasizes every dollar goes to the nonprofit and that the tour provides a unique value.

“To see this ship in dry dock, where you can walk under it and see the magnificent workmanship, from the propellors to the keel to the unique shaping of the bow — this is a perspective of the ship you are not going to see again for a very long time.”

The Dry Dock Tours are offered Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays through June 9. Tickets are only available online.


As the work on the New Jersey finishes, Spevak wants to make sure it is ready for a new kind of battle — the battle for share-of-mind.

With more and more entertainment options available, and with a diminishing number of people having served in the military or lived through the wars in which the New Jersey participated, Spevak is not taking the battleship’s popularity as a tourist attraction for granted.

Most decorated battleship in Navy history

The New Jersey has been honored with 19 battle stars: World War II (9); Korean War (4); Vietnam War (3); and Lebanon/Persian Gulf (3).

One way Spevak hopes to increase the awareness of the New Jersey, and draw new demographics to it, is by upgrading the ship’s capability to host major parties and events.

Spevak envisions rigging the fantail (the back section of the boat) with a large tent — a canvas structure inside of which will be a top-flight lighting and audiovisual system and room for up to 400 people — everything needed to throw a great party.

“Finding creative ways to draw people to the New Jersey is important,” Spevak said. “It is only when you are here and you see the amazing artifacts or sit in the chair Adm. ‘Bull’ Halsey used when he commanded the 3rd Fleet, or try sleeping in one of the sailor’s bunks, or climb into the 16-inch gun turret, can you truly appreciate the New Jersey. We look forward to making the New Jersey even more accessible and available to more and more people.”

The New Jersey is scheduled to return home to the Camden Waterfront on June 20.

“The work does not end with the dry dock,” Spevak said. “We want to work with our state and local officials and our partners in the business community to raise funds so we can continue to upgrade the ship and the museum and preserve this national treasure for future generations.”

You can support the Battleship New Jersey by becoming a member, a volunteer or by donating. You can call the battleship’s offices at 856-966-1652, ext. 127, or click here.

The return

The Battleship New Jersey is scheduled to return to Camden’s Waterfront on June 20. The Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial will hold a celebration marking its return home.

For a $10 donation, attendees can enjoy games, food & beverages, and live music along the battleship’s pier and promenade at 100 Clinton St. in Camden.

Gates will open at 11 a.m., with the ship’s arrival estimated for 1:20 p.m. Donations directly benefit the museum and memorial. Children younger than 12 can attend for free.