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Rebirth, Renewal At Last Awaits Iconic North Jersey Submarine

Joe Sullivan, chief engineer of the USS Ling, takes measurements.
Joe Sullivan, chief engineer of the USS Ling, takes measurements. Photo Credit: USS Ling / Louisville Naval Museum

From a nearby bridge over the silty Hackensack River, lights at night can be seen shining from a New Jersey icon that had long ago been considered kaput.

A group of veterans have lately been at work on the USS Ling. They’ve patched a 3-inch hole in the hull, cleaned up the interior, restored one of the dive klaxons and made the once-floating museum’s horn functional again.

Next stop: Caddell Dry Dock & Repair in Staten Island.

Promises of restoration and relocation followed after Hurricane Sandy swept away the walkway from shore, leaving the foundering sub severely damaged and mired in the muck.

This time it’s for real, say members of the Louisville Naval Museum, created specifically with the intent of restoring SS-297 to her former glory.

“Our goal is to have her out and down river within two months,” said Chris Kerrigan, the USS Ling’s public relations director.

Caddell Dry “recently had the museum ship USS Slater, a WW2 Destroyer Escort home-ported as a museum in Albany, in for repairs,” Kerrigan noted.

Built by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia, the 312-foot, 2,500-ton U.S. Naval sub was commissioned on June 8, 1945 – three months before President Truman announced the end of World War II. She remained in New London, CT, before sailing for the Panama Canal Zone.

The Ling -- named for the ling fish, also known as the cobia -- was decommissioned in 1946 having never seen combat. She was towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1960 and was converted to a training ship.

A non-profit organization formed in 1972 saved the Ling from the scrapyard and brought her the following year to Hackensack, where she was scrubbed, painted and polished for public tours as a memorial to "perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country.”

Compartments were refurbished and outfitted with authentic gear.

The New Jersey Naval Museum paid a dollar a year to rent the site until North Jersey Media Group announced in 2007 that it was selling the property.

Hurricane Sandy flooded the Ling, forcing the museum closed in 2012.

Last year, the vets banded together with the purpose of salvaging the Ling, restoring her to her former glory and setting her up again as a museum.

They found her listing 7 degrees to port, a result of the Hackensack’s sloping bank. Staff members also recently noticed her mooring lines had become tighter than usual.

Closer examination found the bow rising seven inches with the tide.

“The extent of underwater damage to the Ling is not entirely known,” Kerrigan said. “We have made damage assessments to the hull, but we can’t see what’s covered by the mud.

“Once she is in dry dock we’ll be able to better assess and repair the hull.”

Stay tuned for information regarding the Ling’s down-river trip to Staten Island. The vets plan on making it a big event.


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