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USS New Jersey : Conversation With A Crewmember Of The Black Dragon

USS New Jersey : Conversation With A Crewmember Of The Black Dragon


Interview with Kevyn Thompson who served on the USS New Jersey!

When did you serve on board the ‘Black Dragon’?

“I started on New Jersey in February of 88 and decommissioned of February of 1991.”

What was your favorite part of the ship?

“My repair locker and my shops, i had a lot of spaces on the ship, i was in charge of all the repair lockers. I was upkeep on crash and smash. The helo crash and smash team. I eventually made it to Group Firefighting Team Leader. I basically trained my group really good, and I would put a lot of effort into the training.”

Did you have a least favorite part of the ship?

“My least favorite is the catacombs, which are basically underground heavy tanks. i got terribly seasick down there, because you feel the pressure and your stomach going up into your throat. The up and down made people seasick. Not the up and down stuff. You start to feel sick, and you can just throw up down in the catacombs.”

Why would you have to go down there?

“We had to do welding on some place on the ship or an inspection, we had to test the space for explosive gases, oxygen levels, bad air chemical smells or anything like that might affect the worker. Someone who is not wearing the protective welding goggles and is spotting the welder will be testing for the air levels. So you will only go down there for repair work.”

How loud was it when you fired broadside?
New Jersey opening fire upon North Korean targets near the 38th parallel.

“Unbelievable. In peactime when they fire the 5 inch guns you can wear ear protection and be on deck, on the 05 level and above. You can be up there with the hearing protection. If you are close to one of the turrets. You can feel the hairs on your head melt off. It is not a good feeling. Your face goes inwards.”

Did you put Marines topside to guard the Nuclear Weapons?

“No, only for onloads and offloads.”

Where would the Marines hang out?

“During the Persian Gulf the Marines hung out on the main deck and above. They were there to repel the boat from a small craft attack until the ship gets to general quarters. But, at no time did anyone guard armored box launchers. Only when the ship was secured at a secure pier. When they were loading and offloading, especially when we were decommissioned. You can tell when you are doing nukes onloads and offloads. The pier is chained off, it is advertised the ‘use of deadly force is authorized’. As part of my job I was a Nuclear biological chemical defense warfare specialist. In case they were doing something on board and they dropped a weapon.”

 tomahawk fired at a towed target
So you used Dosimeters?

“We had several different versions, you could pull it out of your pocket and read it in sunlight. And another one you could put in a machine to see how bad you were.”

Going to a lighter subject, how was the food on board New Jersey?

“Oh my god, 9 times out of 10 the first meal was a strip steak and lobster tails when we got underway. And then sometimes we had pizza night on the weekends, and all the officers including the captain and the admiral would serve us in the serving lines.

Of course we had casino nights. The best! If they were gonna pull into port and they needed money for orphanages and stuff like that locally. We would have a weekend where they took stuff out of the ship’s store and let you gamble and win stuff and it would be set up like Vegas.”

What was the craziest thing you witnessed onboard?

“We were anchored off of Long Beach doing the Ammo offload. And they were doing 16-inch offloads of the powder bags that are 110lbs each. We were clear up on the Focsle. And all of a sudden there was an electric fire. If the electrical fire wasn’t secured it would have blown up the ship.”

New Jersey fires a six-gun salvo of 16 in shells into an enemy troop concentration near Kaesong, Korea.
Do you have an opinion on the Iowa Turret explosion off Puerto Rico?

“I think it was an operator or equipment error. When you fire the 16 inch rounds there, in between rounds you open this valve real quick to open the high pressure air and clear the barrel of ambers, so that when you bring up the next round, everything is ok. If there is a hot amber in there, those bags are only canvas, a hot amber will cause an ignition, that cost me a trip to Japan. Our trip there was cancelled upon the incident occurring.”

See our piece for further reading on the incident: What caused the explosion on the USS Iowa?

What was the fastest you ever saw her sail?

“Once in a large armada we pumped her up to 32 knots. We met up with so many different countries.”

Were you ever scared on board?

“No never, I loved that ship. Me and my buddies made sure it was the safest place to be. If I wasn’t playing video games with the Marines we would just do work all night long. We wanted the ship to be perfect.” 

There was great camaraderie between the Marines and the Navy?
New Jersey off Oahu in September 1968, prior to departure on her first WESTPAC cruise following recommissioning for service in Vietnam.

“Oh yeah, never was a harsh word ever said! We were always teasing around with everybody, it felt like a big family on board. I spent nearly 3 years living on New Jersey. My youngest daughter is probably the youngest person to ever be beneath the starboard screws of a battleship. This was in a drydock in Long Beach. October 31st of 1990. My daughter was born on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th where I started my career. I want to have my ashes spread on top of the Arizona memorial.”

New Jersey in drydock while undergoing modernization
What inspired you to join the Navy?

“I had a friend from high school who was a wrestler and I signed up because of him. Bootcamp was a tough one, but it made you smarter and opened up my brain. I absorbed so much information.”

Bottom left, K. Thompson
Do you love Ryan Szimanski’s show? We at Rebellion Research are huge fans of Battleship New Jersey – YouTube

“Yes I love his show, in the middle of the night I watch his show. Its my favorite show to watch. If I wasn’t sick I’d go visit Ryan. I miss the New Jersey very much.”

See our conversations with Ryan Szimanski on the USS New Jersey:

USS New Jersey Curator Ryan Szimanksi On The Icon

USS New Jersey (BB-62) : USS New Jersey’s Curator Ryan Szimanski on her history!

USS New Jersey : Conversation With A Crewmember Of The Black Dragon

New Jersey and Missouri moored at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1981. Note the difference between the modernized New Jersey and the nearly-unmodified Missouri.
Lastly, New Jersey opens fire on an enemy position off the coast of Beirut 9 January 1984.
New Jersey fires all main guns, December 1986

USS New Jersey : Conversation With A Crewmember Of The Black Dragon