In June 2011, the Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG.org) was asked to help find safe homes for eight historic 16-inch/50 Mark 7 barrels located at St. Juliens Creek Naval Annex in Chesapeake, Virginia, or the barrels would be auctioned off through the internet with the requirement that they be cut into six-foot sections. At that time. the U.S. Navy was completing the purging all the Iowa class materials in their inventory, and as the Navy felt that they had allowed plenty of time for qualified organizations to claim these barrels, it was now the time to liquidate them (as they did for 14 similar 16-inch barrels in storage at Hawthorne, Nevada, in June 2011).
The CDSG was able to convince the Navy to give us more time to find organizations that would both be able to take care of a 16-inch/50 barrel and pay for the cost of moving a 68-foot object weighing about 119 tons. As these barrels are similar to the ones that were once located in World Ware II 16-inch coastal defense batteries, we approached the current owners of such sites to see if they would be interested in preserving and interpreting a barrel at their site.
As these barrels also saw wartime service during World War II and the Korean War, we reached out to those who would have interest in displaying a barrel from such famous ships as the USS Missouri (BB-63), Iowa (BB-61), and New Jersey (BB-62). (See attached image of St. Julien’s Creek Annex in May 2011 with the eight 16-inch barrels identified by which battleship they served on and in which turret position. These barrels were placed at St. Julien’s Creek during the 1980s as replacements when the four Iowa class ships were brought back into active service.) Naval History reported on these efforts in its news section in December 2011 and provided an update on the Arizona Memorial project in August 2012.
Moving forward to 2022, we are happy to report that seven barrels have found good homes, and the last barrel hopefully will be preserved this year. It was a great accomplishment to have seven barrels leave St. Julien’s and make their way to new homes, given the challenges of raising funds and organizing the transportation and display. Here is a summary of the efforts since 2011:
· A USS Missouri barrel went to the Cape Henlopen State Park (location of former Battery Smith at Fort Miles) in Delaware to be part of the Fort Miles Museum as a complete gun and proof carriage.
· Another Missouri barrel went to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge at Cape Charles, Virginia (location of the former Battery Winslow at Fort John Custis), to be placed in the battery’s casemate.
· Another barrel off the Missouri was taken by rail to the Arizona Capitol Museum to become part of its World War II memorial (where it is joined by a 14-inch barrel off the USS Arizona).
· A USS New Jersey barrel went by rail to the Hartshorne Woods Park in Monmouth County Parks, New Jersey (location of the former Battery Lewis at the Navesink Highlands Military Reservation), to be placed in the battery’s casemate.
· Another New Jersey barrel went to the Philadelphia Navy Yard in Pennsylvania to be display on its parade ground.
· Another barrel off the New Jersey went to the Battleship New Jersey Memorial in Camden, New Jersey, to be a display next to the ship.
· Another barrel from the New Jersey went to the Mahan Collection Foundation in New Jersey, where it will be displayed with the transportation truck and trailer that was used during World War II to move barrels to coastal defense batteries.
In addition to the above recent achievements, an additional barrel from the New Jersey was moved from St. Julien’s Creek Annex to Trophy Park at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the 1990s.
The final barrel remaining at St. Julien’s Creek is #270, which served in the USS Iowa during World War II and the Korean War. (This barrel is also the first production barrel of the Mark 7 series). The fate of this historic barrel currently is being decided, as the USS Iowa Veterans Association and the CDSG have been fundraising the $150,000 needed to move and display the barrel for the U.S. Navy on board Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek–Fort Story (to be placed near the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse) at Virginia Beach. This USS Iowa 16-inch Battleship Barrel Memorial will honor our Navy veterans who homeported in Hampton Roads, Virginia, as well as the Army troops who defended Chesapeake Bay during World War II at Fort Story.
While the project has raised $90k so far, we continue to seek both corporate sponsorships and individual contributions to raise the remaining funds needed to display and transport Iowa Barrel #270. Interested donors can contact [email protected] or they can go to www.cdsg.org using the “Donate” button to make a donation to the CDSG Fund in the name of this project. The CDSG is a 503(c )(3) organization, so donations will be tax-deductible.