USS Orleck arrives in Jacksonville

USS Orleck arrives in Jacksonville
USS Orleck

Achievement of epic proportions now part of Downtown skyline

The Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association’s (JHNSA) plans to bring the USS Orleck to the city to house the Jacksonville Naval Museum are complete…almost. The 77-year-old ship made its way slowly down the St. Johns River to dock temporarily in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel along Jacksonville’s downtown waterfront, it arrived just after noon on Saturday, March 26.

“It was incredibly gratifying, bringing to a close the twelve-year journey,” shared Daniel Bean, president of the association. “Bringing a warship of this caliber to our Downtown…it looks better than most ships on active duty,” he shared, enthusiastically.

Bean, along with other fervent supporters, was aware that this attraction would draw for our city, the third largest NAVY city in America. “We knew that once people would see it, they would understand its importance,” he said. The fact that generations of people were already arriving for photos and conversations is a great start for the dialogue surrounding this new feather in Jacksonville’s Downtown cap. Through the tears, setbacks and delays and what Bean likened to “getting knocked down”, the ability to stand in awe at the present circumstances was inspiring.

The ship was floated with no reported leaks on Feb. 24, 2022, a major milestone for the ship’s work completion at the Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Corporation, in Port Arthur, Texas. It began its voyage to Jacksonville on March 17 with a tow by Smith Maritime of Green Cove Springs.

“The arrival of the USS Orleck is a history-making moment for our city,” said Justin D. Weakland, JHNSA vice president. “We already have six reunion groups scheduled to visit in the coming months. This helps activate our riverfront and creates an inclusive place for veterans and history fans alike to explore and connect, while also diversifying what we have downtown for adults and families to do and see.”

The work has increased the ship’s life expectancy to a minimum of 15 years, five years longer than original estimates. The level of restoration and preservation to achieve the additional years has come at a cost, however.

The goal is to open the ship in time to help celebrate the city’s Bicentennial founding. The Jacksonville Naval Museum will feather the “US Navy Cold War Experience.” Known as “The Gray Ghost of the Vietnam Coast,” the Orleck is the second most decorated Navy ship afloat. Built during WWII, the ship’s history spans the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm. The nonprofit plans to use the ship to honor the many veterans in Northeast Florida and the 16 Gearing Class ships that called Mayport home.

Visit to learn more or donate to the project.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)