Last month, the centerpiece of a new naval museum arrived on the sunny shores of Jacksonville, Florida: one of the most decorated US Navy ships since WWII, the USS Orleck. The retired Navy destroyer used to be housed in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but made her way down to the Sunshine State ahead of the summer opening of the Jacksonville exhibit.
What to Know:
- The USS Orleck was moved from Louisiana to Florida to become a naval museum
- The naval destroyer is one of the most decorated ships since WWII
- USS Orleck endured multiple hurricanes ahead of museum conversion
The ‘Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast’ Moves to Jacksonville
The ship, nicknamed the “Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast,” originally launched in 1945, where it served in multiple wars, including World War II and the Vietnam War. According to historians, the destroyer earned the iconic moniker after firing more than 11,000 rounds and earning 14 battle stars.
The original plan was to bring the USS Adams to Jacksonville, but those fell through, leaving museum organizers to look toward the Orleck. Converting the ship to a museum and moving it to its new home in Florida was no small feat, taking 12 years and costing more than $2 million. However, those in Jacksonville believe the results will be well worth the effort.
“It says, finally, the Navy town, the third-largest Navy town in the U.S., finally gets a museum ship, and we were the only ones without one,” said Craig Bernat, a representative of the Jacksonville Naval Museum. “And the ship, even though it wasn’t the Adams… This is the second most historic ship that the Navy has, so that says a lot right there, the history of the ship.”
The USS Orleck Survived Several Hurricanes Before Museum Conversion
The road to becoming a naval museum was not an easy one. In fact, in addition to multiple wars, the USS Orleck endured several infamous hurricanes before its recent journey to Jacksonville. It started in 2005, when Hurricane Rita ripped through Orange, Texas, the Orleck’s former home.
With 115 mph winds shaking the Lone Star state, “A big crane barge broke loose during Hurricane Rita,” former ship superintendent Steve Miller told FOX. “And [it] rammed right into the ship. It tore a hole in the stern and a hole in the side of it above the waterline. It did a bit of damage.”
Very cool to see the USS Orleck on the St. Johns River!— JAX Chamber (@JAXChamber) March 28, 2022
The USS Orleck is one of the most decorated Navy ships since WWII. It’s great to see such an amazing piece of history right here in downtown Jacksonville. #ilovejax pic.twitter.com/jIivZ0q6hL
The ship was later moved to Louisiana, but couldn’t escape the tempestuous weather. In 2020, Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, slammed into southwest Louisiana and the ported USS Orleck. Though the Orleck was 30 miles inland on the Calcasieu River, it still fell victim to Laura’s devastation.
“We had the ship pretty well secure, to our thinking. But the strong winds caused a number of vessels tied up along the river to break loose, including our ship,” Miller said. “The ship was pushed around by the winds, and the vessels were basically banging into each other.”