USS Orleck leaves Texas and begins its journey to Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The USS Orleck finally began its journey to Jacksonville on Thursday after spending its conservation period at the Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Corporation in Port Arthur, Texas.

The towage will be carried out by Smith Maritime, of Green Cove Springs, and the Orleck is expected to take up to 12 days to reach its destination. The planned route takes the ship directly from Texas to the Florida Keys.

RELATED: It’s official: the USS Orleck arrives in Jacksonville

According to a press release on Thursday, the shipyard’s work has exceeded expectations and the ship’s life expectancy has been increased to a minimum of 15 years from an initial estimate of 10 years. Steel plates were welded over all underwater openings in the hull, and a special marine protection paint compound was applied in several coats “to create a watertight and impenetrable hull”.

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Pre-COVID estimates for the ship’s restoration were $1.3 million. This amount increased to $1.8 after increasing labor and material costs. Costs reached $2.05 million due to damage from Hurricane Laura in 2020. Additional costs to be expected after towing from Texas and additional work required to fully install the pier and prepare the vessel to be opened as a museum.

The goal is still to open the ship as a museum in June, in time to celebrate the city’s bicentenary founding.

About the museum and the ship

The Jacksonville Naval Museum will showcase the “Cold War experience of the US Navy,” represented by the ex-USS Orleck.

It bears the name of Lieutenant Joseph Orleck. The ship was called Vietnam’s “Top Gun”, fired over 11,000 rounds, earning it the nickname “Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast”, and earned 14 battle stars throughout the war . He received dozens of awards for military service.

It was the most decorated ship ever built after World War II and supporters said that was reason enough to save it.

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The Orleck embodies the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cold War periods in U.S. Navy history, having served in all three.

To fund Florida’s only US Navy warship museum, the group has $2.5 million: $1 million from the State of Florida and an additional $1.5 million from loans and creditors.

It will support veterans as a local resource and networking hub.

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