Museum seeking volunteers for USS Edson repairs

Museum to retrieve thousands of artifacts

By Mackenzie Burger

ESSEXVILLE, Mich. (AP) — The work is just beginning for the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship museum.

The USS Edson Navy destroyer arrived recently, 15 years after efforts to bring a floating museum to Bay County began.

The vessel was delivered to Wirt Stone Dock in Essexville, welcomed by hundreds of spectators along the shore and a flotilla of small boats that motored alongside it.
John DeWyse, a member of the museum’s Board of Directors, said that maintenance on the ship is going to begin once an assessment of conditions below deck is performed — all hands on deck are welcome to help.

“We have a bunch of painting and cleaning up to do, mainly,” DeWyse said. “There are also hatches welded shut that need to be opened up.”

Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum President Mike Kegley said the USS Edson looked a little rougher for the wear than the last time he set foot on the ship.
“She’s old and showing her age, like all of us,” Kegley said. “Work needs to be done when a ship just sits for a long period of time.”

Some of the areas below deck are in better condition than initially expected.

“It’s in better shape than you think,” DeWyse said. “The mess hall is dirty, but it has a lot of stainless steel, so it will wipe off. The sleeping quarters are in good shape.”

A number of community members with a variety of maritime experience have contacted the museum asking how to help. DeWyse said the museum is welcoming the assistance.

“We are working on rounding up volunteers,” DeWyse said. “A lot of guys used to work on ships and want to volunteer to help us get stuff together — some are mechanics, some are engineers.”

Aesthetic ship maintenance, such as painting, is something that people with little experience can provide. DeWyse said that there is plenty of work to be done, ranging from mechanical upkeep to tasks for unspecialized volunteers.

The museum also needs to retrieve thousands of the ship’s historical artifacts, including its steering wheel, various gauges, dining ware and plaques. The artifacts are stored in New York, where the vessel previously served as a floating museum.

DeWyse said that the USS Edson’s belongings will fill several truckloads. He expects that the objects are going to be brought to Bay City in several weeks.
There is one immediate task on the museum’s to-do list: Return a generator onboard the Edson to Philadelphia.

“We needed a rental generator to run the bilge pumps in case it was leaking water and run the winches in case it needed to drop anchor,” DeWyse said. “It’s pretty expensive, so we are going to return it as soon as possible.”

The USS Edson arrived at Wirt Stone Dock in Essexville a few minutes ahead of schedule. The destroyer was followed by an armada of personal boaters and greeted by hundreds of spectators along the shore.

Ship enthusiasts young and old began to tour the USS Edson’s main deck and bridge about noon the day it arrived. Entrance onto the ship cost $10, with a reduced price for sailors who served on the USS Edson’s sister ship, the USS Blandy.

The destroyer will be towed further upriver to its permanent location near the Independence Park Boat Launch in Bangor Township once mooring installation is completed there. Construction at the site is taking place, and Kegley expects to conclude in several weeks.

The museum plans to offer formal tours below deck once the Environmental Protection Agency determines it is safe to do so.

Those interested in volunteering with restoration efforts can contact the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum at 989-684-3946.