After undergoing 12 weeks of repairs in Staten Island, the USS Slater, one of the last remaining ships of its kind, made it back to Albany in time for the Fourth of July weekend.
The Slater, a destroyer escort ship that played a valuable role in the Pacific Theater during WWII and now serves as a floating museum, arrived in Albany, Tuesday morning, July 1.
The ship had been dry docked so workers could make repairs to its hull and add protection from the elements. The repairs were made with money that came from donations.
“They repaired the bottom of the hull. They also put a double plate of steel all around the ship in order to prevent any damage from the ice on the Hudson River,” said BJ Costello, chairman of the board of trustees. “We did it all with private money. There is no government money involved, and we raised about $1.2 million to do it. It comes from people all over the country providing us with small donations.”
The ship’s paint job is called dazzle camouflage and replicates the paint scheme of the ship during WWII. The name “dazzle” refers to an intentionally confusing paint scheme consisting of bright colors, sharp lines and jagged geometric shapes. The patterns made it difficult to accurately gauge the size and distance of the ship, which caused the enemy to take more time aiming torpedoes at it.
“When you’re looking at in on the horizon, when an enemy is looking at it, you can’t tell really, with the confusing colors, exactly what part of the ship you are looking at,” said Costello.
The ship has become a key tourist attraction in Albany because it is the only ship of its kind still floating. People travel from all over the country to visit it.
“We are the only city in the world to have a ship like this, and it has been a place that is really beloved by the people that work on it. To see the community support for this ship is really a wonderful thing,” said Albany Mayor, Kathy Sheehan. “It’s really just a phenomenal regional asset that we have, and it’s part of our cultural heritage. It really is a wonderful tourist attraction in our capital city.”
The volunteers have a distinct loyalty to the ship and its preservation, spending countless hours on maintenance. Many of the workers spent the entire 12 weeks with the ship.
“(This was) all done by 80-plus volunteers; no one is paid. They all do it for love of the Navy, the ship that they were on or a ship similar to the one they were on. Every week, they come and volunteer their time, Monday through Saturday,” said President of the Board of Trustees Anthony Esposito.
When a ship is in service, it has a crew of sailors that each has a designated trade. The crew consists of everything from engineers to plumbers and electricians. Since the Slater doesn’t have a designated crew, its volunteers have to wear many hats.
“They’re all highly skilled, from welding to line handling, to anything that comes up, we can basically fabricate it. Without their constant devotion to the project, none of this would have happened. Over the last 10 years, this ship has been practically restored to a WWII original,” said Esposito.
The Slater is open for guided tours, and information on the hours of operation can be found at www.ussslater.org.