USS Turner Joy needs support | In Our Opinion

Some former shipmates from the USS Turner Joy and a member of the museum ship’s board of directors are concerned about the venerable Vietnam War-era ship’s use as a set for a zombie movie, as well as an annual venue for Halloween-time haunted ship tours — replete with portrayals of the bloodied, the dying and the living dead. They consider such use a desecration.

Their concerns are legitimate.

On Sept. 25, 1965, while in its 24th hour of providing naval gunfire support in the vicinity of Chu Lai, a 5-inch round misfired on the USS Turner Joy (DD-951). During the ensuing efforts to clear the chamber, the shell detonated. Three sailors were killed, three more were injured.

An officer and 10 sailors were injured in a similar mishap on July 9, 1969 aboard the USS Boston (CA-69).

Cmdr. Jack James, a retired Navy SEAL and director of the   nonprofit USS Turner Joy Museum, found the sight of a haunted ship participant dressed as a bloodied sailor in Navy dungarees to be unsettling; it would undoubtedly be unsettling to a relative of a sailor killed on the ship in 1965.

Now, here’s James’ dilemma: He’s trying to raise $1.25 million to take the Turner Joy to dry dock for needed maintenance. He’s raised $250,000. “This haunted ship thing — it’s our biggest money maker. If we don’t do it, we’re not going to dry dock,” he said. For allowing the filming of an episode of “Z Nation” aboard the Turner Joy — initiated by a member of the Bremerton City Council, James said — the museum association received more money in fees than it receives in an entire month.

James said he doesn’t want the Halloween haunts and zombies to overshadow the honorable things that the ship does. The ship hosts an annual Memorial Day ceremony in concert with the Navy League. It hosts an annual dinner for Gold Star mothers. It hosts the annual Chief Selects Legacy Academy, a weeklong academy for first class petty officers who are advancing to chief petty officer. It hosted a memorial service for Bremerton City Councilman Mike Sullivan, a retired Navy senior chief.

A two-person stateroom aboard the museum ship is a Vietnam War exhibit, a replica of a windowless cell at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” with the names of all of the armed services personnel released in 1973 as part of the Paris peace negotiations. And, aboard the ship, there is a plaque with the names of the sailors killed in that shipboard explosion in 1965.

Currently, the Turner Joy’s main sources of funding are the Historic Navy Ships Association and the Tin Can Sailors Association. Other help could be readily available.

The Turner Joy is inspected by Navy Sea Systems Command, but because the ship is decommissioned it cannot use a Navy dry dock. The USS Turner Joy and her crew served our nation with distinction, as did the ship’s namesake, C. Turner Joy, a Navy vice admiral who served in three wars and received the second-highest honor in the U.S. Armed Forces. The ship should not have to go to a private dry dock.

In addition, the Navy uses the Turner Joy for free for the Chief Selects Legacy Academy. The academy entails living aboard the destroyer while participating in community relations projects, ship preservation, and leadership training, and concludes with a ceremony on the pier in front of the ship. The Navy should contribute funding to at least cover costs.

Most Americans, we are certain, wouldn’t expect to see haunted tours at Arlington National Cemetery. They wouldn’t expect to see Halloween celebrated at a 9/11 memorial. They wouldn’t expect to see zombies at the USS Arizona Memorial. For the same reason, we don’t think the Turner Joy is the right place for portrayals of the bloodied, the dying, and the living dead. U.S. Navy, grant agencies, historical societies, donors and those who love our Navy and its history, take note: You can help the Turner Joy set a more appropriate course for its funding. To contribute, go to