Individual Submarine Boards > USS Ling (SS-297)

The sad sub in Hackensack

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The USS Ling appears to have a grim future. It is trapped in a terrible location. It leaks badly but fortunately (?) spends most of its time resting on the muddy bottom of the Hackensack River, which is brackish and tidal in this stretch. The interior of the submarine is in good condition, and I do hope something can be done to save it.

The sad little museum associated with the Ling is more of a curiosity shop than a museum, with a random collection of ship models, submarine memorabilia, and unremarkable photos of various moments in submarine history. The collection is disorganized and unplanned. Outside are some other artifacts ranging from a rather ridiculous scale-model of a Polaris missile to a Japanese Kaiten "manned torpedo" and a German Seehund midget submarine. There is also a portion of the North Atlantic sail from USS Halfbeak and two torpedo tails standing on end with red and green lights affixed to the propellers to serve as entry gateposts. In short, this is a tacky, amusement-park approach to the display of a submarine. Of course, having said this, I should add that such displays were unsurprising back in the early 1970s when the Ling was first brought to Hackensack. Back then it had been less than 30 years since the end of the Second World War, and these fleet boats were not yet perceived as genuine historical artifacts, objects worthy of museum preservation. It appears to me that this "museum" remains trapped in that earlier era.

It is amazing that the Ling and the NJMM have hidden themselves so stealthily. This submarine is one mile, just a three-minute drive, from an exit off I-80, and only about ten miles (twenty minutes by car if not rush hour) from Manhattan. This is a potential market of millions of people. Roughly a thousand people a day visit the USS Growler in the city, but the Ling is closed for tours except on Saturday and Sunday and even on those days has few visitors. When I visited on a recent Sunday afternoon with beautiful, early fall weather, there were about a dozen visitors in one hour. There is not a single sign anywhere pointing to the museum except the primitive sign at their front gate. If I had not found a reference to it online, I never would have known it was there. Indeed I have driven by this exit off I-80 dozens of times in the past twenty years, and I had no clue that Hackensack had a submarine until July of this year.

This museum is a failure. The fact that they are being threatened with closing by the publishing company that owns the property on which they are located is probably the best thing that could happen. Their modest collection should be split up and sold to museums with the resources, both financial and curatorial, to preserve them properly and interpret them respectfully. Their artifacts should be displayed by institutions that recognize that it is their responsibility to bring this history to the wider community. The days of the "submarine clubhouse" should be long over.

So what of Ling itself? The interior of the submarine has been well-maintained, and for that the NJMM should be congratulated. It's far better than Croaker, for example. But the pumps are running continuously, bubbles rising continually from the port side, and the hull may be seriously compromised. But from this location, there is no way to dry-dock the sub. It is trapped by a river that has silted up and a bridge that has been closed, blocking the river to large vessels, for thirty years. I suspect that Ling may end up encased in concrete in the center of a new riverfront park... Are there any other viable options?


Lance Dean:
Interesting review.  I hadn't realized that the Ling was only open on the weekends.  Wow.  I knew the Ling was in danger, but it's been a long time since I heard anything one way or another about her future.

Hey JTheotonio, you live near the Ling don't you?

Everything is near in NJ - yes it's just up the road and to be honest I have not gone there yet.  I know guys associated with the USSVI base up there and they keep talking about overnighters but just don't seem to get things rolling in time to get anyone from lower NJ up there.  There are not too many submariners in the area it seems.  I don't know how the operate.  I did know that the boat is only open on weekends and then only part of the year.  Come winter it is too cold to be open for them.

I wish something could be done to save her - but she is stuck in the mud and has some leaks.  The money it would take to float her out is more than anyone is willing to put up.  Time will tell. :-[

The Ling has been a subject of few conversations that I know of and how to save her or sadly enough strip her out before the ship breakers' get her... The sad part of this whole thing is that I know of another boat that does not have any signs showing her or other ships in the area and the museum has been lucky that they have had a volunteer crew whom has gone to the extreme's to save her with little backing or support of the museum.

Anyway's back to the Ling, the price to move her just to a drydock (IF they can get the Coast Guard to approve it which they didn't at the time/ doesn't now sound good at all) was tremendus because they would have to pay to dredge the harbor and then pay to have the bridge removed because it no longer opens the way that it used to do.

There was a rumored plan to use barges with slings underneeth her just to get her to a drydock where the major hull penetrations could be fixed and then sent to a different location for a community that would take care of her and preserve her....   I don't know of anyone wanting to take on the expense of that and the Navy as far as I know has not done a remove and drydock or dispose of letter yet to the museum.

Folks remember that the USS Cavalla was in worse shape then the Ling with the exception of being on land when the submarine veterans litteraly at the last minute saved her from being scrapped in place.

It took a lot of money and a LOT of back breaking work to restore her but she is in better shape then she was 20 years ago. Who knows at this point but the folks at the Museum that has the title to the Ling and the US Navy inspectors who are supposed to inspect her annually like they do the rest of the submarine museum's.


Paul Farace:
When push comes to shove, something will happen...  but it will be a scarey process.   :'(

She has all her batteries too! 



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