FALL RIVER — The Battleship Massachusetts, a World War II vessel and the crown jewel of the Battleship Cove collection of historic naval vessels, is undergoing serious renovations for the first time since the 1990s.
“This level of work hasn’t really been done since she was dry docked in '98, '99,” said Meghan Rathbun, Battleship Cove’s executive director.
Battleship Cove boasts five vessels that are designated as National Historic Landmarks — Battleship Massachusetts, Destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Submarine Lionfish and PT Boats 617 and 796 — along with other military craft, including an East German/Soviet World War II warship and helicopters from the Korean War.
Massachusetts was built in Quincy’s Fore River Shipyard and launched in 1941. She saw action in North Africa and the Pacific during World War II before being decommissioned in 1946. The ship, nicknamed “Big Mamie” by those who sailed on her, has been in Fall River and open to the public since 1965.
ARPA funds for Big Mamie renovations
The museum received $1 million in state-designated money from the American Rescue Plan Act during the 2022 fiscal year. That, along with $250,000 of the museum’s own money, is being put toward a major renovation project.
Inch by inch, workers are removing rust and corrosion from more than 37,000 square feet of the ship’s hull, from the waterline to the hull’s top. The hull will then be repainted. Part of the ship’s deck has already been sanded down to remove rust and given fresh coats of glossy gray paint.
And about 80 stanchion supports, hardware lining the ship’s deck that helps hold wires in place, are being replaced to get rid of ones that have been corroded by the elements. Pete Tsarides, project manager for the repairs, said they found a special shop in Rhode Island that could replicate the ship’s original parts.
“That’s key because we want to keep the originality,” he said.
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Caution tape and temporary fencing currently block off parts of the deck from visitors, but the ship has remained open throughout the project. The repair work should wrap up in October, Rathbun said.
The work began on May 12 of this year, a special day for the ship: the 80th anniversary of when she was commissioned.
“It was this amazing coincidence,” Rathbun said. “She’s getting a special facelift for her birthday.”
Audrey Cooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Battleship Massachusetts in Fall River is undergoing repair work