While taking a historical boat cruise on the Saginaw River to learn a bit more about the region that I grew up in, we discovered another museum, of the floating kind, that can be a trip for another day. The USS Edson, now decommissioned, is moored on the Saginaw River for visitors to see what life was like on a naval combat ship. This Sherman class destroyer, registrar number DD946 was built in 1956. The USS Edson is one of the relatively few ships of the U.S. Navy named for a United States Marine, in this case Major General Merritt Austin Edson.
The view from the bow of the cruise ship as we passed under the Liberty Drawbridge on the river opened to reveal the warship in all her glory. The battleship gray destroyer now sits majestically on the river welcoming people aboard to tell her story. Officially commissioned into service in 1958 she served for over three decades. EDSON served as a valuable member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, earning a reputation as a Top Gun ship and the nickname, “The Destroyer.” Her ship’s crest included a skull copied from the shoulder patch worn by then Colonel Edson’s First Marine Raider Battalion.
Still working, the large open-array radar scanner on the boat is a unit sitting at the highest part of the structure. It scans the horizon to pick up any radio magnetic signals from objects within range over a 360-degree pattern. Even though it is no longer called upon it sits at the ready in peacetime as a glimpse of the past. Once rumored to be sunk off the Vietnamese coast, when seen again the enemy thought they were seeing a ghost ship with its gray appearance adding to its reputation.
Her guns now silent, this proud warrior stands as a remarkable testament to ship builders and what they can create when called upon. A rather cloudy day served as the perfect backdrop showcasing this wartime relic. On 15 December 1988, EDSON was decommissioned by CDR Gideon W. Almy III, USN, the eighteenth and final Commanding Officer. EDSON then served for many years as part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, prior to be returned to the U.S. Navy.
USS Edson – Ship Construction and Specs
Awarded: January 27, 1956
Keel laid: December 3, 1956
Launched: January 4, 1958
Commissioned: November 7, 1958
Decommissioned: December 15, 1988
Builder: Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine
Propulsion system: Four – 1200 lb. boilers, Two steam turbines; two shafts
Propellers: Two • Length: 418.3 feet (127.5 meters)
Beam: 45.3 feet (13.8 meters) • Draft: 22 feet (6.7 meters)
Displacement: Approx. 4,000 tons full load
Speed: 32+ knots
Armament: Three Mk-42 5-inch/54 caliber guns; Mk-32 ASW torpedo tubes, (two triple mounts)
Crew: 17 officers, 218 men
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