Historic submarine’s future uncertain after vandals flood it, steal memorabilia

For years, the USS Ling gave New Jersey residents a chance to explore a piece of valuable American history. Now, as it sits filled with 10 feet of water, its future remains uncertain. 

The World War II submarine was flooded and had four commemorative plaques stolen from it last weekend, in what police now believe were two separate incidents, according to Hackensack Police Capt. Petter Busciglio.

The investigation into the vandalism and the theft is ongoing, Busciglio said.

The Ling was an exhibit of the New Jersey Naval Museum located at the former River Street site of North Jersey Media Group, which published The Record newspaper before it was sold to Gannett.

Developers plan to demolish the former Record building to make way for luxury apartments at the 20-acre site, and museum staff were working to relocate.

The Ling was forced to close after Hurricane Sandy damaged a connecting pier in 2012.

“I don’t know how much is salvageable. It all depends on how long the water has been inside,” said Les Altschuler, the Vice President of the Submarine Memorial Association, which has been responsible for the submarine’s upkeep since it was first placed in the Hackensack River in 1973.

Altschuler said, that the boat is still filled with all of the electronics and displays it hass had since it came to live in the river.

The Submarine Memorial Association is currently unable to plan what the future holds for the USS Ling as they are waiting to hear back from the U.S. Navy on what proper protocol is, Altschuler said.

Local environmentalists believe that removing the water from the inside of the sub would be a straight forward process, once the museum officials get approval to do so. 

“This is all pretty simple. You’ve essentially got a flooded boat and there are multiple companies in the region who have the machinery to remove and filter water and separate anything that’s not water,” said Hugh Carola, program director with the Hackensack Riverkeeper. 

Carola said that because all of the water is contained inside the sub, the process to clear out the water and waste is a relatively quick process. Once any offending material is cut off and taken out, the water can be filtered and then be pumped back into the river. 

“It hits me two ways. I’m obviously an environmental advocate but I’m also a student of history,” Carola said. “When we take kids out onto the river we pass it and we talk about the boat and when she went into service and how she was in the Panama Canal, and how she looks exactly like she did in the second world war.”

For Altschuler, the vandalism and theft have been particularly devastating. He served on the Ling in 1963. After his time in the service, he moved from New York to New Jersey and reconnected with ship when he accompanied his son on a trip to the N.J. Naval Museum with the Cub Scouts.

He then became a part of the Submarine Memorial Association in 2004 and had been an active member ever since. 

“To us, the memorial is priceless,” Altschuler said. “I just hope that some good comes out of this because for us submariners you never want to see a submarine filled with water.”

Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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