by Erin Thursby
Jacksonville is a military town. Our Naval bases are a source of pride as well as something that keeps our city economy fairly steady. Regular military checks mean that those consumers keep spending, keeping our local retail market from crashing as hard as it could.
Our ties with the military is one of the reasons why you’ll find the ADAMS Class Museum Visitor Center at the Jacksonville Landing a must-stop Downtown. But the main reason is their dedicated effort to acquire a decommissioned Navy Guided Missile Destroyer, the USS Charles F. Adams (DDG-2), as a floating attraction in the St. Johns River.
This vessel was the first of its kind, and as such, an entire class of 23 vessels, the Adams class, was named after it. The Adams was the first guided missile ship built from the keel up rather than retro-fitted. During the Cold War, Adams Class vessels were a big part of the US sea borne defense.
John E. O’Neil, Jr., Captain, USN (Ret) served on the USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8) out of San Diego and he’s also a board member of the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association. According to O’Neil, the Adams in “mothballs” in Philadelphia is the only Adams class vessel left in the US not yet scrapped or sunk. “As the first of its kind, it’s historically valuable.” He also notes that those who served on Adams class vessels have “a deep love” for the ships. The US built three Adams class vessels for Australia and then three for West Germany. Later as the US versions were retired, four were sold to Greece. Australia named their three DDG’s the Perth class. One Aussie, Richard Merek, came all the way from western Australia to Jacksonville see how the effort to “bring the USS Adams home to Jacksonville” was going.
While some might worry that this floating museum would take away from our already established museums and galleries, it’s clear that a Naval ship museum would be reaching out and attracting a different audience than those who would go out of their way to travel to an art museum. It would be a destination for schools and ROTC groups, Naval reunion groups, military buffs and more. And, if some of these groups come for several days, they might just visit our other Downtown amenities as well as the art museums that didn’t initially attract them.