The historic USS Slater arrived at the Port of Albany just after 7 a.m. on Monday, displaying a new paint job to spectators as the ship made its way up the Hudson River.
The Slater is the last destroyer escort ship afloat in the country. Since April, the ship has been dry-docked at Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Co. in Staten Island.
Repairs made to the Slater included necessary patches and reinforcements at the ship’s waterline to ensure that it will be able to withstand icy Albany winters. The ship was also given a flashy blue, gray and white zigzag paint scheme.
The paint scheme, known as dazzle camouflage, was not meant to conceal the ship, but instead to make it difficult for attackers to estimate a ship’s location and speed.
“The dazzle camouflage was the pattern the ship had in 1945,” said Tim Rizzuto, executive director of the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum. “There are a lot of photographs of the Slater with this paint from 1945, but they’re all in black and white; you can’t see the color. We thought it would be great for the public to see this ship like they’ve never seen it before.”
On Monday, the bright colors proudly displayed the work that has gone into the ship’s restoration as it traveled up the Hudson to Albany. Small groups of spectators gathered along the riverside to see the Slater pass by their town or city, and some posted photos of their view to the USS Slater Facebook page.
Fundraising for the Slater’s dry-docking project began in 2010. All of the $1.3 million raised came from small or individual donors who gave $50 or $100 at a time, with no government funding used for the project.
A team of 24 helped bring the ship from Staten Island to Albany, including veteran Joe Delfoe, who served on a destroyer escort ship during the Korean War.
“This is part of my past, and I love having others see it and appreciate it,” said Delfoe, a member of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association.
Destroyer escorts like the USS Slater served to guard convoys of merchant ships that carried supplies to Allied troops during World War II. Built between 1943 and 1945, the escort ships were equipped for detecting enemy vessels, and fitted with anti-submarine and anti-airship weapons.
The Slater served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during its career. In 1951, the Slater was transferred to Greece under the Military Defense Assistance Program, where it was used as a training ship for 40 years by the Hellenic navy.
Thinking the ship was destined for a scrap yard, the Slater was stripped of all usable parts, leaving it as a shell of a ship. Members of the Destroyer Escort Sailor Association managed to raise enough money to tug the ship back to the U.S., and by 1997 it had found its new home in Albany.
“The Hellenic navy actually donated the ship to the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum, so there isn’t any government involvement or funding. Almost all of what we do comes from our volunteers,” Rizzuto said.
The ongoing restoration process is striving to bring the Slater back to its 1945 condition. Rizzuto estimates that thousands of volunteers have logged thousands of hours restoring the ship since it came to Albany in 1997.
“The public support we’ve seen has been terrific for a little warship traveling up a river,” Rizzuto said. “People have gone way beyond what we expected, and it was great to see so many supporters on the riverside.”
The USS Slater is expected to be open for tours again starting on Friday, fittingly the Fourth of July. More information about donating to the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum can be found at www.ussslater.org.